Intelligent Design comes from Brand & Account Planners

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I've been reminded recently, rather forcefully, that not all reality hackers are anti-neoconservatives. Bush endorses teaching 'intelligent design'. I can't help hearing "intelligent design" as emerging from scores of focus group research.

There's a war going on. I'm not safe in my own house. Americans are bombarded by 3,000 paid messages each day Media uses militaristic terminology. In movie theaters, we are referred to as captive audiences. TV networks call us a target. If I click on a banner ad they refer to me as a hit.

I'm sitting among memetic hitmen. I'm writing from the 2005 US Account Planning Conference -Exploring the New Power of Creativity in Chicago's Fairmont hotel.

I'm not a registered attendee as I have been in years past. I'm wireless in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, so I am a paying customer of the hotel. I'm only trespassing when I actually attend the conference or eat a meal at their open buffets.

If you've read Thomas Frank's One Market Under God, you know who these people are, social engineers for advertising and corporatocracy. My experience has been that most of these attendees get offended when I refer to them as social engineers. I'm not really sorry if I am offending you by challenging your sensibilities.

Account Planning is the Peace Corp of Corporatocarcy-The Peace Corp General is a presidential appointee, those involved are an extension of George Bush. Account Planners may be doing good, but they are also paving the way. Similarly, account planners regularly pride themselves on being consumer advocates. I do it. It does help people. Regularly, account planners are the ones saying we can profit more if we screw the consumer less. Of course, that language is not often used.

Case-in-point: I worked on Baskin Robbins 2 Scoop Sunday for $1.99 promotion which greatly increased sales. A regular 2 Scoop Sunday had five ounces of ice cream covered in sauce and nuts and a cherry: two 2.5 ounce scoops of ice cream. This $1.99 promotion used one 2.5 scoop and one 1.5 scoop. Consumers were happy. We were selling happiness bythe way-that was our brand essence. Consumer had accepted one big scoop and a smaller scoop for $1.99.

They, the new product development engineers-as they were called, wanted to make the $1.99 Sunday two 1.5 scoops. I thought that might be fine. However, as the numbers were played with, and the concept of one big sccop and one small scoop resurfaced, they said that they should make it one 1.5 ounce scoop and one 1 once scoop. Then, it was proposed we give them two 1-ounce scoops and the consumer would be happy with all the sauce and nuts and a cherry.

I said, "Maybe we can just sell a happy face for $1.99" They said, "What?" I said, "There coming in to our stores to buy ice cream. We have said that ice cream is happiness. They may be willing to compromise for price, but giving them 40% of happiness they expected, even at a discount, may leave them dissappointed, and then we aren't promoting happiness."

Consumers eventually got 3-ounces of ice cream. I negotiate another ounce of cream for each patron. I was doing good. That's the cool aid: I'm standing up for people.

When I read John Perkin's Confessions Of An Economic Hitman, I felt like I should write The confessions of a memetic engineer.

Yesterday, I saw my old boss Jeffrey Blish give a lecture on the state of culture and account planning. He is a genius. His writing, before he found Jesus-I mean advertising-created the use of % of RDA on packaged foods. That was good. But I digress.

Yesterday, I saw Jeffrey speak about his work at Deutsch and their broadening influence on culture. He showed a Bon Jovi video his creative director Erik Hirschberg had concepted, a video that promotes the viral use of a smirk for subsuming the rage of youngsters. Brilliant memetic idea. Erik recently said, "Brands are the new religion." Jeff Johnson, CEO of WestWayne says the same thing. The Culting of Brands explores the tactics of this brand warfare.

Jeffrey spoke about the power of irrational reasons to believe. "Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." Then Jefferey asked, "How's that for logic?" Of course it is intellishit and he knows this and he is proud it is working so well and he should be.

Jeffrey suggested that those of us who wish to harness this technology should focus on two questions:

1) How is media consumption changing?
2) How is the consumer brand relationship changing?

I'm more concerned with being an advocate for transparency.

Howard Campbell Recovering Ad Executive

After 12 years in advertising, research and communications, Ben Mack is a writer and a freelance account planner. Ben is edgier than most freelancers. If you have a fringe project, he's your guy. In the mean time, check out his blog at Thank you for your consideration.

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