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waxing philosophical

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Is there such thing as a righteous blacklist? Probably not. But I'm still tempted to stop consuming the products of Roman Polanski's supporters.

Is there such thing as a righteous blacklist? Probably not. But I'm still tempted to stop consuming the products of Roman Polanski's supporters.

Roman Polanski is creepy.

Roman Polanski is creepy.

Roman Polanski has spent the last twenty-five or so years living in Europe and making horrendously bad movies (with the possible exception of The Pianist), and this has made people forget that he is a scumbag and a creep. Which by the way is something you should know just by looking at him, if you are a DeBeckerian like myself: if he weren’t an internationally known director, I’m pretty sure that just a headshot of Roman Polanski would be tripping your creep-o-meter into overdrive. And if that didn’t do it, just imagine that you’re getting into your car late at night at Target and the dude in the picture at the right is lurking in the shadows of the parking structure. Yeah. Just thinking about it makes me squirm. He’s a creep. Go with your gut, is what I always say.

But let’s be clear: Polanski is not just a creep: he’s a rapist and a scumbag who makes schlocky movies. When I watched Wanted & Desired the recent HBO documentary on Roman Polanski a year or so ago, I was particularly horrified by the last scene, in which questions were asked of Polanski’s attitude toward the crime, and it was absolutely clear to me that this was somebody who did not feel he had done anything wrong, but was rather the victim of an unfair justice system and a prudish American sexual mores.

But for some reason, people in Hollywood have stopped thinking that what he did and was finally arrested for last week is a big deal. In some cases, people are too young to know the whole story. In others (Whoopi Goldberg), they are just too damn stupid to understand anything beyond their 9:00 am wake ‘n’ bake before a stint on The View. But what is disturbing to me is the fact that in two decades, with the buffering of the Atlantic Ocean and millions of dollars in between him and his crime, somehow Roman Polanski has managed to garner support from all of these people — not just support, public support:

Original Petition signers:
Woody Allen
Pedro Almodovar
Jonathan Demme
Terry Gilliam
John Landis
David Lynch
Martin Scorsese
Tilda Swinton (!)

Recent Petition Signers
Wes Anderson (!)
Darren Aronofsky
Monica Bellucci
Michael Mann
Julian Schnabel (not really surprising)
Harvey Weinstein, who has been quoted as saying he was “calling on every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation,” and thereby accounts for many of the recent adds in support of Polanski;

Others:
Penelope Cruz
Peter Fonda
Milan Kundera
Salman Rushdie (!)
Diane von Furstenberg (!)
Debra Winger

The petition signed by many of these people demands his release. Jezebel cynically asks if “being an artist trumps being a rapist?” I want to know when we decided Polanski was even an artist? Have you seen his movies? The only person that I believe is supporting Polanski on from an ideological standpoint:

Woody Allen

The rest of them are either motivated by money, fame, ambition, peer pressure or are complete idiot fools. How do I know this? Well how else would you explain it? How else would you explain that Jack Nicholson — and oh good Christ does it kill me to use Jack Nicholson as a good example of anything — Jack Nicholson has not expressed public support for Polanski, when we know that the whole thing happened at Jack Nicholson’s house, in his absence and was possibly interrupted by Anjelica Huston, (who has also failed to offer Polanski support, please note)? Jack Nicholson doesn’t support Polanski because he knows that Polanski did it, knows that it WAS a big deal, and most importantly he doesn’t have anything to gain from Polanski. Same goes for Anjelica Huston. I have to assume that the rest of these fucks do. (Except for Woody Allen, naturally. He’s just extending professional courtesy to a colleague.)

I hate the idea of a blacklist, I despise it. But how can I ever look at Wes Anderson, Salman Rushdie and Tilda Swinton the same way again? Can you continue to support the work of people whose ideology is repugnant to your own? I suppose I’m going to find out.

Photo by funkysockzlover at deviantART

Photo by funkysockzlover at deviantART

So here’s what happened.

First I read an article on a well-known website on a topic that interested me (marketing and how irrationality is at the heart of all human endeavor). Then I set out to write a post on this general topic, because the first premise discussed was about how sometimes premium consumer options are presented by companies simply to promote a more middle-range price option of a similar product. An intriguing example of this was given:

When Williams-Sonoma introduced bread machines, sales were slow. When they added a “deluxe” version that was 50% more expensive, they started flying off the shelves; the first bread machine now appeared to be a bargain.
When contemplating the purchase of a $25 pen, the majority of subjects would drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7. When contemplating the purchase of a $455 suit, the majority of subjects would not drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7. The amount saved and time involved are the same, but people make very different choices. Watch out for relative thinking; it comes naturally to all of us.

And I was going to talk about how we just went and bought a new camera the other day, and we went with the Canon version we had originally thought about buying, but not until deciding that it was superior (and cheaper) to a Leica with similar options. And the Leica product representative dude (complete with German accent) was actually there, in the store, telling you about the Leica, when we made these comparisons. So I started wondering if maybe (Canon and Leica, and maybe Samy’s Camera, too) were all in this together or something . . .

But then I started following up on all of the links in that original article, to see more of the conversation. And then when I did that, it was like I was on a scavenger hunt, because each post led to another post, and all of the posts shared the same starting point. Which would not be remarkable except for that the starting point, in this case, was a two-year-old semi obscure book on marketing called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Which was odd in itself, because why all of a sudden is everyone talking about this book? It came out in early 2008, and there isn’t even a paperback edition available in the United States.

And then the marketing of this book had started working on a level above itself, performing for me, the mechanism of web marketing, rather than requiring me to write about it. I have to think that this book’s author must be proud, if he knows, that his book on the irrationality of human behavior has been irrationally plunged into success several years later by the discovery of a seven-month-old book outline on a Wikipedia lookalike site. Because whereas book marketing might once have depended heavily upon PR tours and appearances, or plugging on major television stores, what happens now is that one mention leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another, and that means that now Jason Kottke has mentioned you, and if it spreads to Seth Godin, well then, now we’re running out of used copies on Amazon.

And I think that everyone who worries about “giving away” their content online (Associated Press, I am looking in your general direction) should remember this in the future, rather than nickel and diming themselves out of business.

Can You Buy Enthusiasm For Your Brand?

by anna on September 9, 2009

I am a self-designated brand enthusiast for Liquid Web. They do not pay me for my enthusiasm. But if you sign up with an affiliate link, they will pay me for that. Does this call into question my enthusiasm?

I am a self-designated brand enthusiast for Liquid Web. They do not pay me for my enthusiasm. But if you sign up with an affiliate link, they will pay me for that. Does this call into question my enthusiasm?

The latest trend in the commercialization of the mommy blogosphere is to hire bloggers to serve as “brand enthusiasts.” As far as I can tell, being a “brand enthusiast” involves product giveaways and throwing parties the brand, inviting local friends (ideally other bloggers) to local sponsored brand enthusiast events, and then covering these events on the blog as if it were just another day in your life on which you threw a corporate party. From the outside looking in, I have hypothesized that bloggers are selected according to several factors: an important one is geography, so there is generally one brand enthusiast in a large metropolitan area, depending upon wherever the company needs to do promotion. I am not sure, at present, how targeted these brand enthusiasm programs are by demographic, though I suppose it would depend upon which demographic the brand hopes to reach, but I am reluctant to give the PR people in charge of this kind of stuff credit for having done their homework to figure out the niceties of each blogger’s socioeconomics. The Gap, for example, has chosen brand enthusiasts from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and this would be in keeping with their branding, so perhaps there is more method to this madness than I thought.

I bring up the topic of professional brand enthusiasm because I have not yet decided how I feel about it. I do not completely understand it. I do not see how you can pay somebody to have enthusiasm for a brand. I suppose if someone paid me, this would make me more inclined to have enthusiasm for their brand, in theory. But there are some brands that I despise so much that even a payment from them would not make me enthusiastic about their brand. And the brand I already have enthusiasm for, well–payment would be nice, I suppose, but I’d have that enthusiasm anyway — I am not talking about the brands you feel wishy washy about, but the ones you really love here — so why would the brand bother to pay me for that? And this brings up another question: should I be keeping my enthusiasm for certain brands quiet, just in case they want to pay me someday to express it? And if I express enthusiasm for a brand, and am paid for it, does that then empty the enthusiasm of meaning, because of the monetary exchange involved?

This is something I am trying to work out at present because as my blog grows I get more and more offers for PR involved opportunities. So far, these opportunities have not been hard to turn down. Most of them are from people who aren’t familiar with my blog and don’t know the kind of people who read it, so they don’t know that their offers are not a good fit for me or my brand. But what if I were to get an offer that was a good fit? I wonder if I should take it or not, because I am not sure that the idea of brand enthusiasm can work if there is money involved. In my mind, the most valuable thing about my blog, other than the enjoyment it gives me to write it, is the trust and goodwill it promotes between me and my readers. If I start to get paid for things, will that trust evaporate, I wonder? Even if it is something I would have promoted even without money, does the exchange of money then make it seem suspect?

I suppose this is why there has been, traditionally, a separation between editorial content and advertising in media. The problem is, this interruption format of advertising does not appear to work well on the internet, and people are figuring out ways around it in other media as well (e.g. Tivo). So if I want this site to be supported by advertising, how might I work around a general reluctance to cloud the content of my blog with paid endorsements? Because ultimately, this is a small business, and I need to figure out what kinds of income streams are acceptable to me to include in its business model.

One way in which I am thinking about experimenting is the model that Daily Candy uses; if you are not familiar with Daily Candy, it is an email newsletter (also attached to a website) that tells you about new cool stuff (products, events, services, etc.) in your area and on the web. It involves some paid content and other just plain editorial content, as well as some “sponsored” links, etc. There is always transparency View definition in a new window with the sponsored content–it will say that it is sponsored or that it was a “dedicated post,” so that you know this going in. And also, to get the newsletter int he first place, you have to sign up and give them your email address. This is called “permission marketing” because you are giving the permission to Daily Candy to market to you–you know that some of the content is paid and you are signing up the newsletter anyway.

As a subscriber, I like Daily Candy. I like it because I get something from it, even if I’m being marketed to. Sometimes there will be paid links that I just kind of ignore, and a lot of times there is stuff in there I really like and wouldn’t have found out about any other way. I think that maybe this is the way to go with this kind of thing, rather than hiring “brand enthusiasts,” paying people to produce content that appears alongside advertising, in a permission format that kind of guarantees that it will be read, this might be the only kind of advertising that is going to work in this New World Order, or it is as close to what a new advertising format is going to be.

When I think about what to do with my blog and my business, I try to think about my ideal reader and what they would like. I think my ideal reader could get on board with something like Daily Candy only for ABDPBT View definition in a new window, but I’m not really sure. So now I’m asking: what do you guys think about that idea? This is of course something that is in the abstract now, I’m not doing anything like this any time soon, but I like to plan ahead to know how to deal with this kind of stuff. I don’t want to cross the line into sponsored content on this blog because I think it will ruin things for you, and because of that, for me. But what about a newsletter that could be signed up for, ahead of time, that will involve marketing but also give you a little something extra in exchange? Could you get on board with that?

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