I suspect that Grant McCracken’s deconstruction of marketing blog, This Blog Sits at the (Intersection of Anthropology and Economics) is filled with rare insight interspersed with some small bits of utter nonsense.
But I do not have great confidence in my ability to tell which is which.
Let’s look at some recent items:
I think he’s got Sony dead to rights.
There’s music advice I can’t evaluate, although it sounds plausible.
Somehow, I have the feeing that the piece on vicarious adventure is missing something — rather than there being a new market here waiting to be born, it seems to me that the better “me blogs” already fill the niche. I understand the idea that some rich people might want more tailored experiences, but I suspect they’re rich enough to go have them directly themselves. I think what McCracken wants (although he doesn’t know it) is better search, or the blog version of what he wants for music.
McCracken’s deconstruction of Pink’s Stupid Girls video puzzled me. He seemed to be beating up on it, then said he liked it, just didn’t like Pink’s explanation for it. Personally, I’m fine with the video. It’s a little obvious and heavy handed for my taste, but it has two arresting images that I like: one of the little girl flouncing her hair, and one (overused but still good) of Pink in glasses doing a political speech that evokes a cross between Eva Peron and Hillary Clinton.
I fear he’s right about clutter, want him to be right about Donald Trump.
The item on the virtues of the small is beautiful marketing strategy of Birkenstock persuaded me, and the one on Australia’s national marketing plan charmed (I have a particular interest in branding nations). The piece on the dressing gowns at The Topaz hotel seemed very well observed; a little creepy, yes, but credible. (On the other hand, the item on the “Yalies of Harvard Yard” may or may not describe something real about Harvard, I wouldn’t know, but it gets most of Yale horribly wrong.)
But surely the item on M. Night Shyamalan’s AmEx commercial is the current tour de force. Not having seen the actual commercial before reading the essay, I can’t help but wonder, though, whether anyone less attuned than McCracken (or Roland Barthes) would get all this from the ad.
Whatever it all is, there is a real mind at work here, tackling things I don’t often think about and am happy to have explained to me. Plus it’s a joy to read.
Note to self: look out for his book.
Shyamalan is a lousy filmmaker (and I’m far from alone in thinking that) but what is interesting if only in a small way is that the advertisement is now the tag-line at the end of a 60 second movie. Ads, via the form of rock videos, have become a new form [format] for art. It’s not a big move, just a slow evolution (and not an advancement). I said the same thing in a comment in the post you linked to the last time. McCracken tries to make more out of it but there’s not much more to say.
Art and economics even as partners are opposed. Art offers description before definition. it doesn’t name experience, it merely describes it (though every description has bias) Advertising as illustration names before describing, so that the audience is led passively to a conclusion. That’s why TV ads run “between” episodes or scenes. Now that ads have developed their own formal independence, the advertising ‘content’ comes at the end of ‘ads’ that have become plays within plays. It’s interesting but a new format is not a new kind of art. Old wine in new bottles, no more no less.
Prosecutors and philosophers of law don’t understand art but defense attorneys do. Philosophers and prosecutors say” “The accused has committed murder”
The defender says: “What do you mean when you say ‘murder’?”
Some may hate them for it but they get people off that way. And McCracken doesn’t understand what they do or how they do it. He has engineers’ disease: the assumption that all communication, and therefore all art as a subset, is a series of statements and propositions.
And that kind of Posnerite crap pisses me off.
Like all good philosophy, art undermines propositions and then walks away.