Of all the silly, naive marketing notions that have accompanied the growth of the Internet, the most pervasive and foolhardy is the idea that the "consumer is now in charge."
The truth is exactly the opposite. The consumer today has less control than ever.
The web has intensified and consolidated the hold that large media entities and large marketers have on our culture, our economy, and our purchasing habits.
Callow digital utopians believe that because we consult Yelp to find out what some fixie biker in Brooklyn thinks is good pizza, we are freeing ourselves from the power of corporate and media dominance.
For the most part, digital media and traditional media have become indistinguishable. They are driven by the same need to attract eyeballs, which means they are obsessed by the same stories and slaves to the same types of narrative.
You can take Yahoo's top stories on any given day and be pretty certain they will be identical to the top stories on the nightly news. You can check what's trending on Twitter and be pretty sure it will be on the evening trash magazine show.
Corporate marketers are learning very quickly how to manipulate technology to leverage the assets of the new media types. Or haven't you heard of Facebook?
Is it a surprise to anyone that the organizations with the largest Facebook followers are also the ones that have dominated traditional media? Is anyone still shocked that almost 45% of all digital ad dollars are spent on Google?
The new digital media giants are interbreeding with old school marketing and media kingpins to create a modern kind of corporate/media sovereignty. It is stronger than ever. It is more pervasive than ever. It has not been diminished by the rise of digital media. It has been enhanced.
Money is their leverage. Media is their weapon.
Now the marketing-media complex is discovering a new way to assert itself -- by absorbing show business celebrities like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Lady Gaga into the corporate structure. According to Ad Age...
"...brands aren't just featuring celebs in marketing campaigns -- they're giving stars a place in the marketing suite...with lofty titles like chief creative officer (and)...chief innovator..."Marketers have always been willing to pay celebrities for the reflected glory of their fame. But now they're willing to pretend that these people are in the back room.
For their part, celebrities have always been willing to whore for money. Now they're willing to pimp.
The tighter the relationship between big media, big marketing, and big entertainment, the more absurd the idea that the "consumer is now in charge."
We are faced with a daunting prospect -- a new face of marketing that is not just plastered all over TV and billboards, but is embedded in our emails, steals our identity to influence our friends, knows where we are at all times, and makes it all pretty by pretending our beautiful idols are pulling the strings.
Only the delusional and the credulous can really believe that "the consumer is now in charge."
I'm going on vacation. Talk amongst yourselves.