Neil McElroy of Procter and Gamble – Time Magazine 1953 article

Neil McElroy of Procter and Gamble, Time Magazine, 1953TIME, OCTOBER 5, 1953

The Cleanup Man

Should Dick have suspected that the baby was not his own—especially as he had been married to Kathy for only seven months? After all, the doctor, to protect Kathy, had said that the baby was premature. Then a nurse who was trying to woo Dick away from Kathy tipped him off that the infant was a full-term child. What Dick didn’t know was that Kathy had been married before—for only a week (her husband was killed in an auto crash). Kathy, who thought her first marriage was all a mistake, nevertheless felt so guilty about not telling Dick that she could hardly bear to face him; instead started lavishing all her affection on the baby. And Dick, feeling neglected, began to respond to the advances of the nurse. Will the marriage be shattered? Or will Dick learn the truth in time to save it?

As millions of housewives tuned in The Guiding Light this week at the same time (1:45 p.m., E.S.T., weekdays), same station (CBS), most were sure—or almost sure—that things would come out all right, as they eventually do in the sweet-sad world of soap opera. There was also no doubt that things would come out all right for the program’s sponsors: Procter & Gamble Co.’s Duz soap and Ivory Flakes. As any junior advertising executive can explain, soap operas “get more advertising messages across to the consumer”—and sell more soap—simply because the housewife can absorb the messages for hours on end while she goes about her household chores.

No soapmaker is more aware of this theory than Procter & Gamble’s President Neil Hosler McElroy, as handsome, ruddy-faced and well-scrubbed as one of his own radio heroes. P. & G. was in the advance guard of soap opera, helped start it on its interminable way more than 20 years ago with The Puddle Family. P. & G. writers were among the first to learn that the trick is to spin the story out to fantastic lengths, with a flood of tears to wash away every smile. This year, with 13 soap operas on the air, P. & G. is the biggest advertiser in the U.S., will spend an estimated $30 million in network radio and TV, $15 million in newspapers and magazines.

On the Soapbox. The addition of soap operas to American culture has been under constant attack for years. To every complaint, the soapmakers have a crisply pragmatic answer: they are written as they are because that is what their audience wants. When asked what he thinks of his soap operas, P. & G.’s President McElroy, no steady listener himself, is apt to get up on one of his own soapboxes: “The problem of improving the literary tastes of the people is the problem of the schools. The people who listen to our programs aren’t intellectuals — they’re ordinary people, good people, who win wars for us, produce our manufactured products and grow our food. They use a lot of soap.”

By soap, he also means synthetic detergents—the fast-growing competitor of old-fashioned soaps. (Made of alcohol sulphates and sodium phosphate. Though “detergent” actually means any type of cleanser, including soap, in popular usage it now means one based on chemicals instead of natural fats or oils.) And the way the selling spiels of P. & G.’s soaps and detergents deride each other’s qualities is often completely bewildering.

“Those new detergents may be all right for dishes,” warns pure (99 44/100%), mild Ivory Soap on The Road of Life, “but your hands aren’t made of china.” Young Doctor Malone, on the other hand, plugs a liquid dishwashing detergent: “Joy’s lotion-soft suds feel so good on your hands.” Ma Perkins suggests “Brand new Oxydol [with a] new detergent formula,” to get clothes “whiter than sun-white.” But according to The Guiding Light, “Duz does a wash like no detergent can—it’s the soap in Duz that does it!” On Life Can Be Beautiful, life can really be beautiful if Tide is used (“Gets clothes cleaner than any soap”); on Backstage Wife, Cheer’s “blue magic” guarantees “the whitest, brightest and the cleanest wash possible.”

Since each of these programs also plugs other cleansing products (Drene and Shasta shampoos, Ivory Snow and Flakes, Spic and Span), it is a wonder that the housewife can ever make up her mind which one to buy. But as long as she buys one, P. & G. will be happy. It makes them all. Now the nation’s largest soapmaker, P. & G. manages to sell 119 bars, boxes, bottles and cans of its products every second of every day, every day of the year. Its share of the U.S. soap market has risen from 30% in 1925 to 40% in 1951, While Lever Bros., the No. 2 soapmaker, and Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co., No. 3, napped, P. & G. took 69% of the detergent market.

The Tide of Revolution. At a time when many a U.S. businessman fears a recession and the threat of much tougher competition, P. & G. is a prime example of 1) how to sell goods despite recessions, and 2) how bitter competition both inside and outside a company can make it grow. Although P. & G.’s practice of letting Ivory Soap dispute the claims of detergent Tide makes little sense to many other businessmen, P. & G.’s McElroy thinks that it is the only way to keep his soap salesmen on their toes. He is never happier than when all of his products are busy fighting each other for sales.

The most notable example of P. & G.’s habit of competing with itself was its introduction of the synthetic detergent. It was, says McElroy, “the first big change in soapmaking in 2,000 years.” The company, licensed to work with German patents, brought out its first detergent, Dreft, in 1933• But its use was too specialized (i.e., for fine fabrics and dishes), and not until 1945 was P. & G. able to begin marketing an all-purpose detergent, Tide.

Though P. & G. still turns out some 500 million bars of Ivory Soap a year— enough to give everyone in the world
four baths—Tide was soon revolutionizing the washday habits of the U.S., and the tide of revolution began to sweep soap flakes and granules on to the back shelves. Among the hardest hit was P. & G.’s own Oxydol, Iong a top national seller with the devoted followers of Ma Perkins. Distressed at their falling sales, Oxydol men scurried to the P. & G. research people who had caused all the havoc by their development of Tide. Could they do something for Oxydol? No soap, said the research department; detergents are the coming thing. Well, then, how about letting Oxydol in on the bonanza? President McElroy agreed, and the product was converted. “New Detergent Oxydol” has since climbed back to fourth place among washday products, is still growing.

Tide continued to grow so fast that last year Neil McElroy supplied it with some more competition. He brought out Cheer, another detergent, which settled into second place (third: Colgate’s Fab).

Opening the Door. The revolution that P. & G. fathered not only gave its old-fashioned soaps new competition, it opened the door to competition for the whole soap industry from the chemical makers, who supplied many of the raw materials for the detergents. Monsanto, backed by huge research funds, introduced All, persuaded washing-machine makers to hand it out to their customers. General Aniline brought out Glim, a liquid detergent for dishwashing.

To counteract such competition in detergents, Neil McElroy last week was test-marketing a whole list of new products: Lana, a home permanent for bleached or frizzled hair; Fluffo, a new shortening to compete with P. & G.’s famed Crisco; Gleem, a new toothpaste “for people who can’t brush after every meal” (P. & G. is sure that includes just about everybody) ; Zest, a detergent bar for baths and showers.

Bright Young Men. For all his high-powered selling methods, the nation’s No. r soap salesman is no backslapping glad-hander in the tradition of the American drummer. At 48, Neil McElroy, a towering 6 ft. 4 in., given to conservative clothes, is a methodical man, with a quick smile and the unruffled air of a winning poker player. His wavy hair is greying, his blue eyes sharp. He keeps his 210 lbs. in trim shape with plenty of tennis.

Up by 7 every morning in his 15-room grey stucco house in Cincinnati, McElroy breakfasts on whatever suits his fancy, e.g., bacon & eggs one day, chocolate cake the next (“I figure eating cake in the morning doesn’t hurt the waistline”). He is at work before 9—but not always in his office. He spends much of his time seeing the company’s big team of “bright young men” and visiting his 35 U.S. plants. One of the most public-spirited businessmen in the U.S., McElroy devotes up to a third of his time to such functions as Community Chest, Cincinnati’s Citizens Development Committee and the National Citizens Commission for Public Schools. He doesn’t keep up with all his own soap operas (there are too many), listens in only when driving his car. He seldom brings work home with him, spends plenty of time with his handsome wife Camilla (who often accompanies him on business trips) and their three children: 17-year-old Nancy Sue (“Bitsy”), now a Bryn Mawr freshman; Barbara Ellen, 15; chunky Malcolm Neil, 10 who McElroy describes as a “champion consumer.”

One reason McElroy seldom becomes excited in the excitable world of soap is that Procter & Gamble has been decentralized until it is virtually a cluster of separate organizations, each with its own boss. For every P. & G. product, there is a “brand man” who takes full responsibility for results. If sales slip, it is up to the brand man to find out why. If an ad goes sour, the brand man gets on the agency’s back. If more production is needed, it is up to him to try to get it. And when a competing company puts out a product at a lower price or with a new “wonder” ingredient, P. & G.’s brand man must know about it and have a comeback. Broad company policy is set by Chairman Richard R. Deupree, McElroy and the other directors. But the big operating decisions are made by McElroy himself, and they, are usually made with quick efficiency.

McElroy belongs to the new breed of scientific salesmen who base their selling not on emotional appeal but on facts & figures. Are sales slipping in Milwaukee? Research will find the reason why. Is there a new product to be sold? Charts and tables are at hand to tell exactly what the new product should be and how to sell it. “Mac is especially tough on accuracy,” says one colleague. “If you want to tell him something, you have to have complete support for your statement. Don’t guess, and for God’s sake don’t just give your opinion.”

“Blessed by the Pope.” P. & G. learned long ago not to take any assumption for granted. Once an advertising layout was proposed, using the traditional prescription symbol 4; researchers found that 40% of the women they interviewed had no idea what it meant. Another time P. & G. planned to use the word “concentrated” in an ad, discovered that many housewives thought it meant “blessed by the Pope.” President McElroy and everyone else at P. & G. constantly bear in mind the fact that woman is fickle—and her memory short. She must be constantly reminded of the product she loves. For example, during World War II’s materials shortage, P. & G. dropped Chipso, once the nation’s No. 1 packaged soap. At war’s end, Chipso was put on sale again. But P. & G. was amazed to find that housewives had forgotten an old favorite, so Chipso was dropped for good.

In the low-price field, a housewife’s loyalty is ephemeral. Just when she is reaching for a cake of Ivory, her eye may be caught by a competing brand with a premium of a tube of toothpaste thrown in, or new promises of health and happiness. The selling lures must be constantly changed. For years, contests were P. & G.’s most successful promotions: it has given away well over $1,000,000 in cash and prizes, including some 300 autos, and a handful of life annuities of $1,000 to $1,200 a year. Right now, P. & G.’s Camay is running a $50,000 contest to get new customers (“I like new Camay with Cold Cream because . . . “). But McElroy’s admen think the days of contests are numbered, since prizes nowadays have to be tremendous to raise much interest. (To promote its Dial soap, Armour & Co. last week announced a contest with a producing oil well as first prize.)

All this super-selling started in 1837, when British-born William Procter, a candlemaker, and Irish-born James Gamble, a soapmaker, married sisters’ and went into business together. At the beginning, they peddled their crude soap and candles in a wheelbarrow in Cincinnati, then a frontier town. But as the region grew up, the company prospered. Soon its wares were being shipped by boat to New Orleans, Louisville and Pittsburgh, and gross sales rose to $1,000,000 a year.

P. & G. got its first mass-production orders in the Civil War, when it supplied all the soap for the Union armies of the West. Then, one day in 1875, a forgetful workman made a mistake that was to mold the company’s future: he left his soap-mixing machine running during lunch hour, thus turned out a batch of soap full of tiny air bubbles. It seemed a dreadful mistake, but somehow the batch got out of the factory.

Soon P. & G. was swamped with orders for “more of this floating soap.” (In the years since then, P. & G. admits to only two documented instances of cakes that sank—probably because the air bubbles had been squeezed out during storage.) In church one day, Harley Procter, a son of the founder, found a name for the new product in Psalms: “All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad.”

Up in Smoke. Gradually, the Gambles drifted out of company operations; the Procters, a cool and quick-thinking
breed of businessmen, carried on. (But not out of ownership. Cincinnati Philanthropist Cecil H. Gamble, 69, grandson of Founder James, is currently a P. & G. director and one of the biggest single stockholders. No Procters are connected with P. & G. today.) One day second-generation President William A. Procter was lunching at his club in downtown Cincinnati when a messenger brought word that the factory was on fire
P. & G.’s vast warehouse supplies of fats and oils were going up in smoke. Instead of rushing to the scene of the disaster, Procter went to the telegraph office, dispatched wires and cables to the oil markets of the world, bought all the oil futures he could. Not only did he thus avoid a squeeze at the hands of speculators but he had plenty of raw materials on hand when P & G.’s new plant, Ivorydale, opened in Cincinnati’s suburbs.

The forward-looking Procters knew how to take care of their employees as well as themselves. They pioneered (1887) in profit sharing, and last year P. & G.’s employees got $8,000,000, or 8.7% of total company profits before taxes. Colonel William Cooper Procter, third-generation boss of P. & G. and a leading Episcopalian layman, had a still more modern idea. For years P. & G.’s production had fluctuated with the buying whims of wholesalers. If the wholesalers thought prices were heading higher, they loaded up; if prices seemed to be going down, they cut back sharply, and hundreds of P. & G. employees would be laid off. Colonel Procter reasoned that soap output should be governed by actual consumption of soap, a fairly constant factor.
Procter forthwith cut down on outside middlemen, and by setting up a network of P. & G.’s own distributors. flattened out the peaks and valleys. In 1923 P. & G. installed its guaranteed-employment plan, first of its kind in the U.S., and assured hourly workers 48 weeks’ employment a year. In those days, such advanced management methods were nothing short of revolutionary. Today, they are considered a normal part of labor relations at P. & G. They have cut employee turnover from 133.7% to less than i% a year, kept the company unhampered by outside unions and major strikes, and left it free to concentrate on its main job of selling. P. & G. treats its top men with equal 1 generosity. President McElroy, who started out with P. & G. as a $100-a-month clerk 28 years ago, now earns $240,000 a year.

Economics, Bridge & Poker. Neil Hosier McElroy was born in Berea, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 1904, and raised in Madisonville, a suburb of Cincinnati, where his father was-a high-school physics instructor, his mother a grade-school teacher. It was a strict Methodist household. but father and mother McElroy sensibly decided that if their three sons were to learn the ways of the world, they might as -well do so at home. Instead of having their boys hanging around the local pool hall, they installed a pool table of their own. On Sunday evenings the family gathered for a weekly concert, with mother at the piano, the boys playing the clarinet, flute and French horn, and father McElroy singing.

In their spare time, the boys worked to help make ends meet, in line with the family philosophy: “God will provide if you will get out and scratch.” Neil mowed lawns, shoveled snow, wrapped bundles in a laundry, worked in a can factory. By the time he finished high school, he had saved $1,000. Like his brothers before him, he applied for a Harvard Club scholarship (“because it was available”), took a competitive exam and won.. –
At Harvard, he earned part of his way playing for dances at Wellesley with a band of his own (he played piccolo and piano). He played center on the basketball team, headed Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Harvard’s last remaining national fraternity. He majored in economics (B average), neither smoked nor drank (he likes an occasional drink now), but was not above staying up all night playing low-stake bridge and poker.

Running Hop. After college, McElroy got a job at P. & G. as mail clerk in the advertising department, learned the ins & outs by reading mail from P. & G.’s house-to-house selling crews, ad agency and distributors. He planned to go back to Harvard Business School, but he traveled so fast in P. & G. that he never did. After a stint selling soap, he was made manager of the company’s then small promotion department. At 26, he was sent abroad to help take over a small soap plant in England, there got a good education in a diversity of problems: manufacturing, purchasing, delivery.

Back in the U.S., McElroy got his first big chance in P. & G.’s advertising department. His boss, tending a sick wife, was often absent, so it was up to McElroy to run things. Says he: “It was the kind of a situation bound to lead to the hothouse development of a man—or break him completely.” Gradually McElroy’s ability caught the eye of P. & G.’s longtime President Richard R. Deupree.

For years P. & G. products had gone their separate ways, taking care not to step on one another’s toes. But in the late ’20s, the company had brought out Ivory Flakes, started production of granulated soap, bought up Oxydol, Lava, Duz. McElroy had a new idea for selling them: Why not have a free-for-all, with no holds barred? “At first,” says he, “some of the more conservative members of the company cringed at the idea of having a punch taken at ourselves by ourselves.” But eventually McElroy won his point, persuaded his elders that the way to keep fast-growing P. & G. from becoming too .clumsy was to have it compete with itself.

President Deupree, a supersalesman who played a big part in P. & G.’s big expansion, liked the idea. He also pushed the company heavily into radio and soap opera. As McElroy moved up to advertising manager, vice president and president (Deupree became chairman in 1948), he built the individual “brand management” system that gives P. & G. its competitive drive today, and the research staff that has kept new P. & G. products rolling on to the market.

Radioactive Wash. P. & G. values research so highly that six out of every 100 employees are engaged in some kind of research project. At the company’s new $5,000,000 Miami Valley research lab-oratory, McElroy’s special pride, -more than a hundred scientists work over their test tubes, taking competitors’ products apart and putting new ones together.

Sometimes research leads P. & G. far afield. Long a seller of cellulose (a byproduct of cottonseed crushing) to the chemical and plastics industries, P. & G. recently found the demand far bigger
than it could supply. President McElroy’s solution was typical. He bought 560,000 acres of pineland in Florida, set up a $35 million plant to produce cellulose from wood pulp, now has his researchers testing ways to use the part of the pine tree not used for cellulose.

P. & G. laboratory workers can often be found sitting between troughs of sudsy water, an arm resting in each, to see how the skin reacts to different soaps and detergents. Clothes are soiled with radioactive dirt, “Geiger-counted” after every washing. Researchers work daily on such questions as: What holds dirt on cloth and skin? What do suds accomplish? (Mainly, they accomplish sales. Nonsudsing detergents often work just as well, but many women won’t buy them.)

P. & G. hires housewives to wash clothes in the laboratory as they would at home, maintains a beauty shop where a woman employee can have her hair shampooed free—half with a P. & G. product, the other half with a competing shampoo. The company keeps a staff of bakers busy developing new recipes for Crisco and its bakery-trade shortenings (latest treat: a chocolate-coated ice-cream cone), is now working with soybean oil in the hope of cashing in on the boom in “frozen custard” and other ice-cream substitutes.

Use & Compare. When the laboratory people have finally perfected a new product, P. & G.’s marketing operation begins with all the precision of an amphibious landing. A staff of 12 5 P. & G. girls (not too pretty, lest they attract too many marriage proposals; not too homely, lest they jump at the first offer) travels all over the U.S., talking to half a million women a year, handing out new products for housewives to “use and compare.” Though P & G. has a long list of product names already patented and ready for use, its ad agencies often run contests to get new ones. They must be easy to re-member, simple to pronounce on the radio, fit well into advertising slogans (“Tide’s in; dirt’s out”).

When a new product hits a “test market” city, P. & G. trucks roll slowly down the streets while teams of men swarm in & out of houses handing out samples. Big changes in a product are often made during such test-marketing. Cheer was first put out as a white, detergent. Then someone suggested that it be dyed blue and tried out. The blue not only sold muchbetter (especially among women who used bluing in their wash), but it also supplied a catchy ad slogan: “It’s new! It’s blue! It’s Blue Magic!”

Headaches & Rewards. All P. & G.’s careful planning, diligent research and hard selling have their rewards. Only once (in the commodity collapse of 1921) has P. & G. shown a loss; since the war, its sales have more than doubled—to $85c million in the last fiscal year (net: $42 million). But growth has also brought some headaches.

For their grandiose advertising claims, the soapmakers are often in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission. P. & G. admen have a simple explanation for the free-handed promises: “Have you ever listened to women talk? They never say, `That’s a nice hat.’ They say, ‘That’s absolutely the cutest hat I’ve ever seen. Women talk in hyperbole. So that’s the way we’ve got to talk to them. It’s the only language they understand.” Nevertheless, P. & G. has had to stop claiming curative powers for its shampoos, that Camay “will keep the skin young,” that Tide and Cheer will get clothes as cleat without rinsing as other products wil with rinsing. When FTC cracks down P. & G. complies promptly—unless it tai prove its claim on the basis of its research.

Last year, in the waning days of the Truman Administration, the justice De partment’s antitrusters brought a civi suit against P. & G., Colgate and Lever charged the three with monopolizing the soap market by exchanging price information. Under its new Republican bosses the justice Department still plans to try the case. But since a grand jury studied the case for 18 months and found no cause for criminal action, McElroy i sure he will win.

Neil McElroy is just as confident abou his company’s future. But if sales start t, slide, says he, “We’ll find the reason why Then we’ll give it hell.” It is a long-stand ing P. & G. belief that if a man invents better mousetrap, no one will beat a pat. to his door unless he goes out and tell people about it. Neil McElroy does not intend to let anyone forget about his mousetraps.

The Red Chinese Cadre, the ultimate Word of Mouth network?

Or, Brainwashing the Highest Stage of Marketing?

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China
by Robert Jay Lifton

. . .
At the University of Peking, George found the pattern of thought reform similar to that at middle school, but more intensive; not only did criticism and self-criticism within small groups become
more focused and personal, but students were expected to be instigators as well as followers. During the Three Anti Movement —against waste, corruption, and bureaucracy—the first of a series of campaigns on the campus, it was the students who searched out these evils among all university employees, including faculty members. In fact, a student, as local Communist Party secretary, ran the campaign, and for some time virtually ran the university.

The movement followed the usual sequence: an announcement by Mao Tse-tung, editorials in leading newspapers about its purposes and general methods, and then preparation at the university itself. Posters were prominent everywhere, slogans and cartoon caricatures appeared on all the classroom blackboards (called the “blackboard press”), and loudspeakers broadcasted throughout the university—in dining rooms, dormitories, assembly halls, and department buildings. The campaign achieved its greatest intensity during a two-month period devoted entirely to its activities: students were required to remain at the university for what would ordinarily have been a one-month vacation period, and the beginning of the next term’s classes was delayed for still another month. George served as a “detention guard,” watching over those nonprofessional employees (servants and clerical help) who were detained in special bedrooms or classrooms, each isolated and subjected to a barrage of pressures to confess his past participation in corrupt activities. None of those singled out failed to confess, and some were sent to prison.

For George and the other students, the most impressive events were the public confessions of their professors (here the Three Anti Movement merged with the Thought Reform Campaign). Each faculty member was required to make a “self-examination” before the students of his own department, and criticize his political shortcomings and also his deficiencies in teaching method and outlook. George was impressed by the influence which students could bring to bear upon their professors, especially so in the case of his own department head:
Professor M was the ex-chairman of the Chinese National League of Physicists, a very renowned professor. But the students did not like him too much. He muttered when he spoke, and he was not too sociable a person. . . . All the students were free to give their true opinions about his teaching, their criticism about him.
. . .

“Information overload equals pattern recognition.” Media Ad-vice: An Introduction by Marshall McLuhan

Introduction to Subliminal Seduction By Wilson Bryan Key

Media Ad-vice:
An Introduction
by Marshall McLuhan,
Director, Centre for Culture and Technology
University of Toronto

Customer in antique shop: “What’s new?”

Professor Key has helped to show how the deceits of sub¬liminal advertising can be a means of revealing unexpected truth: the childlike faith of the ad agencies in four-letter words points to our obsession with infantile bathroom images as the chemical bond between commercial society and the universal archetypes.
The old journalism had aimed at objectivity by giving “both sides at once,” as it were, the pro and con, the light and shade in full perspective. The “new journalism,” on the other hand, eagerly seeks subjectivity and involvement in a resonant environment of events: Norman Mailer at the Chicago Convention, or Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood.

In the same way, the old history—as Michael Foucault ex-plains in The Archeology of Knowledge (Pantheon Books, New York, 1972)–sought to show “how a single pattern is formed and preserved, how for so many different successive minds there is a single horizon.” But now the problem of the “new history” is “no longer one of tradition, of tracing a line, but one of division, of limits. It is no longer one of lasting foundations, but one of transformations that serve as new foundations….”

The study of advertising as contemporary cultural history, of history on the hop and in the hopper, of history as process rather than as a product, such is the investigation of Pro¬fessor Key. Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance. But environments as such have a way

of being inaccessible to inspection. Environments by reason of their total character are mostly subliminal to ordinary experience. Indeed, the amount of any situation, private or social, verbal or geographic, that can be raised and held to the con¬scious level of attention is almost insignificant. Yet ads de¬mand a lot of attention in our environmental lives. Ads are focal points for the entire range of twentieth-century knowl¬edge, skills, and technologies. Psychologists and anthropolo¬gists toil for the agencies. So, Professor Key has drawn our attention to the use made in many ads of the highly developed arts of camouflage.

T.S. Eliot long ago pointed out that the camouflage function of “meaning” in a poem was like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the house-dog of the mind so that the poem could do its work. Professor Key explains that the proclaimed purpose of the ad may, at one level, be just such a decoy so that the ad may do its work at another level of consciousness.

Secrets Within Banality
Today many people feel uneasy when serious attention is paid to objects and subjects that they are accustomed to classify as “trash.” They feel that the base commercial opera¬tion of ads is beneath any claim to their awareness or analy¬sis.Such people, on the one hand, have little heeded the les¬sons of history and archaeology which reveal how the mid¬den-heaps of the ages provide the wisdom and riches of the present. And yet, on the other hand, they know how their snobbish “freeze” (or surrender) in the presence of the horrid vulgarities of commerce is exactly what is needed to render them the cooperative puppets of ad manipulation. The ad as camouflage often uses the blatant appeal to hide more subtle and powerful motivations than appear on the surface.

Shakespeare’s oft misquoted remark about “one touch of nature” that “makes the whole world kin” really concerns the eagerness of men to swallow a flattering bait. He is not suggesting that natural beauty is a social bond!
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin: That all with one consent praise new-born gawds Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt More laud than gilt o’erdusted.
Men are united only in their eagerness to be deceived by appearances.
The wise gods seal our eyes;
In our own filth drop our clear judgments; make us Adore our errors; laugh at us while we strut To our confusion
Thus part of the business of the ad is to seem frank, open, hearty, and direct. The business establishment long ago founded itself on ebullient attitudes of trust and confidence which were part of the discovery that “Honesty is the best policy” and “Crime doesn’t pay.” “Policy,” of course, is the Machiavellian term for “deceit,” so immediate and overt honesty can be camouflage for ultimate exploitation, in ads as in politics. However, we live today in the first age of the electric information environment, and there is now a sense in which we are the first generation that can say, “There is nothing old under the sun.”

Since Sputnik (October 17, 1957), the planet Earth went inside a man-made environment and Nature yielded its an¬cient reign to Art and Ecology. Ecology was born with Sputnik, for in an electric information environment all events become clamorous and simultaneous. An old adage at IBM is: “Information overload equals pattern recognition.” At instant speed the hidden becomes plain to see.

Minds Are Quicker Than Eyes
Since the mind is very much faster than light (it can go to Mars and back in an instant, whereas light takes minutes), the hidden structure of many old things can now become apparent. With the new information surround, not only specialisms and monopolies of knowledge become less useful, but the world of the subliminal is greatly reduced. Whatever the practical uses and expediency of the subliminal may have been in the past, they are not as they were. Even the future is not what it used to be. For at electric speeds it is necessary to anticipate the future in order to live in the present, and vice versa.

Necessarily, the age of instant information prompts men
to new kinds of research and development. It is, above all, an age of investigation and of espionage. For in the total information environment, man the hunter and scanner of environments returns to supervise the inner as well as the outer worlds, and nothing is now unrelated or irrelevant.

T.S. Eliot has two statements that directly concern our new simultaneous world of “auditory” or “acoustic” space in which electric man now dwells on the “wired planet.” The first passage is from his discussion of “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” explaining that “the whole of literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order.” It is the character of auditory space, which we make in the act of hearing, to be a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose margin is nowhere, for we hear from all directions at once.

In the magnetic city of the new electric environment we receive data from all directions simultaneously, and thus we exist in a world sphere of resonant information that is structured and which acts upon us in the auditory pattern. Eliot had regard to the role of the individual talent faced by this new kind of richness of tradition and experience. So it is not strange that our time should witness a revival of many forms of oral culture and group performance, any more than it is strange that we should see on all hands the awakening and cultivation of occult traditions, and new concern with inner life and visionary experience.

For these are resonant things hidden from the eye. The wide interest in every kind of structuralism in language and art and science is direct testimony to the new dominance of the nonvisual values of audile-tactile involvement and group participation. In fact, it could be said that there is very little in the new electric technology to sustain the visual values of civilized detachment and rational analysis.

Mr. Eliot’s second statement on the world of the simultaneous concerns the “auditory imagination”:
What I call “auditory imagination” is the feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word: sinking to the most primitive and forgotten, returning to the origin and bringing something back, seeking the beginning and the end. It works through meanings, certainly, or not without meanings in the
ordinary sense, and fuses the old and obliterated, and the trite, the current, and the new and the surprising, the most ancient and the most civilized mentality.

Eliot here speaks of the mind’s ear, the subliminal depths and reach of the corporate tongue bridging countless generations and cultures in an eternal present. Eliot and Joyce accepted language as the great corporate medium that encodes and environs the countless dramas and transactions of man. Their raids on this vast inarticulate resource have made literary history on a massive scale.

Meantime the enormous new environment of advertising has sprung up as a service for the consumer who hardly knows what to think of his newly bought cars and swimming pools. It is well known to the frogmen of Madison Avenue that those who read or hear the ads are mostly those who have already bought one of the objects displayed. “Ask the man who owns one,” or “You feel better satisfied when you use a well-known brand.” The fact is that the ad world is a colossal put-on as much as the world of fashion or art or politics or entertainment. The stripper puts on her audience by taking off her clothes, and the poet puts on his public by stripping or dislocating the familiar rhythms and habits of expression.

How about the adman’s rip-off? He must move on more than one level in order to obtain the interplay that involves the public.

The poet lets us look at the world through the mask of his poem while wearing us as his mask: “hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere,” said Baudelaire to his reader. The adman shows us the world through the mesh or mask of his product while playfully putting on our cash and credit as his own motley. But that there may be another level of reinforcement, the ads sometimes provide a barrage of optimistic innocence along with an undercurrent of guilty joys and fears upon which the blatant, gesticulating commercial rides piggyback. It is the quest of Professor Key to unconceal this hidden ground of the ad as figure, and to reveal the conflict between them.

Scuba Diving into Hidden Backgrounds
It may be that the impulse of the admen to use the hidden ground of our lives in a furtive way in their ads is no mere surrender to base impulse and greed for power. By replayingthe hot glamorous images in a cool scatological pattern, the subliminal message becomes a dramatic irony of the superficial and conscious one.

The subliminal replay of the open appeal thus offers an offbeat jazz quality of quarter notes sourly commenting on the full notes, by way of a wry twist. It is the role Freud himself played as diver into the dirty unhygienic depth beneath the dewy Romantic sentiment. At the extreme point, Freud the diver got a signal: “Surface at once. Ship is sinking.” When he came up for air he wrote about “Civilization and its Discontents.” After a long session in the dark unconscious, Freud recognized the visual and literate world as the location of civilized values and awareness. The dark within is the world of tribal or acoustic man who resists civilization as do our dropouts. Professor Key brings out the struggle between these worlds as inherent in the very structure of the not-so-humble ads that provide the directives and the competitive taste patterns of our commerce and our entertainment.

Bugging and Sleuthing have become a universal Business, like education. The electric age is the age of the hunter. It is the age of simultaneous information. The simultaneous ends the subliminal by making it as much a structural part of consciousness as former specialism or monopoly or secrecy. The age just behind us was the opposite of the electric age. The mechanical and industrial society was the age of steam and hardware and highway and monopoly and specialism. It was a visual world.

The age of the electrical and simultaneous is the age of environmental and ecological awareness. Structurally speaking, the simultaneous is acoustic rather than visual. We hear from all directions at once, and that is why the reign of the subliminal is ending. The subliminal or the hidden can be present to the hearing when it is not accessible to the eye.

It makes much sense when N. F. Dixon writes in Suhliminal Perception that experienced psychologists of our sense lives have bypassed the subliminal and the auditory in favor of visual investigation. For the psychological, as much as for any other establishment, the commitments are to the preceding age of the visual. However, the new age is also subliminal to its predecessor. It is, therefore, easy to know that the eye may be solicited by lines it cannot see, and our judgments warped by motives that are not in consciousness nor in the habitual patterns of our nervous systems, “for
the whole environment is full of subliminal influences which experienced psychologists have systematically neglected.”

It is only fair to add that the electric environment is manmade and new, and experienced psychologists, quite as much as the rest of the population, continue to adhere to the older and familiar and visually structured world of the hardware age in which they invested all had. For the visual is the world of the continuous and the connected and the rational and the stable.

Since we have now put an electrical environment of resonant information around the old visual one, our daily adaptations and responses are at least as much to the new acoustic environment as to the old visual world. If one were to ask, “Which is the better world?” it would be necessary to explain that the values of an acoustical and musically oriented society are not those of the classically visual and civilized society.

Predictions of the Past
For good or ill, we have phased ourselves out of the older visual society by our electric technology that is as instant as light. If we want to get back into a visually ordered world, we shall have to recreate the conditions of that world. Meantime we have a new environment of instant information that upsets and “pollutes” all patterns of the old visual sequences.

Nothing is “in concatenation accordingly” in the simultaneous world of sound. Effects now easily and naturally precede causes, and we can freely predict the past.

At the speed of light our space-time coexistence tends to give us the whimsical manners of the girl in Professor Butler’s limerick:
There was a young lady named Bright Who moved with the quickness of light; She went out one day
In a relative way,
And returned the previous night.

At electric speed, the goals and objectives of the old sequential and visual world are irrelevant. Either they are attained before we start or we are out of date before we arrive. All forms of specialist training suffer especially. Engineers
and doctors cannot graduate in time to be relevant to the innovations that occur during their training period.
Change itself becomes the only constant. We seem to live in a world of deceits and fake values where, for example, those engaged in news coverage are often more numerous than those making the news. But the creation of a total field of world information returns man to the state of the hunter, the hunter of data.
To the sleuth, to Sherlock Holmes, nothing is quite what it seems. He lives, like us, in two worlds at once, having small benefit of either. Caught between visual and acoustic worlds, physicist Werner Heisenberg enunciated the “Uncertainty Principle.” You can never perform the same experiment twice. Heraclitus, living in the old acoustic world before Greek literacy, said, “You can’t step in the same river twice.” And today in the electric world we say, “You ‘can’t step in the same river,” period.

In the Renaissance, when the old acoustic world of medieval and feudal order was quickly being overlaid by the visual order of the printed word, there was an epidemic concern about deceit and imposture. Machiavelli invented a new art of lying by stressing an extrovert mask of bluff, hearty sincerity. lago tells us that he will wear his heart on his sleeve for daws to peck at. Othello demands “ocular proof” of his wife’s infidelity, and is deceived by the same “proof.” Shakespeare’s great plays are devoted to the theme of the deceits of power. Hamlet is caught out of role. He is a medieval prince adapted to the medieval world of acoustic involvement and personal loyalty. His world of ideal musical harmony collapses into one of visual distraction and mere appearance:
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh
His dilemma is stated also by Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida:
Take but degree away, untune that string
And, hark! what discord follows; each thing meets In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores, And make a sop of all this solid globe.

Other Side of the Looking Glass
The auditory man is an ecologist because he imagines everything affecting everything, because all happens at once as in a resonating sphere. The clash between the medieval ecologist and the Renaissance man of private aims and goals is playing in reverse today. The new technology is acoustic and total. The old establishment is visual and fragmentary. All this concerns Professor Key’s study of the deceits of the admen.
These admen teams operate on the frontier between the worlds of eye and ear, of old and new. They are trying to have the best of both worlds by wearing both masks. Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s great contemporary, devoted much of his work to the presentation of the deceiver and the deceived, stressing the inherent appetite of most people to wallow in deceit as a delectable diet:
Still to be neat, still to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, stiperfumed Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art’s hid causes are not found, All is not sweet, all is not sound.
This could be an anti-advertisement today if equal time were allowed to query the counsel of each ad. Saving the appearances mattered more and more during the Renaissance and after. Moliere’s Misanthrope and Tartuffe are built on the assumption that truth is a matching of inner state and outer behavior. The fact that truth is making not matching, process not product, can never satisfy the visual man with his mirror held up to nature.
By contrast, Walter Pater plunged his readers into the forbidden world of the unconscious when he presented them with the image of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” He sought the truth on the other side of the looking glass:
The presence that thus rose so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all ‘the ends of the world are come,’ and the eyelids are a little weary. . . .

Set it for a moment xvi WILSON BRYAN KEY
beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed?
(The Renaissance)
Pater is fascinated by his image of a sick “soul with all its maladies,” spurning the slick white Greek goddesses of rationality. Pater has flipped, fashionably, out of the visual and back into the medieval acoustic world. “All art,” he said, “constantly aspires toward the condition of music.”
It is this music that began to be heard in the Romantic depths of the starved and rationalistic psyche of the visual cultures that reached from the Renaissance to the Victorian age. Pater’s pen portrait of “Mona Lisa” continues in a plangent tone that might win the applause of any ad copywriter:
She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.

This passage is a striking descrintion of the Western subconscious with all its evocation of the occult and of delirious vices.

Subliminal Graffiti
It is plain that the subconscious is a wicked witch’s brew of superhuman interest for all boys and girls. This Mona Lisa affair raises a major aspect of Professor Key’s study. Does the discovery of graffiti in the deodorants and aids to glamor threaten the public of consumers, or does it merely reveal the childish itch of the admen themselves? For example, the title Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may be both immoral and immortal because it links hair and gold, faces and feces. For
gold and dung have always had affinities, even as the greatest perfumes include a subtle ingredient of excrement.
There is the further fetching factor of the author’s name, Anita Loos. It doesn’t suggest the prim Puritan altogether. Since the world of dung and excrement is quite near to the daily conscious level, are we to panic when the admen put these at the bottom of the big hamper of goodies that they proffer the affluent?

Willthe graffiti hidden under the lush appeal expedite sales or merely impede the maturity quotient of the buyers? Will the graffiti lurking in the glamor crevices set up a resonant interval of revulsion against the consumer appeals, or will the confrontation of fur and feces in the ads merely sadden and deepen and mature the childish consumer world? It is a strange and tricky game to mount the sweet enticing figure on a rotten ground.
To use, on the other hand, four-letter words in the libretto of the siren’s song may prove to be a metaphysical discovery.

The poet W.B. Yeats meditated in anguish over the plight of man:
Love has pitched his mansion in The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole That has not been rent.
He, too, is desperate over the appearances.

Just how precarious a boundary Yeats provides can be noted in his nervous betrayal in the ambiguous words “pitch” and “rent.”

“Pitch” is filth and “rent” is venal. In a word, the “Love” of Yeats can no more be trusted to present a clean slate than the overeager admen with their subliminal reinforcement of glamor by graffiti. The passionately embracing young man asks his
partner, “Why speak of love at a time like this?” The remark serves as a corollary to the moan of Yeats. But it also opens up the Playboy world where girls are playmates.

The Playboy’s Plaything
Things have changed electrically since I published The Mechanical Bride in 1951. The assembly-line love goddess, abstract and austere and inhuman, has been succeeded by hula-hooping, mini-skirted, tribally anonymous jujubes. Ut-xviii WILSON BRYAN

terly embraceable, consumable, and expendable, they expect little, for they know that the fragile ego of the playboy cannot endure the threat of any strain or commitment.

Thanks to color photography, and then to color TV, the magnetic city has become a single erogenous zone. At every turn there is an immediate encounter with extremely erotic situations which exactly correspond to the media “coverage” of violence. “Bad news” has long been the hard core of the press, indispensable for the moving of the mass of “good news” which is advertising.

These forms of sex and violence are complementary and inseparable. Just what would be the fate of wars and disasters without “coverage” could be considered a meaningless question, since the coverage itself is not only an increase of the violence but an incentive to the same.

The power-starved person can easily see himself getting top coverage if he is involved in a sufficiently outrageous act of hijacking or mayhem. The older pattern of success story by achievement simply takes too long to be practical at electric speeds. Why not make the news instead of a life?
The close relation between sex and violence, between good news and bad news, helps to explain the compulsion of the admen to dunk all their products in sex by erogenizing every contour of every bottle or cigarette. Having reached this happy state where the good news is fairly popping, the admen say, as it were: “Better add a bit of the bad news now to take the hex off all that bonanza stuff.” Let’s remind them that LOVE, replayed in reverse, is EVOL—transposing into EVIL and VILE. LIVE spells backward into EVIL, while EROS reverses into SORE. And, we should never forget the SIN in SINCERE or the CON in CONFIDENCE.

Let’s tighten up the slack sentimentality of this goo with something gutsy and grim.
As Zeus said to Narcissus:
“Watch yourself.”

Brand Advocates and the Phoenix-rise of Networks

When Procter & Gamble’s candle business stopped going up in smoke, they developed Ivory soap for a somewhat upscale mass market. At that time, stores were not self-service. P&G was advertising Ivory, but when the consumer asked for it the clerk would substitute something with a higher profit margin. To get over this hurdle, P&G needed to connect directly with its customers. They did this by mailing samples and inviting women to become an Ivory “patroness.” The copy instructed the recipients to request Ivory soap. If the store declined to supply the brand, then the “patroness” should “demand Ivory specifically when shopping for soap and to reject any substitutes offered by their grocers.” (Rising Tide, 2004)

When supermarkets became standard and radio advertising readily available, Procter & Gamble no longer needed brand patronesses. With television, advertising was yet more effective.

Nearly 20 years ago, P&G realized that TV no longer was an effective vehicle:

The current paradigm shifts are again just as concerned with marketing as with markets. Similarly, a dialogue with consumers will be required. Today, that’s not going to happen through junk mail.

Habits / Automaticity and Marketing

Focusing on research at Target and Procter & Gamble, on 2/19 the New York Times Magazine had an article, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, by Charles Duhigg on habits and Marketing:
Instead of “habits,” the better term is automaticity: