Goodman and Rachel Dretzin
Dretzin, Barak Goodman, Muriel Soenens
Goodman and Douglas Rushkoff
ANNOUNCER: It's everywhere you look.
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: You cannot walk down the street without
ANNOUNCER: They call it a "clutter crisis."
KLEIN, Author, No Logo: Consumers are like roaches. You spray them and spray them, and after a while, it doesn't work
anymore. We develop immunities.
ANNOUNCER: And the multi-billion-dollar
advertising industry is in a desperate struggle to break through.
HAYES, Chief Marketing Officer, American Express: We don't just come forward with what we want to sell, we engage you with
things that you want.
ANNOUNCER: Advertisers have blurred the line
between programming and product.
DONATON, Editor-in-Chief, Advertising Age: It's
advertising that people not only will tolerate but will actually go in search
ACTRESS: ["Sex and the City"] The way God and Madison Avenue intended.
ANNOUNCER: But how is advertising affecting our
lives and the world around us?
CRISPIN MILLER, New York University: Once a culture becomes entirely
advertising-friendly, it ceases to be a culture at all.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE–
Correspondent: –ask me this all the time. What about the environment?
ANNOUNCER: Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff takes
you inside the changing world of The Persuaders.
[voice-over] A spring night in New York City, two
men hunt for just the right building.
MAN: We're always looking for a new wall to
kind of do our thing on.
RUSHKOFF: They may not look it, but these guys
are preparing a guerrilla operation.
MAN: Kind of just scope out for a good
location, and wherever we end up, we end up.
MAN: This is where we're going in, this
construction site right here.
RUSHKOFF: At last, they find the building they've
been looking for. They line up the
target in their sights. What's
this covert mission all about? It's a new kind of urban warfare, a sneaker company's all-out battle for
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: You cannot walk down the street without being bombarded. You stand in an elevator looking at
advertising in the corner of the elevator car. And you go to play golf and you go to pick the ball up out
of the cup, and there's an ad in the bottom of it. And you look up at the sky, and there's skywriting. And you look at a bus passing, and
there's advertising. And you walk
in Times Square and you go, "Is this Las Vegas on the Hudson? Am I entrapped inside a pinball
RUSHKOFF: Welcome to the new American
metropolis. Somewhere beneath all
these ads is the city I grew up in. But over the last 20 years, it's grown a second skin, a twinkling
membrane of commercial messages. Advertisers have become prospectors for new space in an ever more
crowded landscape. Even a subway
tunnel becomes the backdrop for an American Express promotion.
advertisers have a big problem. The more messages they create, the more they have to create to reach
us. It's led to a vicious circle
CRISPIN MILLER, New York University: They are the ones who make clutter. They are therefore also the ones who are always trying
desperately to "break through the clutter." That's the line you always hear in ad agencies, "We can
break through the clutter with this." Well, every effort to break through the clutter is just more clutter.
KLEIN, Author, No Logo: I
have a quote in my book from an advertising executive who says consumers are
like roaches. You spray them and
spray them, and after a while, it doesn't work anymore. We develop immunities.
RUSHKOFF: So what's an advertiser supposed to do,
stop advertising? That's the one
thing they know they can't do because the moment they stop trying to persuade
us, we forget about them.
SECUNDA, Former Executive, J. Walter Thompson: Once you're in the game, you can't
stop, if for no other reason than the competition will eat you alive.
CRISPIN MILLER: What advertising has always wanted to
do is not simply to suffuse the atmosphere but to become the atmosphere. It wants us not to be able to find a
way outside of the world that it creates for us.
RUSHKOFF: So this is the way our world fills up
with advertising. For years, I've
been studying and writing about what I call "the persuasion industry." I've even worked in it. But I still can't say for sure where
all this is headed. Where will the
advertising arms race lead, to a world made of marketing? And what would that mean for us?
set out on a tour through the modern machinery of selling to meet some of the
persuaders up close. My first
stop, a downtown New York storefront. I've been invited to a hit party, or something that looks like one. What this really is, is the opening
salvo in a marketing blitz for a new airline. They call themselves Song. Song is a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, but you won't find
any mention of Delta here. Delta
is old-fashioned air travel, and Song is their way of persuading us that they
can compete with hip, low-cost carriers like Jet Blue.
MAPES, Marketing Director, Song Airlines: A lot of people ask you, say, "You got to be crazy. You're starting an airline into the
worst environment in the U.S. – in the history of U.S. commercial aviation. And we were and we are.
RUSHKOFF: Delta broke off a team of their best
marketers and told them to start from scratch. The first thing the Song team decided was that it wasn't
enough just to launch a new airline. To get our attention, they had to invent a new culture around flying. But how do you do that? Song started with a trusted tool, the
market research video]
GROUP LEADER: The homework was, "Choose images,
words, things that capture what might be your ideal experience of traveling by
RUSHKOFF: Before long, Song's research yielded a
nugget. There was a large group of
flyers whose needs and desires were being ignored: women.
IN FOCUS GROUP: The food I think they can improve a
lot, you know?
WOOLMINGTON, CEO, The Media Kitchen: It
was an incredible insight to say that this could be the first airline that had,
you know, a real, you know, understanding, much deeper understanding of women
and women's interests.
RUSHKOFF: The Song team created a detailed
profile of their target consumer and even gave her a name, Carrie.
MAPES: She's got three children, a
husband. They both work. They have an SUV and a sports car,
Nieman-Marcus credit cards, but she shops at Target. She has got a propensity to read kind of high-end
literature, but she finds guilty pleasure in People magazine. And she doesn't have an airline.
RUSHKOFF: Song would have low fares, organic food
and more entertainment options. But most importantly, it would forge a real connection with women. To pull that off, Song turned to a pro,
Andy Spade. Spade is the
co-creator of the Kate Spade Company, a multi-million-dollar line of fashion
accessories that caters to women like Carrie.
MAPES: I think early on, when you're shaping a
new brand, you need those brand visionaries. He's got a gift, and he's had it from the very first time we
started working with him. And
that's why we love him so much. He
gets us more than we get ourselves.
SPADE: I bring ideas, kind of visualize ideas
that companies have and give them kind of a substance and a texture and a life
that they may not know how – how to create. And I bring that. I take their – their idea or their point of view, and I try to create
this – make it into something that's bigger, maybe emotional, maybe optimistic,
you know, maybe classical, maybe, you know, happy.
RUSHKOFF: Spade's been charged with producing
Song's TV campaign, the first impression the airline will make on many
SPADE: All right, why don't we start? Let me create a campaign for Song that
was spirited, that delivered on the benefits that we think are the most
important, do it in a way that's emotional, do it in a way that I think is
optimistic because we believe that's part of the Song ethos. So we're going to take you through five
different – different concepts and five different commercials that deliver on
five different – different benefits which we believe differentiate Song from
RUSHKOFF: Spade is proposing to downplay the
airline's new features in favor of something much more intangible: its soul.
SPADE: There's a book called Lovers here, which I don't know if – if any of
you are familiar with the book, Lovers? I'll pass it
around. But there's these sweet,
sweet images, and we were kind of inspired by this a few times, of – of just
people together, and mainly Godard and Truffaut movies and all those old French
new wave films, and then there are American films.
RUSHKOFF: Spade's commercials will show no
planes, no travelers, no low fares, no airline. This is an enormously risky strategy. These commercials, as planned, will
consume almost a third of Song's $12 million marketing budget. If the campaign doesn't connect, Song
will just become part of the noise. And Delta, at the brink of bankruptcy, cannot afford for its new venture
to fail. At least one member of
Song's team is nervous.
MAPES: Well, the risk is you invest an
inordinate amount of money behind a message that is a fairly ethereal message
that, as I say, doesn't feed the bulldog. I mean, this is a business, this isn't an art form. So we have got to ensure that it's
communication that drives commerce, not just makes people feel good.
number one purchase driver for this category is, in fact, first price. The strategy is the everyday low price
airline that happens to have more style and everything else that we're doing.
SPADE: The more we pulled back and tried to
make it a very, very kind of literal delivery on a benefit, it just – it lost
that emotion, and we wanted to keep that emotion.
RUSHKOFF: Spade isn't backing off. He's not content just to convey
information, he's aiming for something bigger.
SPADE: At the end of the day, you want to
become a part of culture. And when
you get to that point, you've created a huge success. And that's what all the great, great, I think, companies
have done, from Virgin to Apple to others.
think by spending 25 seconds on – on the style and the spirit, this is a void in
your category, and you have to get there first. That's more important than really building a spot around low
fare. I mean, everyone, you know,
is going to be low fare.
really differentiates something from another thing? I think it's – it's creating kind o f– kind of something that
communicates to people on – on another level, beyond a logical level.
More on Spade's TV campaign]
RUSHKOFF: The question is an advertising classic:
Should the pitch be aimed at the head or the heart? How creative can an ad get and still be an ad?
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: Someone once wrote a book called Advertisements for Myself. That's what advertising is, it's
advertising for the guys who are creating it far more than it is for the guys
who are paying for it. They're
trying to win awards. They're trying
to make more money. They're trying
to build their own portfolio. They're trying to get a better job. They're trying to make up for the fact that they're in
advertising and not directing films or doing stand-up comedy or painting
paintings of whatever they would prefer to do, I guarantee you.
the consequence is a lot of advertising that's quite extravagant in its look or
very clever and entertaining and funny but which doesn't do the thing that
advertising is supposed to do, which is make you want to buy the good or
service that's nominally being advertised.
commercial] Look at the coffee as it gets darker
RUSHKOFF: Not so long ago, the high-concept ads
of today were all but unthinkable.
commercial] Soap has never smelled this good
before, and neither have you.
RUSHKOFF: Ads laid claim to real, tangible
differences between one product and another.
ROBERTS, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide: What were brands? They were based on what I call "er"
words: whiter, brighter, cleaner, stronger.
commercial] –smoothest, mildest, tastiest
ROBERTS: Watch any commercials on American TV
and you'll see these words up in the first three seconds hammered remorselessly
into your brain.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: But at some point, these words ceased
to have meaning. We no longer
believed that one product was any brighter or cleaner than any other.
ROBERTS: Everything works now. You know, French Fries taste
crisp. Coffee's hot. You know, beer tastes good, unless you
live in America and then, you know, you've got to live with what you get. But all these things now are table
RUSHKOFF: By the early 1990s, a new approach to
marketing came to the fore, one that leapt right over what the product did to
what the product meant.
commercial] You know it's not just a car, it's an
expression of the culture, an aesthetic that is connected somehow to
KLEIN, Author, No Logo: These
were the super-brands, like Nike, Starbucks, the Body Shop. And what they noticed these brands had
in common was that they were engaging in a kind of a sort of pseudo-spiritual
marketing. So Nike said that they
were about the meaning of sports, but more than that, that they were about
transcendence through sports. Starbucks said that they were about the idea of community, of place,
that is, a third place that is not home, not work. Benetton was, of course, selling multi-culturalism, racial
RUSHKOFF: This lesson – that a brand could forge
an emotional, even spiritual bond with today's cynical consumer – wasn't lost
on corporate America.
commercial] What are you saying with your Chinet
KLEIN: This wave of corporate epiphanies in
the mid-'90s, where all these companies, you know, were told, "You know, what
your problem is, is you don't have a big idea behind your brand." So they would hire high-priced consultants,
and they would have these kind of corporate sweat lodges and gather around the
campfire and sort of try to channel their inner brand meaning. And they would emerge from these
processes sort of flushed and say, you know, "Polaroid isn't a camera, it's a
ATKIN, Merkley and Partners Advertising: When I was a brand manager at Proctor & Gamble, my job was basically
to make sure the product was good, develop new advertising copy, design the
pack. Now a brand manager has an
entirely different kind of responsibility. In fact, they have more responsibility. Their job now is to create and maintain
a whole meaning system for people, through which they get identity and
understanding of the world. Their
job now is to be a community leader.
RUSHKOFF: Ad strategist Douglas Atkin, an expert
on the relationship between consumers and brands, says he had a eureka moment
one night during a focus group.
ATKIN: I was in a research facility watching
eight people rhapsodize about a sneaker. And I thought, "Where is this coming from? This is, at the end of the day, a piece of footwear." But the terms they were using were
evangelical. So I thought, if
these people are expressing cult-like devotion, then why not study cults? Why not study the original? Find out why people join cults and
apply that knowledge to brands.
GONG MEMBER: I'm loyal to this practice because it's
done so much for me.
RUSHKOFF: If Atkin could find what pushed a
person from mere fan to devoted disciple, perhaps he could market that
FAN: Most of the people I discuss the WWF
with know that it's not a sport, you know, it's a masculine ballet.
RUSHKOFF: So he compared dozens of groups he
considered cults with so called "cult brands," from Hare Krishna to Harley
BEETLE OWNER: If you're smart and kind of individual,
that's what you drive.
RUSHKOFF: –from Falun Gong to Mac.
USER: I think there's something about Mac
users. Like, they get it.
DEADHEAD: We just had discovered something.
USER: They realized there are other people
like them, and they cooperate on certain projects, and it's part of belonging
to the tribe.
ATKIN: And the conclusion was this, is that
people, whether they're joining a cult or joining a brand, do so for exactly
the same reasons. They need to
belong, and they want to make meaning. We need to figure out what the world is all about, and we need the
company of others. It's simply
is a really good example. It's a
mass cult brand. For example,
45,000 people turned up to spend their holiday vacation time at the factory in
Tennessee instead of going to Disney World or the Grand Canyon. Now, why would they do that? It's
because they wanted to meet other people who own Saturns. They wanted to meet the rest of the
Saturn family. They wanted to meet
the people who made the car. The
people who made the car wanted to meet them. And the people who ran the Saturn business knew that.
RUSHKOFF: They not only knew it, they turned it
into an ad, which only brought more people into the "Saturn family."
commercial] We called it the Saturn
homecoming. They could see where
the idea for a new kind of car company had taken shape, and we could thank them
for believing we could do it.
ATKIN: They created a great meaning system for
Saturn in those fantastic commercials. Their meaning system was based on old-time values of community. It was a kind of an icon that America
yearned for but couldn't find anymore.
RUSHKOFF: And that's the object of emotional
branding: to fill the empty places where non-commercial institutions, like
schools and churches, might once have done the job. Brands become more than just a mark of quality, they become
an invitation to a longed-for lifestyle, a ready-made identity.
REINHARD, Chairman, DDB Worldwide: The campaign for iPod is remarkable. When I see the poster as I'm passing by, when I go on the
Web site and it comes to life and I hear the music track going, and then when I
put my little iPod ear-pods on and I see the white cords against my black
jacket, I'm in that poster, and the poster is me! And then the music, my music, comes over my iPod, and it's a
KLEIN: When you listen to brand managers talk,
you can get quite carried away in this idea that they actually are fulfilling
these needs that we have for community and narrative and transcendence. But in the end, it is, you know, a
laptop and a pair of running shoes. And they might be great, but they're not actually going to fulfill those
needs, but which serves them very well because, of course, that means that you
have to go shopping again.
RUSHKOFF: Ironically, this new, more spiritual
trend in branding has ultimately put enormous pressure back on ad
agencies. There are only so many
big concepts to go around. Starry-eyed advertisers looking to become the next big thing are
constantly dropping one agency for another. This churning of accounts has left hundreds of agencies
weakened and vulnerable to takeover by one of six mammoth holding companies:
most notably Publicis, Interpublic, WPP, and Omnicom. Each has snapped up dozens of advertising, PR and market
research firms, consolidating their operations and slashing jobs. This cutthroat economic climate means
that for many ad agencies, their most important pitch of all is for themselves.
DONATON, Editor-in-Chief, Advertising Age: There's a lot of fear in the agency
business right now. They are
basically becoming commodities, and they're trying to figure out how to
differentiate themselves. And if
you boil it down– if you went to the Web sites of the top 20 ad agencies and
you looked at what each one uses as the slogan or the motto that they think
differentiates themselves from their competitors, these things read almost
absurdly like the same sentence cast a lot of different ways.
ROBERTS, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide: Boy, does the world need breakthrough
RUSHKOFF: Kevin Roberts is the CEO of Saatchi and
Saatchi. What used to be the
biggest player in the ad business is now a small subsidiary of a giant French
holding company. In the weeks
before we saw Kevin Roberts, Saatchi took a major blow, losing $185 million in
billings from its client, Johnson & Johnson, including the Tylenol account
that Saatchi had held for 28 years.
Roberts is undaunted. He thinks
he's found a path to revive Saatchi's fortunes.
ROBERTS: You feel the world through your senses,
the five senses, and that's what's next. The brands that can move to that emotional level, that can create
loyalty beyond reason, are going to be the brands where premium profits lie.
figured out what the answer was, that there was something in outstanding brands
RUSHKOFF: What sets Roberts's big idea apart from
his competitors' is its boldness. He claims he has discovered the formula to turn nearly any product into
an object of devotion.
ROBERTS: –that there were brands that connected,
and there were brands that people loved. They didn't like them, they didn't admire them, they didn't respect
them, they didn't use them. None
of that wimpy-wompy stuff. They
RUSHKOFF: Roberts calls his big idea "lovemarks."
camera] What is a "lovemark"?
ROBERTS: A lovemark is a brand that has created
loyalty beyond reason, that's infused with mystery, sensuality and intimacy,
and that you recognize immediately as having some kind of iconic place in your
RUSHKOFF: Well, where's the mystery in a
ROBERTS: Oh, Cheerios is full of mystery! Do you – I mean you don't think that
people just eat these, putting them in a bowl, do you? And that's not how they eat them
anyway. Most kids play with
them. They make stories up about
them. They imagine them. We shot this great commercial with a
grandma and a baby.
Read Kevin Roberts's interview]
GRANDMA: You know how much Grandma wanted to be here for your first
Christmas. She came a long
way. You see, Grandma lives way
down here. Brian, your cousin,
he's a little bit older than you, he lives here, in Chicago.
ROBERTS: You can build mystery, as long as you
believe in the story.
But no matter where Grandma lives, we'll
always be together for Christmas.
ANNOUNCER: Happy holidays from Cheerios.
GRANDMA: You just ate Dallas!
You know, we've moved from brands into experiences. Look at Tide, for instance, in the U.S. Tide's no longer a laundry
detergent. It's not about getting
clothes clean anymore. All
detergents get your clothes clean. Tide's about a much deeper – a deeper thing than that. It's an enabler. It's a liberator. It's – I guess you think about moving
Tide from the heart of the laundry to the heart of the family.
commercial] Take me home, take me home, to my
RUSHKOFF: [voice-over] I guess so. But how many brands ever really succeed in creating loyalty
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: There are a few examples when advertising really does cast a Svengali
spell. AT&T has done it. Hallmark has done it. Coca-Cola has done it. But most of the people who've tried to
make emotional connections with consumers over the years – by far the vast,
vast majority – have failed. They've gone down in flames.
SMITH, President, Song Airlines: Think about it this way. Instead of saying "That's so cool,"
you'll say, "That's so Song."
RUSHKOFF: Just six months after it was first
conceived, Song Airlines is in the skies. What began as a new way to market Delta's lower-cost flights has emerged
as a company-wide culture, an ethos imprinted onto every available surface.
SMITH: You can never be the only carrier or
the only product offering a certain attribute for so long. So what we're trying to do with Song
is, there is a spirit that you can't copy. There is an emotional bond that we are trying to get with
our customers that cannot be copied. We are not an airline, we are Song.
WOOLMINGTON, CEO, The Media Kitchen: I
think Song, you know, is about a lifestyle. It's more than an airline. You know, our translation is we want to create a
movement. We want to create a
movement of people that are going to have an emotional connection with this
RUSHKOFF: Song hired one of the world's leading
branding agencies to create a name and a look like no other airline's.
ST. GERMAIN, Landor Associates: The logo is the easy part, it's, it's everything else. It goes from the ticket jacket, to the
boarding pass, to the screen on the kiosk when you check in, to what's on the
back wall behind that kiosk when you check in, to what goes on the screen that
says what time your flight is leaving, to what the gate area looks like. Then you move on board the plane. What does the outside of the plane look
like? What does the inside of the
plane look like? That means
carpet. That means bulkhead
patterns in front of the seats. What goes on the baby changing table in the lav? What does the lav smell like?
RUSHKOFF: Song not only branded their planes,
they branded their people. Instead
of holding job interviews, Song "auditioned" their flight attendants, then
taught them how to "be Song," giving them scripts for what to say and how to
SMITH: "Song" is becoming an adjective at our
airline. So we've got an
expression, "You are so Song." We
can never do anything that's off-Song or off-tune. It has to be on-brand.
RUSHKOFF: [on camera] Did they kind of teach you to "be
SONG EMPLOYEE: Oh, no. We had Song in us before Song was Song.
RUSHKOFF: So they give you more permission to be
SONG EMPLOYEE: They were, like, "You are so Song. Bring it, show it, right?
SONG EMPLOYEE: Bring it on.
SONG EMPLOYEE: Be it. Be Song."
RUSHKOFF: Have you every done anything that you
were being and it turned out it wasn't Song? In other words, you're just so Song, in your natural state–
EMPLOYEE: Always. Always.
RUSHKOFF: –you just live Song, do you?
EMPLOYEE: When I'm sleeping, when I'm eating,
when I'm breathing–
RUSHKOFF: You're born Song.
EMPLOYEE: –when I'm talking. I'm Song, baby!
RUSHKOFF: [voice-over] But despite Song's enthusiasm, there's
reason to wonder if they are breaking through the clutter. A dozen actors with Song TVs strapped
to their stomachs got lots of puzzled stares in the streets of Boston.
PASSERBY: I'm not sure, but I'm either really drunk or some strange [deleted] going down!
RUSHKOFF: But so did every other walking
billboard. They've opened a new
Song concept store in Boston, but it seems like one more distraction in a giant
mall, and it may have raised more questions than it answered.
STORE: So you're an airline?
EMPLOYEE: Yes, we are.
STORE: Or a travel agency?
EMPLOYEE: We're an airline.
RUSHKOFF: Can consumers see through all of this
brand experience to the product Song is supposed to be selling?
STORE: OK. Thanks.
EMPLOYEE: You're welcome. Have a great day.
RUSHKOFF: If you scratch the self-confident
surface of advertising, you'll uncover an unnerving anxiety. Is any of this really working? There's an aphorism as old as
advertising itself: "I know I'm wasting half my ad dollars, I just don't know
which half." What works? When does it work? And with whom? The whispered truth on Madison Avenue
is that despite enough studies to fill a library, still, nobody really knows.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the executive producers and stars of NYPD Blue past and present!
RUSHKOFF: This is the financial bedrock of the
advertising industry – called the "upfronts" – where every year, network TV
executives present their coming fall season and its stars and advertisers line
up to buy commercial minutes. But
in recent years, the model has begun to break down.
HAYES, Chief Marketing Officer, American Express: Where else in the world can you be
convinced to pay more for a commodity that is experiencing diminishing returns?
RUSHKOFF: Giant advertisers like American Express
are losing faith in the traditional 30-second ad.
HAYES: We, as advertisers, are paying more to
reach less. Now, the definition of
insanity is to continually do the same things over and over and expect
different results, right?
RUSHKOFF: Television audiences are watching fewer
ads. The networks are losing
viewers to cable, and the appearance of digital video recorders like TiVo now
allow people to zap the ads altogether.
WOOLMINGTON, CEO, The Media Kitchen: Advertisers are frightened, I think. They're sort of deer in the
headlights – "What do we do?" And
within, you know, a matter of five years, we will have a huge percentage of the
country will be – you know, will have this technology. Five years, you know, isn't a lot of time in the – you know,
in terms of creating new models.
RUSHKOFF: So what countermeasure have advertisers
come up with to the remote-wielding viewer?
GUY: ["Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"]: Aside from the stuff I got at J. Crew, I went to French Connection. These are from Clark's – Steve
Madden. And I got you some great
eyewear from Ray-Ban!
RUSHKOFF: If the audience is skipping commercials
to get to the programs, why not become part of the programs themselves?
FRANK, Fmr. President, Walt Disney Studios: If I were starting Friends today, instead of it taking place in a coffee
shop, a generic coffee shop, if you were Starbucks, wouldn't it be great to
have them meet in a Starbucks? You
would never have to mention cappuccino. It would just be there.
RUSHKOFF: Starbucks may have missed that opportunity,
but the world's largest coffee chain caught a break on the next one. In the big-budget Hollywood movie I
Sean Penn's character doesn't just happen to work at a Starbucks, Starbucks
becomes a key character in the story.
PENN: ["I Am Sam"] I need to make coffee! I
need to pay my lawyer!
KANNER, Integrated Entertainment Partners: The idea of taking a brand and integrating all of its assets into an
idea where it becomes a hero – let's look at Cast Away, for example. We open up getting on a plane. The plane crashes. All but one person is killed. How bold was that of Fred Smith, the
founder and chairman of FedEx, A, to allow it, but to do it himself? And at the end of the film, not only
did we deliver the packages, but we found romance. How much better could you feel about the brand?
RUSHKOFF: Ad Age magazine dubbed this
alliance between New York's ad-men and Hollywood's studios, "Madison and
Vine." It is the integration of
entertainment with advertising, in a partnership that often begins before a
show is even conceived.
ACTRESS: ["Sex and the City"] Meanwhile, Samantha had used her
pushiness to parlay her new man's hit off-Broadway show into a hot on-Broadway
RUSHKOFF: To mate a brand with the
commercial-free HBO series Sex and the City, Absolut Vodka and HBO
writers worked out a storyline in which one of the show's characters finds his
way onto an Absolut billboard. HBO
got to use the brand's name in a key plot twist, and Absolut got unprecedented
access to HBO'S upscale audience.
ACTRESS: ["Sex and the City"] Guess what I'm drinking? An Absolut Hunk!
EATHERTON, Ketchum Public Relations: They created a drink called the Absolut
ACTRESS: ["Sex and the City"] And you're delish!
EATHERTON: So we went to the producers of Sex
and the City, and we
said, "OK, we've got a real product and a real drink called the Absolut
Hunk. We want you to weave an
entire storyline around this drink and this product, so that it is unmistakably
the conversation piece on Monday morning at the water cooler." It was quite the buzz.
ACTRESS: ["Sex and the City"] The way God and Madison Avenue
SECUNDA, Fmr exec, J. Walter Thompson: There are agencies, for instance, in Hollywood who go through every
script before it is produced and find specific opportunities for automobiles,
for beer, for virtually any product that you might want to name.
RUSHKOFF: One such agency is called Integrated
Entertainment Partners, itself a marriage of ad executives and entertainment
heavyweights, like ex-Disney president Rich Frank, who came out of retirement
on his Napa Valley vineyard to grab a piece of the action.
at Toyota Corp. headquarters, LA]
FRANK, Integrated Entertainment Partners: As the
networks cease being able to generate the money to keep their shows going, they
will be forced to change.
KANNER, Integrated Entertainment Partners: What we're
talking about, essentially, is how do we look at this coming season's
shows. We've started to look at
the pilot season, to see what looks like it's new that's coming up and that
would look good for Toyota.
RUSHKOFF: IEP looks for ways to integrate
products into programs.
KANNER: We've all heard about The Contender this week, the DreamWorks/Mark Burnett
show with Sylvester Stallone as the Donald Trump character, this show being a
show about amateur boxers. How
would that work for you guys, in terms of brand?
MEYER, Corporate Marketing Manager, Toyota: The first
thing we look at, is there a strategic fit with our vehicles? So let's see, boxing. Is it – it's tough and our vehicles are tough. Is that strong enough of a match to
make – you know, to get a good message across? What we're looking for is, it's obvious why this vehicle is
the only vehicle that should be placed this way and then–
RUSHKOFF: Progress is slow. There are still cultural barriers
between Madison Avenue and Vine Street.
DONATON, Editor-in-Chief, Advertising Age: It's an uneasy alliance, if you will,
and it's also– it's being driven, you know, by these economic imperatives. "My business model's broken, yours is
broken, maybe we can lean against each other and make it better. Well, should I trust you? Can I trust you? What do you get out of it? What do I get out of it? Just give me your money and don't try
and influence the creative process."
RUSHKOFF: Neither advertisers nor broadcasters
are quite sure how much these integrated ads are really worth. Some predict the whole experiment will
backfire. Have advertisers finally
gone too far?
CONTESTANT: ["Survivor"] Could I get some more Sierra Mists?
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: There's no secret that the American public, and the public of every
society on the face of the earth, is willing to consume crap. They consume crap, you know, from their
cupboards and pantries, and they consume crap on television. But they're very particular about which
is which, and they don't want to see them conflated. And they don't want the purity of their tele-crap to be
adulterated by merchandising of the fast food crap. And they will rebel.
RUSHKOFF: But there is little evidence so far of
an uprising among consumers or Hollywood creatives. In fact, more and more deals are being struck. This summer, the USA Network broadcast
a movie called The Last Ride, written for the Pontiac GTO and paid for by
the General Motors Corporation. Variety magazine called it
"little more than a two-hour infomercial designed to sell muscle cars."
KANNER: If you can tell that it was advertising
within the context of content, it didn't work, OK? It's not seamless enough.
ACTRESS: ["The Last Ride"] Pontiac is proud to bring you the all
new, 2004 Pontiac GTO!
KANNER: You can't talk about brand. It's all about how the writer and brand
engage in that very, very interesting narrow space so that it feels natural.
GARFIELD: "Oh no, it's not product
placement. No, no. It's the seamless integration of
merchandise and narrative." No! It's product
placement! And whatever kind of,
you know, MBA euphemism that you want to attach to it, it's still product
RUSHKOFF: Some advertisers are venturing even
further into programming. BMW
Motors took the first plunge in 2001, developing a new form, a perfect hybrid
of ad and movie. BMW was not only
the sponsor but also the creator.
DONATON, Editor-in-Chief, Advertising Age: They had these eight-minute films shot
by directors like Guy Ritchie, starring people like James Brown and Madonna.
ACTRESS: [BMW Films, "The Hire"] If you'd keep your eyes on the road
instead of on me, we might be getting somewhere.
DONATON: And they were beautiful little
stories. BMWs had starring
roles. They played integral parts
in the plot lines. And they put
these films on the Internet. It's
advertising as a piece of entertainment in and of itself that people not only
will tolerate but will actually go in search of. And BMW sales went dramatically through the roof in the
years after these films aired.
Adventures of Seinfeld and Superman"]
ACTOR: Do you have a reservation?
ACTOR: I don't see anything.
ACTOR: Might be under Man of Steel.
ACTOR: Man of Steel, Man of Steel– oh, yeah,
Man of Steel.
RUSHKOFF: American Express, with one of the
biggest marketing budgets in the world, has followed suit. In the last 10 years, they've cut the
portion of their budget devoted to television ads by more than half. Instead, they're pouring millions into
a series of what they call "Webisodes" starring their corporate pitchman, Jerry
Seinfeld, and directed by A-list Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson.
HAYES, Chief Marketing Officer, American Express: We're launching a new medium here. That should be central to everything we talk about out there in the
market. This is about – because
that's where Jerry's excitement has come from. You know, he has been proud to be part of, you know,
creating something brand-new here.
EXPRESS EMPLOYEE: Then we're going to have on-line
advertisement's going to pop up at the end of watching the webisodes, which is
going to prompt people to apply for the card. We're going to get a lot of learning to see what's sticky
about the site, what's engaging, and then what can we carry forth to other
future experiences like this, because you know, this is all about interacting
with the users in new ways.
HAYES: We did it because consumers want to be
entertained. It has an American
Express message built in. We think
it's built in in a fairly seamless way. It doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the entertainment. So the consumer gets something, and
they start to see the value of a relationship with American Express. We don't just come forward with what we
want to sell, we engage you with things that you want in terms of the
ACTOR: ["The Adventures of Seinfeld and Superman"] And I'm invulnerable to damage, theft, or things bouncing off of a
superhero's chest within 90 days of purchase.
RUSHKOFF: The boundaries between content and
advertising are blurring in nearly every popular medium. Rock stars like Sting are partnering up
with big brands and debuting their songs in advertisements as a way of reaching
a wider audience. Even
anti-establishment icon Bob Dylan starred in a hybrid of music video and ad for
Victoria's Secret and got his CD stocked in their lingerie stores to boot. The times they are a-changin', some
fear for the worse.
CRISPIN MILLER, New York University: Once a culture becomes entirely advertising-friendly, it ceases to be a
culture at all. It ceases to be a
culture worth the name. It has to
have the constant mood that shoppers require. There has to be a kind of Muzak playing in the background
all the time.
you think back to those dramas, those comedies that have really stayed with
you, that have moved you tremendously, that you want to see again, that you
think about for days. Well, those
kinds of works are increasingly unlikely when the stuff that's on TV basically
functions to sell Pepsis, to sell Nikes, to sell selling, to sell consumption.
RUSHKOFF: Far away from the boardrooms of the
entertainment industry, in places like this nondescript office park outside
Boston, the nitty-gritty work of selling starts with a simple questionnaire
INTERVIEWER: And now what do you see as the disadvantages to eating grain-based
RUSHKOFF: Today, faced with a nation hooked on
low-carb diets, the baked goods industry needs to find out just how Americans
feel about their products.
INTERVIEWER: I'm going to read you some different emotions. I've got a whole list of them here. For each one of them, I just want you
to tell me yes or no as to whether you think you feel that emotion when you're
eating white bread, OK? The first
one is accepting. Do you feel
accepting when you're eating white bread?
INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, I would say yes.
INTERVIEWEE: No, I don't think that would be an issue.
INTERVIEWER: Would you feel uncertain?
INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, a little uncertain. I've got one question. Can
I ask a question? The question
was, "When you eat bread, do you feel lonely?" Have you found people that say, yes, they feel lonely when
they're eating bread?
INTERVIEWER: Not a lot on this one.
RUSHKOFF: Welcome to the strange world of market
RAPAILLE, Market Research Guru: Now, we have to be careful because
that's not politically correct to say women–
RUSHKOFF: –where those who claim to have figured
out the hidden desires of consumers are treated as gurus.
RAPAILLE: We all come from a woman. We all spend nine months inside of a
woman, so women are expert in the inside. Translation: When a woman buy a car, the first thing she is looking at
is, do they have cupholders?
RUSHKOFF: Dr. Clotaire Rapaille lives in a
baronial mansion in upstate New York. Fortune 500
companies and their advertising agencies flock there to drink French champagne,
admire Rapaille's many cars and listen with rapt attention to his insights on
the irrational mind of the American shopper.
RAPAILLE: And we have to understand for each
product what the dynamic is behind that. What is it that people are really buying there? We still have people that buy things
they don't really need. Sometimes
a product is not expensive enough.
RUSHKOFF: What sets Rapaille apart from many
other market researchers is his belief that consumers are driven by unconscious
needs and impulses.
RAPAILLE: My experience is that most of the time,
people have no idea why they're doing what they're doing. They have no idea. So they're going to try to make up
something that makes sense. Why do
you need a Hummer to go shopping? "Well, you know, in case I need to go off road." Well, you live in Manhattan. Why do you need a four-wheel drive in
Manhattan? "Well, you know,
sometime I go out and I go in"– I
mean, this is– you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that this
is disconnected. This has nothing
to do with what the real reason is for people to do what they do.
RUSHKOFF: Rapaille began his career as a
psychiatrist in Europe studying autism.
RAPAILLE: My training with autistic children is
that I had to understand what these kids were trying to tell me with no words,
because they don't speak. Wow! So then, that's part
of my training. How can I decode
this kind of behavior which is not a word?
RUSHKOFF: Rapaille claims that there are
unconscious associations for nearly every product we buy buried deep in our
RAPAILLE: One of my discoveries was that when you
learn a word – whatever it is, coffee, love, mother – the first time you
understand, you imprint the meaning or this word, you create a mental
connection. And so actually, every
word has a mental highway. I call
that a code, an unconscious code in the brain.
RUSHKOFF: Corporations love the idea of buying a
single key to the psyches of vast numbers of consumers, a simple "code" that
lies behind millions of individual decisions. Rapaille gave up psychiatry and says he has never looked
RAPAILLE: I have 50 of the Fortune 100 companies as clients.
MAN: I saw that. That's very
RUSHKOFF: Tonight Rapaille has been invited to
speak to the Luxury Marketing Council of America.
FURMAN, Chairman, Luxury Marketing Council: The premise of
the council has been to bring the smartest minds in marketing together and help
us all figure out ways to get money from the customers with the most money.
RUSHKOFF: Rapaille has been commissioned by a
handful of big companies like Boeing and Acura to "break the code on luxury."
FURMAN: We're just delighted to have you with
RAPAILLE: Thank you. Thank you. [applause] I don't believe what people say. So some people listen to what they say and they say, "Well, do you want
to buy that? Do you want to do
this?" I don't believe what people
say. I want to understand why they
do what they do.
found this word, and with that I want to understand you guys. And this is the word. I hope I didn't make a mistake. The right spelling?
RUSHKOFF: To crack the code on luxury, Rapaille
conducts a series of focus groups.
RAPAILLE: I'm serious. That's what I want to understand, how you feel about
it. And anything for me is
RUSHKOFF: He takes his subjects on what he hopes will
be a three-stage psychic journey, past reason, through emotion to the primal
core, where Rapaille insists all purchasing decisions really lie.
RAPAILLE: We start with the cortex because people
want to show how intelligent they are. So give them a chance. We
don't care what they say,
people try to sell you luxury things, what kind of word they use?
MAN: Well made.
RAPAILLE: Well made.
new there. And then we have a
break. They're usually very happy
with themselves. "Oh, we did a
good job," and so on. When they
come back, now we're going to the emotions. And I tell them, "You're going to tell me a little story,
like if I was a 5-year-old from another planet."
INTERVIEWEES: Once upon a time– [laughter]
RAPAILLE: So suddenly, they are into a mindset
that is completely different. They
don't try to be logical or intelligent, they just try to please the 5-year-old
from another planet.
MAN: I will send you and your entire family to Maui.
They don't understand what they're doing anymore. Good! That's
what I want. At the end of the
second hour, when we go to the break, they say, "This guy is crazy. What is he doing? I thought I understood what we were
doing. Now I don't understand
anything. I mean, I get paid to do
that?" This is excellent. This is what I want.
MAN: We're going to be chosen for a new reality show.
WOMAN: That's what it is, a reality show! Wait, there's 19 of us?
MAN: They're going to give you a million dollars, and they want to see how
you spend it!
RAPAILLE: Then when they come back for the third
hour, then there is no more chairs. "Uh-huh! What is going on
here? How come no chairs?" And I explain to them that I would like
them to try to go back to the very first time that they experienced what we're
trying to understand.
RUSHKOFF: Rapaille is hunting for our primal
urges. He's after what he calls
the "reptilian hot buttons" that compel us to action.
RAPAILLE: It's absolutely crucial to understand
what I call "the reptilian hot button." My theory is very simple. The reptilian always win. I
don't care what you're going to tell me intellectually, give me the reptilian.
EMPLOYEE: So I'm going to turn off the lights
now, and we're going to all relax together.
RAPAILLE: I want you to be in a mindset a little
bit like the one you had when you wake up in the morning. You'll be surprised to see that things
come back to your mind that you forgot sometime for 20, 30 years. It's amazing.
RUSHKOFF: The scribbles of consumers in the
semi-darkness, half-remembered words and pictures associated with "luxury,"
somehow become Rapaille's keys to
unlocking the luxury code.
RAPAILLE: Once you get the code, suddenly,
everything start making sense. I
understand why this car sells, this car doesn't sell. You know, I understand why– why a small $29,000 Cadillac
cannot sell. You know, I
understand why. Because it's off
RUSHKOFF: Over the years, Rapaille has told car
makers to beef up the size of their SUVs and tint the windows because the code
for SUVs is domination. He told a
French company trying to sell cheese to Americans that they were off-code.
RAPAILLE: In France, the cheese is alive. You never put the cheese in the
refrigerator because you don't put your cat in the refrigerator. It's the same. It's alive. If I know that in America the cheese is dead – and I have
been studying cheese in almost 50 states in America I can tell you, the cheese
is dead everywhere – then I have to put that up front. I have to say, "This cheese is safe, is
pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic." I know the plastic is a body bag. "You can put it in the fridge." I know the fridge is the morgue. That's where you put the dead bodies, eh? And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese
Read Rapaille's extended interview]
commercial] It just got easier to just say cheese!
PROJECT PARTICIPANT: One word that kept coming up is – in the
stories and I think in – is a "reach," reaching to the next level.
RUSHKOFF: While Clotaire Rapaille and his clients
continue their quest to crack the code on luxury–
RAPAILLE: You know, it might be interesting to
explore the difference between "first class" and "world class."
RUSHKOFF: –Song Airlines is running out of time
and money. A year into operation,
the full marketing team convenes in Las Vegas to assess how the experiment in
creating a lifestyle brand is working out.
MAPES, Marketing Director, Song Airlines: On behalf of
Song, I want to welcome everybody here to Las Vegas. This time last year, this airline was a project. We had to create a brand, a product, an
identity and everything that is Song today out of absolutely nothing. This team has done an incredible job of
introducing the brand called Song, this new airline.
RUSHKOFF: But there are clouds on the
horizon. Parent company Delta is
losing billions of dollars, and Song's marketing budget has been drastically
cut. The intangible thing called
Song must deliver some tangible results. To do so, it must penetrate the distracted minds of Americans. The news so far is mixed.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: Right now, the greatest thing you've
done so far is build a really solid brand identity for yourself. That's coming through completely
clearly in the advertising. People
are completely identifying with it.
RUSHKOFF: But while people are responding to the
advertising, many consumers don't know what the advertising is for.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: In terms of overall recall, 35 percent
of our sample felt that they had seen you somewhere. Where we do start to see a slight problem is in terms of
which airline do you think this advertising is for. We're losing almost 50 percent at that point. So what we're calling our true recognition
figure is those people who both saw the advertising and were confident and knew
that it was for Song. And that was
15 percent of our sample.
RUSHKOFF: Making matters worse for the Song
marketing team, runaway success JetBlue has decided to go after the same
markets as Song.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: This one was unique. The Boston Herald, which is kind of like The New York
Post or The New York
Daily News, more of a
tabloid-ish newspaper in Boston, sold their front page, actually allowed hard
news to be pushed off the cover. So the entire cover looks just like a Herald cover, and if you were walking by a
newsstand and you saw it, you were, like, "Wow, JetBlue must really be
important because they're on the cover of The Herald," when they really weren't.
RUSHKOFF: Song cannot compete dollar for dollar
against JetBlue, so they must be more nimble.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: I think we're very much a guerrilla
military force going out and fighting against the big guys. We're going to have to pick and choose
our battles and do it wisely, placing media in places where you wouldn't
necessarily expect an airline to be.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: –handing out at concerts branded
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: We like the scratch-and-sniff new plane
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: –nightclub hand-stamps, so instead of
getting the club name, you would have the Song logo.
MARKETING TEAM MEMBER: –a fictional story where someone in
need gets an invitation to a mystical villa on a little-known island off of
Italy's coast. What does that have
to do with Song? This is just one
example of a story that might come out from Song Books.
RUSHKOFF: With few bankable ideas, Song's
marketing effort more than ever will depend on its TV commercial. A few weeks later, the Song team flies
out to Los Angeles to hear consultant Andy Spade describe his final vision for
SPADE: We can also introduce it, like, from
the side, like that the girl running through, like, this little kid runs by,
and then suddenly, out of nowhere, comes, you know, this other woman who's kind
of running through camera. So all
these people are going toward this gate, which is obviously somewhere. These are happy people. It's, like, these are happy
people. We're almost a voyeur
watching these happy people running through this thing, and we're boarding them
now. And I feel like you look at
that, and you'll just say, Wow, this thing is about–
TEAM MEMBER: A cross-section of–
SPADE: –these things.
RUSHKOFF: Spade is scanning headshots for faces
that exude the essence of Song.
SPADE: Models are wrong. You know, real people are wrong because
it makes it very kind of pedestrian. Real people, but they looked like they were happy, not real people, like
LA Law people. They feel very Song. She feels very Song. He feels very Song.
MAPES, Marketing Director, Song Airlines: Yeah, it's
definitely coming together.
SPADE: It just brings you, you know, to this
place, but not being weird.
MAPES: Magical without being, like, surreal is
kind of a tough thing to pull off.
MAPES: It's sure as hell hard to describe, so–
SPADE: It's very hard to describe. That's why it sounds corny saying it,
but the pieces are coming together.
SMITH, President, Song Airlines: It's just happy.
RUSHKOFF: Spade's ad finally went on the air, but
it may have been too little, too late. Though Song has built loyalty, its parent company, Delta, is careening
towards bankruptcy and may bring Song down with it.
Tuxedo Park, New York, Dr. Rapaille is also nearing the end of his
process. He's ready to unveil the
code on luxury. Rapaille's
clients, who represent industries as diverse as insurance, automobiles and
fragrances, are filled with anticipation. Having together paid several hundred thousand dollars, they are
convinced the code will give them a competitive advantage, no matter what
RAPAILLE: I think the code we discovered was
there already a long time, you know, ago and is going to be around for
generations and generations.
RUSHKOFF: We were not allowed to see the actual
code. Its secrecy is worth a lot
of money to Rapaille's customers.
RAPAILLE: The content might vary, but the
structure is the same.
RUSHKOFF: But the clients, many of whom have
worked with Rapaille before, are enthusiastic.
camera] So far, you're sold on what he's doing?
SALMON, VP Dvt, Firmenich: Yes. I strongly believe in what he's
RUSHKOFF: [voice-over] Marc Salmon is the vice president for
development at Firmenich, a Swiss fragrance and flavor designer.
SALMON: We need to absorb the code, check it,
create products that are in code, try to understand, looking at what is existing,
what are the on-code and off-code.
EMERY, Boeing Corporation: We're here
because we're always looking for ways to be more competitive in the
RUSHKOFF: Blake Emery is an executive at the
Boeing Corporation, which has been working with Dr. Rapaille for almost a year.
EMERY: The interior of our new airplane, the
7E7 Dreamliner, much of that interior is based on research that we did with Dr.
Rapaille. Everything you see has
an overt improvement, but there is also a hidden, unarticulated itch that we're
scratching. And I can't give you
an example of those.
RUSHKOFF: [on camera] So in other words, the bigger bin, if
you find out–
EMERY: But see, there's an obvious–
RUSHKOFF: People see the bin as "Mommy." So then you make the bin shaped like
Mommy, so now they get Mommy out of it? Or is there another feature somewhere?
EMERY: No, no. You know, once this information gets out into the
marketplace, once our interior is out there, the competition can copy it,
right? You would say, "Well, why
don't they just make a bin like that and then they can do just what we
did." However, if you don't really
know why we did the bin the way we did, you will not do it right.
RUSHKOFF: [voice-over] Of course, it's impossible to know if
Rapaille's excursions through the collective unconscious really uncover what
drives us, whether to Boeing airplanes or any other product. But even if he is onto something, you
have to wonder about the net effect of reducing us to our most primal impulses.
camera] What about the environment? If the lizard wants the Hummer–
RUSHKOFF: –then– and the lizard's not going to
listen to the environmentalist–
RUSHKOFF: –then isn't it our job, as aware
people, to get the reptile to shut up and appeal to the cortex, to appeal to
RAPAILLE: Now, you see, the problem is here, is
that, if you think, right, the people who want to do good not always do good,
all right? So the people that want
to do good – for example, let's say, OK, we need to make smaller cars, right, to
protect the environment. Then nobody
buys the smaller car. Why? Because they're too small. So then the result is they go into
RUSHKOFF: [voice-over] Looks like I'm not going to win this
one. After all, it's hard to argue
against the reptilian brain.
RAPAILLE: We have to understand the unspoken
needs of the people. It works.
Good marketing research works. When we say it works, it mean that marketers understand the real need of
the customers – sometime unspoken – and they deliver. "Give me what I want."
RUSHKOFF: "Give us what we want." It is has become the imperative that no
corporation – or any persuader – can afford to ignore. That's why modern political campaigns
have also come to rely on an army of pollsters and market researchers all
taking the moment-by-moment pulse of the man on the street.
LUNTZ, The Luntz Research Companies: I've got a rule, which is cab drivers and antique dealers know more
about America than anybody else. And when the cab drivers feel a certain way, I know I need to listen.
RUSHKOFF: No one has imported the techniques and
philosophy of market research into politics more successfully than Frank
Luntz. His suburban Washington
mansion is a shrine to the public zeitgeist.
LUNTZ: Everything in here has a relationship
to pop culture. It's what people
prioritize in their lives. The truth is, as much as we want to focus on
politics, the American people would rather watch television. As much as we want to talk about
substance, they'd rather listen to music. So I have to know what they're watching, I have to know what they're
listening to, and I got to know why.
RUSHKOFF: Luntz has built his career on a simple
idea: It doesn't matter what you want to tell the public, it's about what they
want to hear. His clients have
been some of the most prominent Republican politicians of the last decade. There was the mayoral campaign for
Rudolph Giuliani in 1993, his work for Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and
especially his collaboration with Newt Gingrich on the famous "Contract With
America," the document that ushered in the Republican revolution in Congress.
gives his clients one consistent piece of advice: Heed the public will.
LUNTZ: There's one technique that's more
important than anything else, and that's the technique of listening. And that's basically what I do. I ask a lot of questions, and I know
how to listen.
electricity company stood up and said, "We want to do it for your benefit, we
want to do it for our benefit, we want to do it for everyone's benefit, and so
we have a better approach to efficiency and to environmental cleanliness," is
that kind of language positive or negative to you?
GROUP MEMBERS: Positive.
RUSHKOFF: Tonight, Luntz's client is not a
candidate but a Florida utility wanting to build public support for a change in
how it's regulated on the environment.
LUNTZ: I know that the public is very down on
corporate America in general and they're down on power companies. So what is the language, what is the
information, what are the facts, what are the figures that would get Americans
to say, "You know what? My
electricity company, it's OK."
technology?" [counting hands] One, two, three, four. "21st-century approach?"
RUSHKOFF: Luntz's specialty is testing language,
finding words that work.
LUNTZ: "Integrity?" One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
eleven. "Reliability?" There's the other one. If an electric company can demonstrate
accountability, responsibility and reliability when it comes to the
environment, will that make you feel better about them?
GROUP MEMBERS: Yes.
RUSHKOFF: It's art that even his political
opponents seem to grudgingly admire.
STEIN, Democratic Strategist: Frank Luntz doesn't do issues, he does language around issues. He figures out what words will best
sell an issue, and he polls them and he tests them and he focus groups them and
he comes up, issue by issue, with how to talk about it and how not to talk
LUNTZ: If the language works, the language
EMPLOYEE: I know. It's just amazing.
RUSHKOFF: Luntz has sold his corporate and
political clients the idea that a few carefully chosen words can make all the
difference. But he's not just
looking for any words. Luntz's
quarry are those words that grab our guts and move us to act on an emotional
EMPLOYEE: It is amazing that those two words,
constantly, in everything that we do, come up at the top.
LUNTZ: So why do you think that companies
don't use them enough?
EMPLOYEE: I don't know!
LUNTZ: 80 percent of our life is emotion
and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. How you
think is on the outside, how you feel is on the inside, so that's what I need
going to use these to register whether you agree or disagree, whether you
believe or disbelieve. The dials
go from zero to 100.
RUSHKOFF: To get at his subjects' gut feelings,
Luntz has them register their moment-by-moment responses to a speech by a power
company executive. Republicans are
on the red line and Democrats on the green. Luntz is watching for both sides to meet in an emotional
LUNTZ: Climbing, climbing, climbing. "Changing fuels." Bingo! Look! "Phasing
out of older plants," he's now up into the mid- to upper 70s with that. You're replacing the bad with the
good. It's almost like in with the
good air, out with the bad. That
might be an analogy that we might want to try, instead of the automobile
analogy. This is going to
work. Watch. This will work. Check it. I told you! The
words work. The words apply to the
policy. This how we're going to
sell it. Look at this! Hold it. Stop, stop!
RUSHKOFF: By the end of his session, Luntz thinks
he's found the language his client can use to create a groundswell of public
LUNTZ: Now I'll be able to walk to this
electricity company on Monday and be able to say to them, "Your policy makes
sense, and here's the language to explain it." That was the eureka moment, when I watched people nod their
heads, I watched them look to each other, and they were willing at this point
to fight for this position.
RUSHKOFF: But watching Luntz work, I couldn't
help wondering: Do the words he's found help the public see the issue more
clearly, or do they disguise it? Is Luntz listening to us so his clients can give us what we want, or so
he can figure out how to make us want what they have to sell?
STEIN: This is a guy who is merchandising
ideas and merchandising a movement and merchandising a political party. And in many instances, the words that
he says are the ones that resonate, are ones that make – that obscure, to some
extent, the issue.
LEMANN, The New Yorker: The right name makes the policy sell better. It's just like putting a name on a bar of soap or any other
commercial product. It matters
what you name things.
RUSHKOFF: Journalist Nicholas Lemann wrote a
profile of Luntz in The New Yorker magazine called "The Word Lab." He described how Luntz once turned
public opinion simply by replacing the name "estate tax" with the more
emotionally charged "death tax."
LEMANN: As far as I can tell, in the entire
developed world, every single country had an estate tax, and it was completely
uncontroversial all over the world. And it is clearly the case that this construction, this rhetorical
construction of calling it the "death tax," took it from the realm of something
everybody was for in a just unquestioned way into something that most people
seem to be against and is on its way to being eliminated.
LUNTZ: Look, for years, political people and
lawyers – who, by the way are the worst communicators – used the phrase "estate
tax." And for years, they couldn't
eliminate it. The public wouldn't
support it because the word "estate" sounds wealthy. Someone like me comes around and realizes that it's not an
estate tax, it's a death tax because you're taxed at death. And suddenly, something that isn't
viable achieves the support of 75 percent of the American people. It's the same tax, but nobody really
knows what an estate is, but they certainly know what it means to be taxed when
you die. I'd argue that is a
clarification, it's not an obfuscation.
RUSHKOFF: Luntz has admonished Republican
politicians to talk about "tax relief" instead of "tax cuts," and to replace
the "war in Iraq" with the "war on terror." He once told his party to speak of "climate change," not
LUNTZ: What is the difference? It is climate change. Some people call it global warming,
some people call it climate change. What is the difference?
RUSHKOFF: It apparently made enough difference to
Republicans that they began to use "climate change" almost exclusively.
JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): –cause global – cause climate change.
ABRAHAM, Secretary of Energy: –the President's global climate change
Pres. DICK CHENEY: –climate change research–
GEORGE W. BUSH: –and we must address the issue of
global climate change.
LUNTZ: I don't argue with you that words can
sometimes be used to confuse, but it's up to the practitioners of the study of
language to apply them for good and not for evil. It is just like fire. Fire can heat your house or burn it down.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [television commercial] I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America.
RUSHKOFF: Still, the rise of consultants like
Luntz has led to an increase in the emotionality of American political
JOHN KERRY (D), Presidential Nominee: [television commercial] We are a country of the future. We're a country of optimistics. We're the can-do people.
RUSHKOFF: More and more, electioneering,
particularly political advertising, has left behind facts for visceral appeals.
GARFIELD, Columnist, Advertising Age: If you're looking for an example of how advertising is a really
corrosive force in society, I advise you to look away from consumer product
advertising and just look at political advertising because it's a stain on our
democracy. You know, if you're
selling soup or soap or oatmeal, one thing you basically have to do is tell the
truth – not the eternal truth, but the factual truth. So by and large, advertising is essentially truthful, except
political advertising, which year after year – and it gets worse every year –
is just the artful assembling of nominal facts into hideous, outrageous lies.
ANNOUNCER: [anti-Kerry commercial] Raising taxes is a habit of Kerry's.
ANNOUNCER: [anti-Bush commercial] He supported tax breaks for exporting
RUSHKOFF: In fact, while consumers are protected
by law from false advertising of products, politicians can legally say pretty
much whatever they want.
VETERAN: [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercial] John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star.
ANNOUNCER: [anti-Bush commercial] For Bush, drug campaign profits come
RUSHKOFF: The ads leading up to the 2004
election, according to many experts, were the most deceptive ever.
ANNOUNCER: [anti-Kerry commercial] Pressured by fellow liberals, he's
changed his position.
RUSHKOFF: All this noise has worn many voters
out. To fight political ad
fatigue, marketers have had to get creative. The idea that emerged in a major way in this past election
is a twist on an old strategy: reaching out to voters on a one-to-one basis. They call it "narrowcasting."
STEIN: We are at the threshold of a revolution
in political communication. What
we're about to see is the ability to send very directed messages to very small
audiences on an ongoing basis anywhere in the country.
RUSHKOFF: These canvassers for America Coming
Together, a liberal advocacy group, did some of the first experiments with
narrowcasting techniques in the run-up to the 2004 election. Every afternoon, ACT canvassers here in
the key swing state of Ohio were given the names and addresses of potential
voters. They were sent into the
field with a lot of information about each of the voters they were visiting,
profiles compiled by computer from demographic data, including exactly what
issues the voters were likely to respond to. Each ACT canvasser was armed with a Palm Pilot that could
play a short customized video.
CANVASSER: If you don't mind, I just have a clip
that's not even one minute that I just wanted to show you about some of the
issues that I just mentioned.
RUSHKOFF: This potential voter was being shown a
movie about job losses for African-Americans in Ohio.
ANNOUNCER: [Palm Pilot video] African-American unemployment has
skyrocketed to a 10-year high–
RUSHKOFF: Elsewhere, other Ohioans were seeing
different video messages tailored to their own personal demographic profiles.
ANNOUNCER: [Palm Pilot video] Ohio has gone backwards.
RUSHKOFF: Right now, there are only a few
different messages, but pretty soon, if all goes according to plan, they will
be customized for dozens of different demographic groups.
SWIRE, Ohio State University: If
you want to get up to 51 percent of the vote, you probably have to assemble a
coalition of 20 or 30 or 50 demographic groups. So as a modern candidate, you will want to have a strategy
for how to communicate with each one of those demographic groups. You want a targeted ad on the gun
control, on the pro-life, on the military, on the economic issues. You're going to want to have a message
that's tailored for each one of those groups. If you don't do it, you're putting out broadcast ads in a
RUSHKOFF: But where did all this information come
from? How did political parties
and advocacy groups know whom to reach with what message? The answer to that question begins
here. The Acxiom Corporation of
Little Rock, Arkansas, is one of the biggest companies you've never heard of.
in these acres of blinking computers is carefully guarded data about you, not
just your name, address and phone number, but probably also the catalogs you
get, the cars you've bought, and maybe even what shoes you wear and whether you
like dogs or cats. Acxiom's
information is culled from census data and tax records, those product surveys
you answered and customer records supplied by corporations and credit card
companies that are Acxiom clients. Acxiom sifts all this data to produce lists of target consumers for
SWIRE: If you're a company, a bank, a
retailer, what you would do is say you want left-handed people of a certain
ethnic group, and they're going to be able to do a list for you. You can get marketing lists of
Hispanics who make between $20,000 and $40,000 who are U.S. citizens. You can get marketing lists of people
who suffer from incontinence and have bought those kinds of products in the
pharmacy. You can get all sorts of
things that can be very narrow.
RUSHKOFF: Acxiom divides all consumers into one
of 70 different types they call "lifestage segments," encompassing everything
from what hobbies you have to what products you buy, where you live to what you
believe in. According to Acxiom, I
am a "shooting star": 36 to 45, married, wake up early and go for runs, watch Seinfeld reruns, travel abroad
and no kids yet.
working on the kids part, but Acxiom probably already knows that. Their computers are programmed not only
to figure out who we are now, but where we are going and when we will get
there. What Acxiom is promising is
nothing less than the solution to clutter: Send us ads only for products we
really want, and anticipate just when we will want them.
HOWE, Chief Marketing Officer, Acxiom: You can't just now take an ad and put it on TV and hope for the
best. You have to get smarter
about your consumers. You need to
understand their purchasing predisposition. You need to understand how they're changing. You need to understand more about them. And that's technology.
RUSHKOFF: Of course, the prospect of finding the
right audience at the right time is irresistible to politicians, as well.
McAULIFFE, Chairman, Democratic National Committee: I'd like to welcome everybody to the grand opening of the new
headquarters of the Democratic Party of the United States of America!
RUSHKOFF: In recent years, both parties have
bought data from Acxiom and companies like it. The Republicans don't talk about how they use it, but the
McAULIFFE: But if I want to sit at my desk, pull
up on the screen the state of Ohio, and say, "Who in Ohio says that education
is going to be the number one issue they're going to vote on," six seconds
later, 1.2 million names will pop up. I then have the ability to hit buttons and do telemarketing to them immediately,
or to send emails to them immediately, send direct mail to them immediately, or
actually send someone to their door to talk to them.
RUSHKOFF: One Democrat found narrowcasting just
in time. John Kerry's victories in
the 2004 Iowa and New Hampshire primaries were national news, but few knew the
whole story of Kerry's stunning comeback. He was behind in the polls and couldn't find a way to reach voters
through all that political noise. But the Kerry campaign had discovered a way to identify and talk to
thousands of voters who'd been turned off by political ads. It wasn't campaign workers who found
them, it was a couple of off-the-shelf PCs sifting reams of demographic data.
the operation was a little-known Kerry consultant named Kenneth Strasma.
STRASMA, Kerry Campaign Consultant: Democratic primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire were getting called
by 10 different candidates for months and months, and it was getting very hard
to reach people. So what we did
is, we looked at all the information we had from the folks we'd called so far
and came up with a Kerry voter profile, which gave us the percent likelihood
that someone would say, yes, they'd support Kerry, if we called them.
RUSHKOFF: This sort of voter profiling – which
both parties used to chase down swing voters in the general election –
incorporates behaviors we don't normally associate with voting, like whether
you have caller ID, a sedan or a hatchback, or more than one pet. The thing about narrowcasting is that
it gives politicians a chance to say things to some people they might not want
others to hear.
camera] You can take the most controversial
message that maybe wouldn't work on TV but still deliver it to the 20,000
people in a certain district who will respond favorably to it.
STRASMA: Oh, absolutely. There are – some of the biggest
motivators in terms of issues are also the most divisive issues. On one end of the spectrum, you've got
abortion rights, pro-life/pro-choice, and you've also got gun control and gun
ownership rights. And those are
both messages that people aren't likely to go up on TV with in a national
campaign because they're very polarizing. But there are advocacy groups on both sides who've gotten very good at
figuring out where their voters, who vote based on those issues, are and
getting a message to those people without necessarily getting a divisive
message to the whole electorate.
PROTESTER: Roy Barnes sold all us Georgians out!
RUSHKOFF: In 2001, President Bush's chief
strategist, Karl Rove, conducted a series of experiments in narrowcasting for
the GOP. The following year, the
state Republican parties put Rove's findings into practice. In Georgia, they were used in a
campaign to unseat a slew of incumbent Democrats.
VOTER: I mean, it – you know, the flag did have something to do with it.
RUSHKOFF: The GOP used the incendiary issue of
the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag to galvanize a select group of
usually apathetic male voters.
PROTESTER: You mess with our flag, you pack you
RUSHKOFF: Targeting their message door-to-door
and through telemarketing, the team drove high numbers of rural males to the
polls and delivered a Republican sweep.
EWEN, Hunter College: When you start sending messages which
appeal to sort of, you know, white people in pick-up trucks, and then you're
also sending messages to black people in Cleveland, and it's a qualitatively
different kind of message, you're really trying to stir – or you're really trying
to appeal to those aspects of people which sees themselves as different from
SWIRE: Instead of being Americans, we're
sliced into 70 demographic groups. We might be sliced into hundreds of subcategories under that. And then the worry is that we don't
share anything as a people.
EWEN: The result is living in a society where
people, rather than having an idea of the common good, increasingly see their
own personal well-being or their own community's or ethnicity's well-being as
the essential issue of democracy.
More on what this is doing to us]
RUSHKOFF: Sorted and sifted, we slip easily into
our demographic tribes, each of us focused on our own list of needs and
desires. which, after all, is
exactly the way marketers want it. because as long as we're thinking about
ourselves, we're better consumers.
CRISPIN MILLER, New York University: Take a look at advertisements per se. What is their ideology? What is their message? What do they value? What do
they ask of us?
limit to what you can accomplish.
CRISPIN MILLER: Commercials say to us, endlessly, "You
you want it!
let out the seat for you.
even have to leave home!
CRISPIN MILLER: You are the focus of attention. You matter. An army of one, you see.
you're worth it!
RUSHKOFF: It does feel good to live in a world
where we come first, where our every desire is mapped, our every thought seems
to matter. The persuaders listen
to us when others won't, and tell us we can be anything we want to be. Best of all, they make us feel
ROBERTS, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide: The consumer is now in total
control. I mean, she can go home,
she's going to decide when she buys, what she buys, where she buys, how she
buys. Oh, boy. They get it, you know? They are so empowered at every
age. All the fear's gone and all
the control is passed over to the consumer. It's a good thing.
RUSHKOFF: It was near the end of my tour through
the landscape of persuasion that I came to realize how the problem of clutter
finally gets solved. Marketers
find a way so deep inside each one of us that it no longer feels like
persuasion at all. Maybe we are in
control. Once the market becomes
the lens through which we choose to see the world, then there's no "us" and
"them" anymore. We're all
EWEN: The secret of it all, the secret of all
persuasion, is to induce the person to persuade himself.
Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin
Barak Goodman & Douglas Rushkoff
Pamela Scott Arnold
Kris Britt Montag
Ger E. Cannon
Michael H. Amundson
Kate C. Walker
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE PROVIDED BY
New York Times Television
ON AIR PROMOTION
Michael H. Amundson
Erin Martin Kane
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A FRONTLINE coproduction with Ark Media
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ANNOUNCER: This report continues on FRONTLINE's Web site, where
you'll find a forum with Douglas Rushkoff and others on the new techniques of
persuasion, why we're vulnerable, what it's doing to us, what we can do about
it, a look at the concerns over the Internet's virtual marketing and a look
into the research on how cultural messages act on the brain, plus FRONTLINE's extended interviews
with those featured in this report and a chance to watch the full program again
on line. Then join the discussion
time on FRONTLINE: They're rolling back prices–
has given an increase in income to every American.
ANNOUNCER: –rolling back competition–
efficient and more powerful. It is
ANNOUNCER: –and rolling jobs overseas.
basically tells its suppliers, "You need to move to China."
putting people out of work. That's
what it's doing.
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