Tag Archives: Willy Loman

Always Be Selling

Are you tired, run down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular?  Don’t reach for that bottle of vitametavegamin just yet.  It might not be vitamins, minerals and 23% alcohol that is lacking from your diet.  You may in fact be suffering from pitch overload.

Much is made of the unrelenting pressure and demands of sales.  Just look at those men in Glengarry Glen Ross or poor Willy Loman.  Selling can be exhausting and soul crushing.  But guess what? so is being sold to night and day, day and night.  From the moment we wake until we crumble into fitful sleep, we are bombarded.  The morning news is brought to you by…(even public broadcasting will read you corporate underwriter ads.)  The news (whether read, watched or heard) has to be weeded from the press releases and publicist’s coups.  Once out the door, wearing what was sold to you, you head for your commute.  At the bus shelter, or subway entrance, you will view at least 3 different rotating ads.  The subway car is plastered with ads (usually of a very depressing nature; lawsuits, questionable training institutes, and booze, lots of booze.)  One’s actual workday may be filled with more spin and sales, depending on one’s place and nature of work.  By the time we arrive back home, we have been pitched countless times.  It’s nothing we can’t handle.  We’re used to it.

It’s when the pitch tries to disguise itself, that things get a bit trying.  Back in olden times, when one had to get up from the recliner to turn the channel, to one of five stations; not everyone on television was selling something.  There was a format known as the talk show, where interesting people came to talk.  Some of these people were famous, sometimes not.  The reason that there were so many of these show is that they were interesting, and they were interesting because people weren’t being booked to sell a product.  Conversations were not being designed by publicists but by producers and hosts.  And I’m not just talking about Dick Cavett and Tom Snyder here; lots of hosts were creating great entertainment. Print media has become very similar to television in its mass marketed hermetically sealed value meals of stories.  Whether it’s an “expert” whose expertise is that they are selling their book, doling out a sound bite, or the hard hitting exposes about high end knock-offs periodically placed in fashion magazines, the audience struggles to discern; “is this real?”  When we add embedded advertising to the mix (shout out to General Mills for the television series Homeland!  Your Lucky Charms has never looked better in its FOUR close-ups!) it’s no wonder we’re feeling listless and pooped out at parties.

Embedding is not all that new.  Remember when Don Draper won the Clio for the Glo-Coat ad?  It wasn’t that the child as a prisoner (behind a kitchen chair) was so innovative, it’s that the commercial was filmed like a movie.  The viewer was lulled into the commercial because it felt like actual programming.  That is the point of embedded advertising.  We’re practically inured to traditional ads (unless it’s during the Super Bowl) and don’t even see the many pop-ups on our computer.  But when the ad seems like part of the narrative our brain needs a moment to register that we are being sold something.

The exhaustion comes from the fact that we have so many advertising delivery systems now.  What was the first logo apparel you owned?  Was it a T-shirt, a cap, or a cotton jacket festooned with a pattern of “Pepsi-Cola” emblazoned in red, white and blue (ahem, that was me.)  Please, that is so 1977.  There are companies who don’t even bother with design any longer, they just slap their brand/logo on the shoe, bag, shirt and call it a day.  You can’t even look at another person without seeing an ad (and I’m not just talking about people who copyright their baby’s name.)

At the end of the day, if we are surrounded by things (i.e., books, music, art) that we chose because they speak to some fiber of our being, we will rejuvenate (at least until the next day.)  But what if the book we fall asleep to is always a “bestseller” and doesn’t resonate at all?  What if at the end of the day we find ourselves surrounded by nothing more than what we’ve been sold?




Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Media/Marketing


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And The Beat Goes On*

Have you heard the news?  The Encyclopedia Britannica is stopping the presses (see: changing marketplace.)  No doubt this is quite the blow to Britannica employees and door-to-door salesmen (see: Fuller Brush, Willy Loman.)  But perhaps this is actually not all bad news.

The encyclopedia had a hallowed place in many homes and hearts.  The (wonderful) film Ball of Fire (1941) updated the 7 dwarfs and their mighty leader, Gregory Peck, into encyclopedia wizards.  The quirky little brainiacs toiled for years, documenting every subject known to humankind.  It was a noble undertaking, and one made all the more enjoyable with the arrival of Barbara Stanwyck.  For decades, real-life families across the country paid for one volume of encyclopedic knowledge at a time.  The books; with their hard covers and lush pages, were displayed with pride in living rooms and dens.  For better or worse, schoolchildren used these volumes to complete homework assignments.  Those without (and there were/are plenty of those) made the trip to the library or relied on source material (a.k.a. parents) or turned in homework destined for less than an “A.”

Encyclopedias are a great source for cursory understanding of a subject, but there are now so many more of those.  With a few keystrokes endless source materials are at our fingertips.  Students (and others) can go directly to the U.S. government sites or the American Medical Association.  The very act of searching (a.k.a. researching) broadens the understanding of a subject.

Will some people confuse wikipedia with an authoritative (and fully vetted) source?  They already do.  Does the cessation of printing encyclopedias put disadvantaged students at a disadvantage?  Not in this day and age.  It’s a pretty safe bet that if a library has an up-to-date version of the encyclopedia on the shelves, they have computers and access to the internet as well.  I would posit that the elimination of the printed encyclopedia evens the playing the field a bit for students, if it weren’t for the fact that having them in the home is no longer a sign of special access to information.

Why is it even worth note you ask (assuming you don’t work in the printing or door-to-door sales professions?)  For the simplest of reasons: progress is sometimes quite progressive.  The shuttering of a theatre, restaurant or nightclub to make way for a food court or Sephora, is not progress, it’s just sad.  The erosion of demarcation between public space and private space is not progress, it just means I have to throw my body over my entree as the woman at the next table styles her hair.  The memory of salesmen, diaper service, milk delivery, Sheriff Taylor and his son Opie, fill us with a warmth and sense of safety.  Change (and growing pains) are always just a bit frightening and our instincts are to cling to vestiges of the past.  For proof, one need only witness an adolescent girl’s bedroom festooned with equal parts stuffed animals and mascara.

There once was a dizzying amount of New York (daily) newspapers, some of them having more than one edition a day.  It took awhile, but with technology we have that once again.  The insatiable human desire for information is part of our charm.  As long as our innovations keep pace with that need, we can say farewell to the past without too much angst.  For those who will miss those smooth, hefty burgundy books, just consider how much fun you’ll have convincing children that you used to have to walk to the library (in the snow, uphill, both ways) to learn who invented the printing press.

*Sonny Bono (1967)


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