What's this advertising thing, really ?

Sunday, 16 June, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu


The behaviour depicted above is well known in most ungulatesi and familiar to hunters since time immemorial. It's scientifically studied by English speakers under the name of stottingii but otherwise it'd be one of those things that have numerous names in numerous languages. Like you know, snow.

The idea behind the behaviour is to display for the benefit of the possibly hostile onlooker just how well fed, well oiled and well prepared the animal is, with a view to establish that giving chase is not a wise use of resources for the would-be predator. Back in the early days when hunting consisted of chasing the victim until it falls overiii this display meant something.

Basically, stotting is "Look how much I can aford to waste. This is how rich I am, and this is why you don't wanna be messin' with me."

Have you ever wondered what exactly is going on with those idiots spending whatever many millions for a 30 second spot during the superbowl ? Did you read the articles denouncing the insanity of pseduo-companies, entities consisting of little more than a name and two Aeron chairs but spending most of their cash to buy advertising on Yahoo back in the dotcom boom days a decade ago ? Articles written by the exact same idiots that had been praising the importance of advertising for start-ups scarcely four seasons prior, of course.

Unlike marketing, which is simply rape with the minor distinction that both society and rapists oppress the victims (a situation sexual rape shared until very very recently), advertising is stotting. "Look how much money we can afford to throw away for no benefit whatsoever, this means we're big, rich and powerful". That's all it is.

Advertising is not at all about customers, reaching them, serving them. It's all about the competition (which is why the smarter swindlers in the racket sell their snake oil principally by telling stories about what the competition is doing, and which is why the only point ever discussed about any advertising campaign is "how much it cost"). Sure, one could in principle gain customers through advertising : if company A stotts worth 1 million and company B stotts worth 10 million then some of the sheep in the world might feel safer following B instead of A. This gain is absolutely minor, an epsilon if you wish.iv As the world is less and less made out of sheep those epsilons are nauseatingly quickly converging to zero.

For these reasons shareholders are always well advised to move to A rather than B, and so one of the best and most enduring investment metrics out there is to compare advertising expenditure with revenue and consistently sell the high end and buy the low end. Not to say that in the hand of exceptionally gifted, strategically enlightenend general managers stotting behaviour can't ever be a useful tool. All I'm saying is that I know maybe three such general managers in total, I doubt a dozen exist in the entire world and I'm certain you don't know their names.

At least it's a scam that provides employment for a lot of nitwits that couldn't possibly find work anywhere else.v

  1. Ungulates are those mammals which use the tips of their toes to sustain their whole body weight while moving. This occasionally includes ballerinas but excludes most women in high heels. []
  2. Such as Stotting in Thomson's gazelles: an honest signal of condition etc []
  3. This is principally the evolutionary driving force behind human anatomy, like it or not. We're bipedal because being bipedal we can run faster, and the hooks thus freed can be used to grapple, which is a major benefit over for instance a lion - the lion has to jump on the target for the same effect. We have the best kidneys in the animal world (in terms of saline concentration they can handle), the most advanced skin (in terms of sweat management and raw output) and a number of other adaptations specifically for this reason : if we can keep the brain a half of a degree cooler for half of a minute longer than anything else, we can therefore eat anything else, and choose what to be eaten by, if at all.

    All the pseudoscientific vegan stuff about the historical and physiological relationship between humans and meat collapses if one's inclined to an honest look through the facts of the matter (much like all the pseudoscientific socialist stuff about "climate change" ex "global warming" collapses if one's inclined to an honest look through the facts of the matter). This obviously hasn't stopped anyone involved, as you can't effectually bring scientific arguments to a political debate, but nevertheless I think it worth the mention. []

  4. It is, of course, grossly exaggerated by the beneficiaries of the stotting behaviour themselves, much in the way completely absent beneficial effects of whatever random drug are treated by the shills in the employ of whatever pharma company. Just like there's no actual proof that expensive snakeoil X does anything for the patient, there's no actual proof advertising ever earned anyone as much as one dollar.

    Nevertheless, who's going to stop at facts when there's money to be made ? Absence of proof be damned! Change behaviours! Construct (fake) "social consensus"! Pseudoscientific consensus! Drown it all in words! All scams work the same way, basically, and the advertising scam works the same exact way for the very good reason that for a scam there really isn't another way to work. []

  5. Incidentally, there's a reason why firms in the business of producing political astroturf and NGOs in the business of swindling the ignorant, complacent and ontologically empty section of the public under the guise of "saving the world" (be it "helping the gays of Sumatra", "the children of Turkmenistan" or what have you, countless onion causes under the Sun) all come from an advertising background. Rarely will you see one of these intellectual and cultural failures confront the sad reality of being mentally stuck before puberty, a gate their body has long gone through. Even rarely-er will you see one doing something about it. There's not even a word to adequately describe this rarity, that's how rare it is. []
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