Sunday, July 23, 2006

Insert Marketingdroid Slogan Here

I saunter quietly through life. I don't subscribe to cable tv. After the occasional romp accross the carpet with a pet, child, or sanely playful adult; I pull my Homer Simpson "Rock and Roll Jelly Roll" trucker cap down over my shadowy brow, slip into a well-worn pair of sandals, and stroll out into the evening.

Shoulders thrown back, thumbs caught in my jean pockets, I walk a meandering path from one shade tree to the next, pausing to exchange smiles and the occasional pleasantry with everyone who meets my gaze. A little elderly lady glances away and doesn't respond. A smile ghosts across my face as I give her some space. A lanky, scowling fellow with a loosened tie and sweat stains under his arms hunches his shoulders forward and increases his pace a bit as he walks by. I shrug and move on.

Until I'm ensnared in a marketing campaign. Captured by some inane homily that shamelessly strives to play with peoples emotions, my frustrations get the best of me. The other day, I happened by one of those little bar and grills that present themselves as a cross between a boat house and an Irish pub while spreading machismo as a marketing ploy. As I passed, I glanced across their patio, pausing as my survey brought me to a the centerpiece of one particular table. Nestled between a plastic squeeze bottle of Heinz Catsup and a tin menu holder a little placard stared me down. "Quench either your masculine thirst" was printed over a picture of a pint glass containing a fresh pour of black and tan. Below the beer, a picture featuring a bottle of Kendel Jackson Cabernet Savignaun and a half full wine glass says "or your feminine thirst".

I peer at the advert until I notice that some of the patrons are glancing at me oddly. Wiping the sneer off my face, I wrestle my gaze away from the offending foolishness and move on. I shouldn't take this product of some third tier, off-Madison Avenue marketing team personally; but it grates on my nerves. Like most advertisement, it makes a ham handed grab for stereotypical emotions and tries to peddle a product by associating it with those emotions. I'm bothered by the fact that someone thought this would work on me. I'm bothered because it leads me to believe the technique does work on many people. I'm just bothered.

There are marketing campaigns that don't affect me at these levels, but not many. I don't react well to ideas that people present neatly packaged in some ripped off advertisement's verbage; so I pay attention when such a parcel manages to slip past my ever vigilant prejudices.

"That's what I hate about these vanity publishers"

I'm paraphrasing The Lady, here, as my runtish memory can never give her eloquence sufficient justice.
"Their potential is completely wasted. Instead of securing deals with publishers who can't afford to keep their back-catalog in print, they prefer to exploit authors who haven't been able to publish through any other venue by running off a print they know full well will only sell to the author and a few close friends."

The Lady's argument was, of course, impeccable. Practically mumbling into the cell phone, I weakly rejoin:
"Well, it's inevitable. I know there's a demand, I've seen people willing to pay a reasonable price to acquire a book that's no longer in print. Where there's a demand, someone will eventually see a business model"

She pounced: "I hate it when people wait for the market to get things done. That kind of thinking prevents change. You know what? You should just do it. You should start a publishing company that specializes in out of print material"

I've no idea how the smile that suddenly tugged at my cheeks was able to fit on my narrow face. The Lady has a proven talent for catching me off guard that never fails to brighten my day. On that day, she was no less then the third person to give a similar exhortation within my earshot, so her utter contentiousness obliterated any barriers that my sloganophobia may have erected to "Just Do It".

The echoes of that breach continue to knock around the inside of my skull. It touched closely on a personal weakness. I'm intensely aware that I pontificate. My mental masturbation puts me at risk of talking a problem to death. At the very least, putting so much time into talking about problems steals energy I might otherwise spend solving problems.

“People artificially inflate the barrier to involvement in social change. This leaves us starved for participants”

Pulling up to the stoplight and closing my eyes, I could practically see the NPR guest. I envisioned him waving his finger at the host, his eyes wide, and his brow creased.

Still, his point would come back to me as later amused myself with the ridiculosity of over analyze my inclination to over analyze things. Rather then truly generating solutions, endless pondering can make a problem appear overwhelming. To misparaphrase Al Gore, my behaviour could easily me to jump straight from apathy to despair on a problem without any productive time spent in hope. While I'm not one prone to despair, procrastination doesn't require hopelessness.

How do I avoid the procrastination? How does a talker start doing more? Talking's fun, and inevitable – but talking needs to be active. I now believe that good ideas call out to be recorded, considered, and used. My quiet walks through the evening are healthy – they are a relaxing way to keep active, they ground me in my local community, and they force me to see my surroundings

So, now that I've circumnavigated the globe to reach my destination, I find myself next door to my starting place: my walks can be used for far more then controlling my heartrate and greeting my neighbors. If I've recorded the random ideas that filter out of my conversational masturbation, I can apply the otherwise unguided contemplation my life's measured pace provides to working out plans of action.

And then? Why, then I save the world.

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