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Image for Unmarketable
Author Elizabeth Moore
Date Published 2007
Wikipedia Article Unmarketable


About the author

Anne Elizabeth Moore is an editor, artist, and author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and the Erosion of Integrity, and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People. She also writes for the The Phoenix, In These Times, Alternet.org, and Truthout.org. Recently, Moore went to Cambodia to teach the first generation of feminists in the country self publishing as a way of combating governmental oppression and self-censorship, and co-founded the Anti-Advertising Agency’s Foundation For Freedom, an organization that aims to limit advertising in the public sphere by offering cash incentives and giant novelty checks to ad pros in exchange for quitting their jobs. She currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and travels throughout the globe to lecture on corporate and governmental oppression and freedom of expression.

To find more information about her, visit her website

Discussion for Reading Cyberpunk/Being Cyberpunk

Discussion Prompt

Up to this point in our class, I've tried to dissuade people from making arguments about our contemporary society, because our readings hadn't provided the evidence we would need to support these arguments. Our reading from Moore's Unmarketable does provide this sort of evidence. For our wiki analysis and in-class discussion of "Unmarketable," let your impulse for social comment run wild. You may:

1. Make any connections you wish between the phenomena Moore observes in contemporary society and the fiction we have read (but be sure to explain what these connections mean for our understanding of the fiction we read, the phenomena Moore describes, or both).

2. Continue Moore's critique of contemporary advertising with evidence drawn from other sources or your everyday life.

3. Refute (or disprove) Moore's critique of contemporary advertising with evidence drawn from other sources or your everyday life.


The psychology of advertisement is a large and lucrative business, based on selling a product based on presenting it in a way which people most want to see.  In many, if not most, cases, advertisement is no longer reason-based.  By playing off people's emotions, people have a more loyal, though perhaps unreasonable, connection to the products.  There are many commercials and advertisements that show very little as to the attributes of the product itself--rather, slogans such as "Because you're worth it" (L'Oreal Paris) and "Have it your way" (Burger King) and "We love having you here" (Hampton Inn) all place the emphasis on the consumer rather than the product.  Additionally, there are many products that emphasize ease of life as a reason for purchase. These are also focused on the consumer, but are also done more subtly through the suggestion of convenience. Take, for example, Oxy Clean products, Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser, or Snuggies. None of these things are necessary. Instead, they are "upgrades" or more effective, convenient solutions that make the consumer's life supposedly easier, or give the consumer more free time. There are also many advertisement campaigns that imply a sense of class, whether that be through commercials that emphasize a certain product or service's "ritzy" qualities, or passed around as such through word of mouth. A business or product that sells itself based on high quality (here meaning extravagant, excessive, or wasteful) takes advantage of the human need to show off and constantly prove oneself to one's surroundings. This is not to be confused with a product that sells based on genuine high quality, rather a reflection on products that sell themselves based on consumer class.

Furthermore, Moore explains a few examples of this type of advertisement by bringing up a common yet somewhat overlooked soda originally founded by Peter Van Stolk. He talks about how Van Stolk revolutionized the soda industry by cutting down on general outlook on advertising by "enter[ing] the highly competitive beverage industry, learn[ing] the rules, and then promptly reject[ing] them." Instead of using the classical form of advertising that his competitors such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi used, which was using stereotypical advertisement of people enjoying their product, he used "word of mouth" advertisement. Also, he advertised for a very specific age group, between 13 and 24 years old, and he placed his products near "skate parks, bike shops, [and] record stores." Advertisement to him did not mean expressing some façade of happiness and pleasure. Based on his actions and advertisement ideas, he wanted to seem like a neighborly man simply providing a service to people of the community by constantly giving out free soda at different alternative sport competitions and by being "one of the first companies to enter into sponsorship deals in [said] sports."

A prime example of the type of marketing described by Moore is the student-run advertisement of products on college campuses. Companies often enlist college students or stereotypical college-age employees to hawk products on college campuses that would appeal the native demographic. The thinking behind this is the same that defines a lovemark: if students see their "peers," people with whom they could potentially personally relate to, touting a good, then the good itself must have some personal value. Just as Jones Soda entrenched itself in the punk/DIY community by vending its wares at "underground" locations and affecting a punk/DIY persona itself, these campus advertisers are using college students as a mask for their product, intending to make it more familiar to its target market. If these advertisers are successful in forging a lovemark, college students will have developed an emotional link to their product after having seen it in their environment, bolstered by their equals, and as a result they will never question whether to buy that particular product over another or, as Moore explicitly states, even recall the benefits of that product. College students will simply buy that item because they "love" it.

College students, in general, are also a perfect demographic to advertise to. They are all united by certain common themes as far as their mentality, but they come from so many different backgrounds, social statuses and demographics that it's possible to market almost anything to them with some level of success. Some campuses have student-led advertising campaigns for products which can be fairly successful-- they know what their peers want. This is similar to the story, because while GTX is a huge company, it still has a connection to the outside world in that the people in charge at some point had to be "normal," that is, they had to know what they themselves would want if they weren't in charge of the company, allowing them to better market their goods and services.


Moore's claims presented in the excerpt from Unmarketable agree very well with the marketing tactics introduced in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In." In fact, it seems almost as if Tiptree's short story is in some ways an allegory for the state of modern marketing techniques. In the story, advertising has died out due to legal restrictions, and so businesses were forced to develop new techniques to encourage the masses to purchase specific products. Corporations like GTX accomplish this by placing "gods" among the global community and using their influence over society to surreptitiously market products. The success of this method lies in the emotional connection that forms among the general population and celebrities. Because the average person admires and in a certain way loves GTX's celebrities, they will without question and beyond reason purchase the GTX products silently endorsed by these celebrities. This mirrors the progression of marketing in recent times as explained by Moore, that is, the public has become fed up with typical advertisements, and so businesses are trying to create emotional ties with consumers to sell products. These ties, termed "lovemarks" by Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, are designed to achieve the same reaction from the populace as was the status quo in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," namely unthinking and illogical devotion to a brand.

Moore mentioned the "word of mouth" campaign. This is when friends tell other friends about a product or service. This way of advertising is similar to the one shown in the fictional story "The Girl who was Plugged in." The way companies advertise in the story involved getting somebody who people would trust to use their products. The only difference is in the way the trust is obtained. In the "word of mouth" campaign, the trust was already establish through friendship, but in the story "The Girl who was Plugged in", the trust was gain by having "perfect" bodies. Both readings suggest that if somebody that a person trust tells him or her about a product, than that person would most likely try the product.

The mainstream does not appeal to the punk/DIY underground culture, so it is harder for marketing teams to reach them. But, once it has been broken into, the brands and products the marketing teams push out there generally sell very well. This goes along with the story of "The Girl Who was Plugged In". The connection is that once a celebrity, or "god", or someone that a group of people admire is seen using a certain product, that product will also be desired by the masses, generating profit for those marketing teams.

According to Moore, such student-run advertisements are successful because "despite the giant brands behind these small media tactics, individual consumers crave singularity, a sense of connection".  The consumers are able to associate a face to the product that they are purchasing.

A present day example of feeling a connection to a product is in the music industry.  Artists first gain fame locally by relating to their fans in a way mainstream artists cannot.  The fans tend to feel a personal relationship with the artist because they feel that the artist is being represented in some way. This can be seen as a form of advertising because the artist forms an almost personal relationship with their fans, in order to derive more support through them and their friends. By mentioning that representation, that thing that fans have in common with the artists in their music; they draw a sense of unity out of the people, and this helps them to make more money by drawing a larger number of fans.

Another example of the marketing tactic "branding" is when thinking about polymers, e.g. nylon, Kevlar, Teflon, etc. On the molecular level, these polymers can be really made from anyone provided they have the materials to make them. Therefore, multiple companies can make the products, but with brands, companies (and in turn customers) are more biased to buying something they're familiar with and there are probably additional legal components to using brands. Practically, polymers possess capabilities that are better compared to other materials and without the branding, the polymer could sell itself out of necessity. However, like GoGorilla, maximum intrusion to an individual's life is still necessary. After all, a smaller population of people would go after polymers if they were called their molecular formula instead of the brand names, and even fewer would go for polymers when having used other products, which have worked for so long. For example, PET (polyethylene) has been continuously used for plastic bottles although there exists a better alternative, but due to investment (and possibly the lack of public awareness), there is no serious push towards the change. In regards to the reading, "The Winter Market", serves as an example to how familiarity makes a product sell more. Lise's release of The Kings of Sleep, which "sold like hotcakes" as it related very well with other residence of the streets where Lise came from.

Advertising has become an integral part of our society. Moore says that brands like Coke and Pepsi have changed our lives, and they sell their products on more emotional appeal or through lovemarks. They do not advertise their product itself, but the feel good culture. She is correct in saying that branding has become part of culture. When she talks about Jones Soda, it became a large market to skateboarders. The ability of marketers to be able to make an emotional appeal to everyone seems dangerous. Society seems to be controlled by the brand, just like in the fiction "The Girl Who Was Plugged In." Moore is correct in saying that we might lose our originality, and creativity because of heavy advertising. These companies are trying to burrow into social networks, like with word of mouth. The companies will get better ideas of who the populace really is. More of this is done on the Internet. Who you search, what you click, is all stored so companies can tell what to market to you. 

When people sit down for an event and watch TV like they do for the Super Bowl, TV advertising becomes very effective. The world is moving away from advertising in the physical sense. Just as the story points out, we are getting into the realm of unspoken advertising. Look for instance what Apple has done with the iPhone and the iPod. When the iPod first came out, it was not "hip" or "cool"; it was just a device with great features. Then once the iPod worked on both Mac and PC, it exploded. They refined the look with its white glossy screen, and the term iPod became synonymous with the idea of the MP3 player. With Apple's success with the iPod, they continued on with the iPhone. It has become the "loyalty without reason" that the excerpt from Unmarketable mentions. They have tapped in to that following and created this singular connection to people. Now with the introduction of iPads and yearly iterations of the same product, they are just continuously tapping that emotional connection. Apple is the modern example of how vital image is for a company. They started with a singular innovative product, and through their intelligent use of emotional connections with their followers, they have seized control of the most competitive market in the world.

Today's society shows the signs of marketing heading towards unmarketing: although the current generation does not watch much TV in comparison to watching   Youtube, ads have begun to invade the Internet.  These ads are no longer simply in the form of pictures on the sides of websites, but are now actual commercials in videos. The one who watches the commercials may find the commercials annoying or silly, but they will pick up some things from the commercial, such as one commercial being for YoPlait, in which a couple is trying to lose weight, and one brags as the other struggles to find the secret in the fridge. Thus as Unmarketable points out, the marketing industry is heading towards a direction where privacy is becoming more violated and still remaining in view of the general public. Even with Facebook, the marketing industry still prevails at violating privacy with each patch that leads to a change in privacy settings, which individuals have to enable themselves. Will individuals really do that? Probably not, since why does something again when that action has been done before? Unless people become more concerned with privacy, there will be no change in the marketing movement and before long it will be harder to earn people's trust as the industry proves that anything sincerely provided really isn't and is really just a facade with ulterior motives.

The most recent form of contemporary advertising that I have recognized in today's marketplace is companies' use of smart phone apps to develop a relationship with the consumer.  The majority of these apps give buyers inside access and priority for specific brands.  According to Moore, businesses are always seeking new ways to bridge the brand and consumer.  Android and iPhone apps easily accomplish this goal because they are the first things someone sees when they turn on their phone.  People see this and immediately assume the app is an importance to them.  This form of advertising is a perfect example of "small" media since apps help build consumer relationships as mentioned by Moore.  

Moore's analysis of the shift in advertising away from reason-based to emotion-based marketing is a quite accurate description of advertising in today's world. Rather than showcasing their products, companies tend to try to evoke some sort of emotion, such as laughter, in order to form bonds with potential customers. Some companies even use outlandish or unorthodox commercials in order to get people to spread the word to their friends and family. For example, the Old Spice commercials were so unusual and original that practically everybody knows about them, even if they haven't seen them. In addition, companies are beginning to place ads everywhere that they possibly can in hopes that repeated exposure will burn their brand's name into the minds of viewers. To this end, many companies advertise on phone applications, video games, and now even Youtube. The extent to which ads have invaded nearly everything shows that the most effective advertising is the advertising that can generate the greatest amount of exposure.


Since there seem to be so many claims already present that agree with Elizabeth Moore's Unmarketable, a different viewpoint could be more interesting. Obviously, the consumer market is evolving in the diversity of types of products, and consequently marketing must adapt to fit the new types of products as well as obtain the competitive edge over other sellers. Many of the other analysts have noted and discussed the success of emotion-based advertising. However, there are some industries and some products that are unlikely to switch to the emotion-only type of marketing. For example, A large portion of the food and eating industry, has commercials and promotions that are still based on the quality and pricing of goods. For example, Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" and Subway's "Eat Fresh" slogans both focus on the quality of their product, not the emotional relationship with the eater. To solidify the point, the automotive industry's marketing strategy is based perhaps slightly on building a relationship with the consumer, but the primary focus is quality in the form of how many pounds a pickup truck can tow, how many MPG a car gets, being hybrid or electrical, having reliability, great engine, good interior, etc. Some companies will remain traditionalists in their advertising as previously stated,  and some will move to the emotional side as Elizabeth Moore states, but even more companies will create a mixture, playing with the ideas of quality and emotion, drawing the consumer in with product quality and hooking them with the emotion(like Apple and mobile devices explained above).

Others refute the claim that states that advertising has become an integral part of our society and that as advertising grows, companies will get a better ideas of who we really are. As a society grows, it is always evolving, so no matter how developed a company's idea is of the society is, it will always be a step behind. This can be clearly seen by the fact that when the house\ing market crashed and the US went through the recession, companies were clueless about how to get more customers besides putting things at ridiculous sale price, since no one wanted to use their money. However, I will agree that companies can attempt to predict where that will be going. The collecting and analyzing of data takes time, and this time is enough to cause a gap between what the companies believe is the idea of society and what society has evolved to in that time.

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