Just When I Think They Can't Get Any More Patheticly Lame

I cannot lower my expectations enough for the advertising on the anti-network neutrality advertising. Behold the latest well reasoned argument from the cable industry!

“Net Neutrality is bad, because we tell you so.”

I’m the last to underestimate the effectiveness of industry ad campaigns at confusing the issue, but this just blows my mind with new levels of idiocy. Desperation has clearly set in.

Stay tuned . . . .


  1. Harold,

    Amazing yet true. This spot is a great example of “brand image” advertising: it’s not about logic at all, it’s about images and emotions.

    It’s important to understand that this is often effective in the marketplace, because consumers are not perfect “rational actors” as assumed by classical economic orthodoxy. It *does* affect the framing war, as George Lakoff might describe it.

    One should not ignore or condescend to such spots, but rather respect and respond to them. My initial idea for a response would be to do a Pirandellian framing of this spot peeling off the veneer and showing the machinations behind the image (some sort of NCTA puppeteer ala Mr. Burns in The Simpsons masterminding and directing this false image, and showing the opposite reality — cf. the billboards along the highways in the 1984-takeoff movie “Brazil” showing beautiful scenes with desolation behind them in the real wrld).

    Don’t just pooh-pooh this stuff — the fact is it works and must be actively pushed back against by being exposed as a bald lie. People will believe a corrective message, if we only give it to them properly. We should not sit by idly — the game is being fought at a different level and must be engaged at that level.

    To fail to respond to ads like this would be our doom.

  2. Dan:

    I invite you to consider that my post is a response, albeit one addressed to a particular audience.

    I call this the “Day of the Dove” response, after the Star Trek episode.

    As for whether such advertising is truly effective, that is a matter of much debate. The calculus changes considerably in a world where you can go online (and viewers do so with increasing frequency, according to the PEW surveys) to research the issue for themselves.

    The calculus on political advertising is shifting, and in ways the incumbents have not yet realized. We are responding, we are just not responding by their playbook.

  3. Your points are of course well taken, but I worry about the audience that won’t take the time to actively search for info online, but will still see the ad on TV somewhere.

    I suspect this audience is still large enough to make some difference, either directly or indirectly, and perhaps enough of a difference to help swing some votes back the wrong way (or impede votes in the right direction). The calculus may be changing, but has it hit the tipping point yet? If not, should we abandon the old calculus outright just yet?

    I guess I wonder about the (human, word-of-mouth) network effects of such messages in shaping a background opinion among people who are only just now getting exposed to the issue at all. (I suspect this is a fairly large population — net neutrality is still only recently emerging into the mainstream consciousness. Only in the last few months has it gotten onto the national agenda to the extent that mainstream media are reporting it at all.)

    I’m particularly worried about people for whom this is their first exposure to the issue and getting started with a totally backwards view of reality. It’s really much harder to *change* first impressions than to *establish* first impressions. And rational logic may not be the tool that best effects such changes and/or establishments. There are people who will be swayed by the images who will not respond to logic, and certainly will not bother to seek out the info actively. Unfortunately, I believe that their numbers are still quite great.

    I’ve recently read Lakoff’s new book “Whose Freedom?” on the fundamental framing paradigms of political space these days, and I’ve become sensitized to the need to operate with a strategic approach to issue framing, with a clear understanding of the real dynamics of human thinking, much of which is not governed by logic at all (deeply-felt conceptual frames override evidence and logic — they lead people to “explain away” conflicting evidence and/or information).

    I admire a Day-of-the-Dove approach to systemic wars, where it works. But I fear such approaches do not work everywhere that the fight needs to be engaged.

    This is essentially a “beyond-the-beltway” comment at root, I guess. The grass-roots groundswell spearheaded recently by Free Press’ SaveTheInternet.com was remarkable an heartening, and a real boost, but even so that may only now be catching the attention of a majority of people in the Heartland.

    They may have heard of the issue by name but not understand what it is all about. They may *never* understand what it is all about, because they may not perceive that it is important to them, other than a few image messages they may notice on the fringes of their media world that will confuse them irrevocably for the purposes of the current policy cycle.

    The Internet (including your original blog post here, specifically) is a sort of “inside strategy” that is critical and ineliminable (and certainly does make a real difference). But that does not necessarily preclude an “outside strategy” (outside in both geography and topic-driven visibility/awareness in mass media). My gut feeling is that we need a combined inside/outside approach to ensure the greatest chances of success.

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