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Carl Wernicke: I'm Not Trying To Sell You Anything



  So far as I can tell, younger generations that grew up with the Internet seem to accept ubiquitous marketing as part of life. Tell them that the real point of all those free apps on their phone is about tracking their habits and selling the information to marketers, and they look at you with an expression that says, OK, and …?

It’s just how their world is put together.

My generation grew up primarily targeted by advertising on television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and it was fairly easy to ignore if you wanted to.  And the information was pretty specific, so much so that some people only took the newspaper on certain days to get the grocery store ads.

Today it’s hard to tell where content ends and marketing begins, a phenomenon made particularly clear by Twitter. The decision by millions of people to follow celebrities like the Kardashians tells you all you need to know. In talking with one of my young relatives a few years ago, I discovered that he followed a famous movie star on Twitter; when I asked him why, he said this celebrity shared real insights into his personal life.

Well, I said, he probably pays someone to write his tweets. But don’t you see that it’s really just marketing? Somewhat indignantly, he asked, marketing, in what way?

Well, I said, for one thing, he wants you to watch his movies.

Oh, my nephew said, and I realized this had not occurred to him. But he quickly moved on from this momentary disruption of his social equilibrium.

I’ve read predictions that soon there won’t be any commercial breaks on TV shows; you’ll just notice that all the characters are drinking Coke and talking about how much they like their Ford trucks. The comedy 30 Rock did some great bits with this idea.

As for myself, I still struggle against the new zeitgiest. But it’s an increasingly losing battle.

Before we moved recently, we were part of the dying breed that maintained a landline telephone. Sure, about the only calls we got were from telemarketers and politicians, but you don’t easily give up on something that has been part of your life for 50 years. Still, when we moved, we axed the landline and went solely with our cell phones.

Yes, there are marketing calls on cell phones. But it has been ridiculously easy to dodge them; I simply make it a practice to not answer any call from an area code that isn’t local as shown on caller ID. Sure, not all cell phones have local area codes. But again, if someone I know needs to contact me, I trust they will leave a voicemail.

It has worked pretty well.

I have noticed, however, that lately the marketers are circling closer and closer, like technologically advanced buzzards to the kill. I have been getting calls from places in Florida like Fort Myers, and not once has the caller left a voicemail.

Then, last week, I got a call from Vernon. Vernon? Who do I know in Vernon? I was tempted, but managed to keep from answering, and again, no voicemail.

Then I got a call from Bonifay, and I caved in and answered it … and it was a marketing call from a national corporation.

Got me!

Oh well, I guess I’ll go drive my Ford truck to the store; I’m out of Coke.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.