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Advertising Enters the Age of Ire


Campaigns go negative - and feast on fear.

The days of a blissful toucan crooning over a rainbow of fruit flavors appears to be gone: Advertising has entered the Age of Ire.

It's no secret Americans are seething over the seemingly endless parade of frauds, scams and blowups emanating from the narrow streets of lower Manhattan. Wall Street is under siege, both in headlines and in living rooms across the country. And in a trend that kicked off last summer with a Harley Davidson (HOG) ad campaign that decried corporate greed, advertising is becoming increasingly reflective of public outrage.

The New York Times chronicles a series of companies tapping into America's pervasive fear and outrage in order too woo customers.

Jetblue (JBLU) is offering mock sympathy and soft leather seats to CEOs who can no longer afford to scoot about in corporate jets. Eastman Kodak (EK), long known for it's friendly, non-abrasive image, is highlighting the $5 billion wasted each year overpaying for ink cartridges. Sales, according to the company's chief marketing officer, are up.

That marketing comes to reflect changing social mood should be no surprise to Minyans, as Professor Kevin Depew has long advanced the notion that media follows mood, not the other way around.

Socionomics is the study of the interplay between public sentiment and economics, postulating that groups of people act as crowds in measurable patterns that emerge over long periods of time. These shifts drive not just what appears on TV and print, but our perception of it.

In terms of economics and as measured by the stock market, when social mood is positive, people are happy and optimistic about the future, eager to empty their pockets and take on risk. This buoys profits and drives up stocks. When mood darkens, however, consumers retrench, risk is shunned and the economy -- and by extension the stock market -- heads south.

The current shift in social mood isn't transitory - this isn't merely passing outrage at bonuses paid to American International Group (AIG) traders or Merrill Lynch (BAC) executives; a quarter-century of debt-fueled excess doesn't get reversed in a matter of months.

No, the new economic reality of paying with cash and making ends meet sans cash advance from Capital One (COF) will be around for a while.

We had better get used to it.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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