JON$ES and undercover marketing everywhere

We have recently watched the movie THE JONE$ES, which tells the story of four people, played by Demi Moore, Amber Heard, David Duchovny and Ben Hollingsworth, who earn their living by pretending to be a family. In reality, they are undercover marketers whose job it is to seduce their friends and neighbors to their consumerism lifestyle. It is a kind of marketing and product placement that goes much further than just advertising a particular product. The "family" (in the movie it is termed a "unit") is very successful until one of their neighbors commits suicide because of the debts that the consumerism competition with the Jonses ran him into.
Interestingly, an experiment with "real" Joneses has been conducted by Martin Lindstrom and revealed that such deceptive undercover marketing is extremely powerful. Unfortunately, undercover marketing projects do not become publicly known very often because they are carried as top secret operations. In a few instances, smaller scale stealth marketing campaigns have become public. For example, one company targeted undercover marketing specifically at teens and mothers, actors were used to secretly market mobile phones by different companies, and social networks are frequently used for deceptive marketing campaigns (an interesting documentary clip can be found HERE). 


The virtual photography cosmos - all the photography blogs, galleries and review sites - is also an environment where undercover marketing abounds. In most cases, the advertisers are of course not directly payed to advertise and the honest and responsible authors acknowledge the receipt of test products or any other form of compensation. However, the experts who test gear and write reviews are not doing so because it will improve your or their photography, but because this is how they earn money. All the parties involved, the online photography experts and the whole photography industry, have a strong interest in creating an extremely technology and consumerism centered view of photography. The constant talk about the newest products and the rumor hype about upcoming, not even yet existing products, manipulates people's opinions. Many consumers believe that it is impossible to take a good photograph with a camera that is older than a year or two and that the decision for one brand or the other will determine whether their photographs end in the trash or bring cash. Leitax, Konicon or Canolta does not matter at all, remember this for once and all!
Interestingly, many people do not seem to mind being marketed to stealthily. This is disturbing. As mentioned earlier, I find it very important to distinguish facts from opinions. I think we should form our own opinions based on our own evaluation of the relevant facts. However, the experiment described above revealed that most people seem to rely on the opinions of their friends, neighbors, online contacts, role model or, in the case of undercover marketing, the advertisments of companies. It is almost as if people just wait to be told about great products so that they can go out and buy them! There is no own opinion, but just a void that waits to be filled by others, including advertisement through undercover marketing! The worrying and deceptive element of undercover marketing is the fact it disguises commercial advertisement as personal opinions.
I really love to delve into the photography cosmos and highly appreciate the huge pool of information that is available to form my own opinion on things. I think we are very privileged to have such easy access to so much information and that we should take advantage of this possibility to reach more informed conclusions and opinions. The movie The JON$ES has lead to all these interesting thoughts and also provided 96 minutes of good entertainment and is therefore highly recommended (you do not have to buy it - we have loaned it from our public library).

2012/07/15 by Florian Freimoser
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