Code Worldwide

A Marxist interpretation of Creative Technology

16.12.2011
Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Sadly Karl Marx's writings on the changes in the advertising and marketing industry, brought about by the entry of new technology into that marketplace in the early 21st century are not widely known - and it's about time someone corrected that. Writing in the Communist Manifesto (1848), Marx teaches us "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

He further states that classes within society are a result of the state of technology and the 'means of production', and that a change in the means of production creates revolutionary class conflict and the pre-existing social structures become irrelevant and must be swept away. Thus, in feudal times the peasantry and aristocracy becaome established with the enclosure of the fields, but this also gave rise to the emergence of the bourgeoisie (really a class of the industrial age). Industrialisation gave birth to the proletariat, a class (in Marx's view) which was fundamentally opposed to industrial capitalism and destined to try to overthrow it.

So what of advertising/marketing? Well, here the means of production have remained relatively static for 60 years or so - and this has given rise to classes of brand owner, creative agency, media agency and audience/consumer. But the means of production have changed. No longer is mass media the sole preserve of the specialist creative agency - anyone can produce and distribute messages. Nor is media placement controlled by monoploy - anyone can earn attention if they say something interesting or relevant.

And widely available, objective data (not information controlled by a cabal) can tell you what's working. The brand-owning class too is being overthrown (much as Marx predicted the death of their land-owning predecessors). The gates and fences that they put up to defend their brand values (ownership of media, restricted access for the few) have evaporated as the masses have taken hold of media and determine for themselves what value a brand has. What does this mean for the former ruling classes of brands and their agencies, faced with the revolutionary zeal of social media and outsourced production? Marx is unfortunately not explicit on the point of the most effective resourcing / brand management and organisational strategies.

So let's assume there are two options: the denial meets confrontation approach of the French aristocracy c1789 (enter Robespierre), or the British throne's pragmatic accommodation with Parliament post-Cromwell. Time will tell - many of the former ruling elite have embraced the revolutionary zeal and are right now championing the rights of the people (using social media as their barricades).

Others stay Tsaristly locked up in their version of the Brand Winter Palace, denying the arrival of the mob. Who knows who's right? Similar questions must have come up in Britain, Russia and China a hundred years ago. But the last word belongs the neo-Marxist philosopher and spokesman Gil Scott Heron, 'The Revolution will not be televised. The Revolution will be live.'