I'm not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and I was reminded of that again this week when I finally, finally realized something about American Idol.
All this time, I knew it was more about marketing than talent. But dummy me, I thought the primary marketing agenda was CDs, a tour, a television show, ect. It wasn't until the middle of this week that I realized just how entangled Cingular Wireless is in this whole process. Sure, they get plenty of adspace and they push for people to vote via texting using Cingular.
But this week, things took an uglier turn. On various sites and messageboards for the contestants, new users would pop up with concerned but helpful messages, basically saying that X contestant wouldn't be safe from phone calls alone. Massive text messaging would be needed to save the contestant. Forget busy signals, and make sure your votes count, and vote by text. Of course, to rabid, concerned fans, this seemed really smart, and they started carrying the rally cry. Even several media outlets started parroting this.
As an anti-consumerist bitch, this immediately touched off my jaded streak. I didn't see these messages as helpful so much as not-so-subtle and subversive commercials for Cingular.
And they're working. I can't even keep track of how many people on these boards I've heard say who ran out and bought a Cingular plan.
I don't blame Cingular for drumming up business. And I want Elliott to win. But I'm not drinking the Cingular kool-aid and buying a text phone. Call me a not a very good fan, but I think they've gotten a little crass with this. They're smart, and they've successfully blurred the advertising line and found a way to mainline into people's OTHER desires to move their product because the wireless market is saturated. I admire ingenuity. But I dislike manipulation and and emotional extortion.
What's particularly gross about it is that sure, there are plenty of too-involved adult fans with office jobs (like me) who roam the 'net and find this shit and get sucked in. But we're adults, and that's our responsibility. But these messageboards are also filled with pre-teens who've latched onto this show and whose desires to help their favorite are now being preyed upon to rope them into phone/text usage. I feel kind of bad for the parents who have to endure little Dakota crying that they NEED a Cingular phone to text for Egghead on Elvis night. And these kids are going to be little phone addicts before they can even drive.
I admit it, I don't like cell phones. I don't have a cell phone. I hate them and I think they're fucking rude and obnoxious and they can turn normal, polite people into rude and obnoxious assholes.
Seriously, I'm not a princess or attention whore. I don't mind being back-burnered by people. But if I'm out to dinner with you and we're having a conversation and your phone rings, and you pick it up and look at it, and say, "Oh, I have to take this," and then you beep it on and start gabbing to someone about the dress or lawnmover you saw on sale this afternoon -- for ten minutes -- I'm gonna be a little bit hurt. And when it rings three minutes later and you take the call and start chitchatting with that person and telling them what you're eating -- as I sit across from you actually eating with you -- I'm going to be even more hurt and offended. And when the third call rolls in and it's your boyfriend/girlfriend and you take the call and then give them the color commentary recap of the first and second phone calls, and then begin the play-by-play of the current dinner you're eating while I sit across from you being treated not so much like a human being as an accessory, I'm going to be hurt, offended, and fairly pissed off.
Most everyone who wants or needs a phone already has one, and most of the people who have them don't need them. So what Cingular has done here is found a whole new, unrelated desire and then exploited that desire by tying it together with cell phone usage. So they're basically breeding a whole new group of customers.
I think it's borderline evil. I really do.
So. What's the moral of the story here? It took me a while, but I see the agenda here, and I recognize the manipulation, and I resent it.
I repeat, fuck Cingular.
Here's the phone I went out and got today so I can text vote for Elliott! Isn't it cute?