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Exactly, in a material economy, advertising is less effective, because goods primarily satisfy material needs rather than social wants.

In a positional economy, the primary value of the product is the fulfillment of social wants rather than material needs.  See Naomi Klein's No logo the product that is being sold is not its physical manifestation, but the social construction created by the marketing folks.

When I previously worked in healthcare, I remember sitting through a presentation in which the wonders of medical marketing were extolled to us.  Think now about the pharma industry, and the impact that this phenonmenon we're discussing has on the provision of healthcare.

It diverts research and development away from the production lifesaving meds, and instead focuses on the creation of lifestyle drugs.  

Instead of curing cancer or AIDS, these unts are working on getting grandpa a hard on. The miracles of modern science.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 03:33:34 PM EST
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I have to say I know a grandpa who wrote to me very recently about the joys of getting a hard on (and all that implies for a sixty-plus year old) via a pill, so I wouldn't run these as either/or--the key problem that I see with large for-profit pharmaceutical companies is that they block medicines (via patents?) to people who need them because that would cut into the "for profit" part of their mandate--and of course they expend vast sums convincing medical practitioners (with bribes) that "there is a pill for every ill."

wchurchill used to have lots to say about the benefits of commercial enterprises and the medical advances they offered, and it's not a field I have come into contact with except anecdotally.

btw, wasn't the hard-on effect a felicitous (for those who have problems maintaining or getting one) side-effect of a drug they were testing for quite another condition?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:15:43 PM EST
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Angina and Hypertension

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:23:36 PM EST
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Apparently, they were researching heart disease.

Sildenafil (compound UK-92,480) was synthesized by a group of pharmaceutical chemists working at Pfizer's Sandwich, Kent research facility in England. It was initially studied for use in hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a form of ischaemic cardiovascular disease). Phase I clinical trials under the direction of Ian Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effect on angina, but that it could induce marked penile erections.[1][2] Pfizer therefore decided to market it for erectile dysfunction, rather than for angina. The drug was patented in 1996, approved for use in erectile dysfunction by the Food and Drug Administration on March 27, 1998, becoming the first pill approved to treat erectile dysfunction in the United States, and offered for sale in the United States later that year.[3] It soon became a great success: annual sales of Viagra in the period 1999-2001 exceeded $1 billion.

Angina means heart disease........

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:25:15 PM EST
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The diamond industry history is the best example of status advertisement.

The diamond invention--the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem--is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton [...]

The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., incorporated in South Africa [...]

The diamond invention [is] a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. [Both] women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. [The] illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever -- "forever" in the sense that they should never be resold.

[In 1938, in Europe,] there seemed little possibility of restoring public confidence in diamonds. In Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain, the notion of giving a diamond ring to commemorate an engagement had never taken hold. [This] left the United States as the only real market for De Beers's diamonds. [But since 1919], the total amount of diamonds sold in America, measured in carats, had declined by 50 percent; at the same time, the quality of the diamonds, measured in dollar value, had declined by nearly 100 percent.

[Their advertising agency N. W. Ayer] suggested that through a well-orchestrated advertising and public-relations campaign it could have a significant impact on the "social attitudes of the public at large and thereby channel American spending toward larger and more expensive diamonds instead of "competitive luxuries." Specifically, the Ayer study stressed the need to strengthen the association in the public's mind of diamonds with romance. [The] advertising agency strongly suggested exploiting the relatively new medium of motion pictures.

[N. W. Ayer] proposed to apply to the diamond market Thorstein Veblen's idea, stated in The Theory of the Leisure Class, that Americans were motivated in their purchases not by utility but by "conspicuous consumption."

Toward the end of the 1950s, N. W. Ayer reported to De Beers that twenty years of advertisements and publicity had had a pronounced effect on the American psyche. [The] message had been so successfully impressed on the minds of this generation that those who could not afford to buy a diamond at the time of their marriage would "defer the purchase" rather than forgo it.

The campaign to internationalize the diamond invention began in earnest in the mid-1960s. The prime targets were Japan, Germany, and Brazil. [Within] ten years, De Beers succeeded beyond even its most optimistic expectations, creating a billion-dollar-a-year diamond market in Japan, where matrimonial custom had survived feudal revolutions, world wars, industrialization, and even the American occupation.

Quite a fascinating history. De Beers not only had to manage to keep the monopoly, but to prevent trade of the increasing sea of the diamonds in public's hands. (Did you ever try to resell a diamond? Don't assume that diamonds are a good "investment".) You may wonder how sustainable their business is.

by das monde on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 11:59:04 PM EST
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