More Questions Than Answers
The reason why Directv now has movies available on it’s pay-per-view service a month before Netflix does on it’s internet and mailorder services is actually the result of a consensually-reached deal between it and a handful of movie studios. The studios are of the opinion that the future of movie consumption is through PPV, beyond that of internet downloads, mail order, in-store rentals, and even to some extent beyond the theaters. So why announce what is, if correct, an actually productive step forward (even for those people who are momentarily losing out because of it, and even if they don’t now realize or agree with it) via a dramatization of crime? As if the natural progress of an industry – the adoption of new business models and the necessary obsolescence of others – were a zero sum game?
The reason is that that is the culture’s conception of business, and Directv believes that in order to ingratiate itself with the consuming public it must show itself to be of the same opinion. People may not approve of the superior refusing to sacrifice themselves to the inferior, and the spectacle of the superior surpassing the inferior, and they may not take their convictions seriously enough to actually avoid purchasing Directv’s new product, but they would certainly be offended if the company were to say proudly and openly that it has simply bested it’s competition fairly and squarely.
Constrast that approach to public relations with this one:
This is a startling, all too rare explicit admission by a capitalist organization that it not only understands, but believes in and regards as good, the competitive nature of capitalism. It is willing to risk the economic performance of one of it’s actual products, and thereby experience actual economic consequences should they be wrong, by having it associated with such an unapologetic homage to what it believes is the engine of progress.
Of course, in comparing and contrasting these two approaches to public relations – where one is a choice to avoid controversy by cloaking one’s actions in conventional morality and the other is a deliberate attempt to create it – a glaring bit of irony must be noted. Research into the situation surrounding the motion picture industry reveals that PPV operators such as Directv are in fact the only one who have not attempted to use lawsuits (ie: force) against the movie studios to achieve their ends. Movie theater operators – through their trade organization – as well as movie kiosk operators (eg: Redbox) have both sued various movie studios in recent months; attempting to dictate to them terms favorable to their businesses. Simultaneously, and in direct contrast, in the automobile industry, it is General Motors who is only auto manufacturer who has benefited as a result of government favoritism. If not for it’s status as “too big to fail”, GM would have done just that. They can play lip service to their respect for their competitors – and the nature of capitalism as such – but in truth they are the most non-capitalist player in their industry, if not the entire American economy.
The General Motors commercial featured here is to be praised – it is daring and theoretically accurate – and the Directv commercial should be condemned as short-sighted and twisted – but one must wonder two things: First, is Directv’s timidity to advertise the actual reasons for it’s recent success simply a matter of “picking one’s battle”, or is it simply the actions of a pragmatic company which, if ever necessary, would behave exactly as it’s competition? And second, is GM’s two-year-old willingness to sing the praises of fair competition a genuine desire to slow down and reverse the anti-capitalist direction of the economy or simply an attempt to escape popular condemnation for being the non-capitalist organization it actually is?