Marketing and Public Policy

government American Marketing Association – Conference on public policy and Marketing – Washington DC May 27-30 2009 Having presented a paper at the Advances in Consumer Research last October we were asked if we would consider adopting our paper to address the focus of this conference – specifically the implications of our paper for public policy and civic participation. The conference was about 120 almost all American who do seem to have a very particular take on marketing as the ‘natural, discipline  …the underlying assumption seems to be that we are all born consumers – indeed in a session on regulation of behavioural targeting on line the notion of ‘protection’ of consumer rights was clearly considered more useful/worthy than thinking about rights as humans! Mostly the dominance of positivist and psychology oriented experimentation, that was so apparent at the ACR, was also evident here. Perhaps not surprising given the conference was really all about how a marketing perspective can help frame government and other regulatory policy – so it was about marketing as a tool to do things to people…. The UK was represented by an American professor now working at Lancaster University and by ME!!! Mostly my voice was a lone ‘European’ take on the world – but there were some who took a more social constructivist perspective. One of these – Prof Julie Ozanne from VirginiaTech -was keen to invite other European scholars to get involved in a group she has formed – a sort of breakaway group within Consumer Culture Theory – that look at what they term  ‘transformative marketing’ – conference in 2 years on the East coast of the US is planned. The paper I delivered seemed to go well – they mostly laughed in the right places…A copy of the slides I used are attached. Well actually I ended up using only some of the slides and instead told them a story about my witnessing a Chinese man buying an Obama t-shirt and the conversation between him and the American he bought it from that followed!!! The session I was part of was well attended, standing room only …I’d like to say that was because word of the English Guy was in town….more likely it was because one of the other presenters had won ‘best paper from a PhD student’ a fascinating talk about life on a trailer park and how consumption was used to distance many of those living in the park from labelling themselves as ‘trailer trash’.  The other papers in my session was about 1) the growing use of consumer spaces in which public/civic thinking  practices are being elicited in some large US cities – an example used was the redevelopment of a large urban space on the Hudson river in New York that has purposefully been designed to offer a mix of commercial outlets and free public spaces for performance, sport and debate and 2) an ethnographic study of ‘immigrants without documentation’ (for that read poor Mexican’s) and how they continue to be active consumers in a society where they have no official status – in this study in Oklahoma they presenter reported how for example hospitals and other public intuitions were considered too dangerous to visit (they feared that they may be stopped and handed to police and so deported) and so certain commercial organisations were relied on to provide many of their fundamental needs (backs of restaurants are spaces that are protected fir their owners and cleaned etc in return for  the restaurant providing the evenings leftover food…AND Wall Mart  pharmacy section being used as a surrogate doctors surgery for people too frightened to go to a public hospital). I am bias – but the session I went to was considerably more interesting than many of the other sessions because, on reflection, they positioned marketing’s role as only a part and often an small or incidental/accidental part  in people’s lives ..rather than seeing it as central. Anyway just thought I’d offer these brief thoughts to people as I went to the conference as part of cmc and on the budget that Darren holds for research activity. RICHARD



Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University