The Merger Of Ghosts
Penguin and Random House aside, it’s not unusual to witness the merger of two large companies – Publicis and Omicom this week, if regulators approve. These things happen, between competitors, in market spaces where the norm is already collusion, diffusion and consultancy.
Media companies and advertising agencies don’t provide value in simple or easily counted ways, though we are told that the services they bill are common, reasonable, or even essential to the operations of their clients, who actually make and distribute products. Mom and pop and factory floor.
Actually, in some cases client companies are as vaporous and high-minded as the agencies that provide ‘creative services’ or ‘brand management.’
Corporate culture is now a scheme of constant intranational and intra-regional out-sourcing. Doing is less profitable than paying and controlling. Pay an agency to guard the castle and hire mercenaries to work the fields. If it gets complicated, burn everything and give yourself a raise.
Further down river, the same practices flourish.
In the example of creative services companies, bosses aren’t just choosing to shoot the commercials overseas; they’re actually hiring someone else to write the commercial and even sell it to their client, in some cases, taking all the profit as a middle man. Curator/tastemaker. Influencer. Thought leader.
On the client side, marketing departments aren’t just buying ad space and ideas for selling their widgets, they’re letting someone else manufacture and distribute their widget, WHILE they pay an agency to pay someone else to market it. The client and the agency happily gobble up all profit margins while retaining little more than rights to intellectual property, liquidity and the ability to say “no” to any stakeholder who feels squeezed.
Mergers seem to make sense to business leaders. They are applauded on Wall Street as productivity events that define the function of large corporations.
But why have a merger when the transactions each party undertakes are already so spiritually leveraged? The actual work being done within the walls of these corporate houses amounts to so little, in terms of generative value, they may as well keep their little redundancies and earn the world a few extra support jobs.
These companies are the ‘too big to fail’ banks of the media world, conjuring value by moving symbols and vanishing buzzwords. They hire vendors. They buy photography and poetry at very low prices. They rent airwaves.
Their roles are already redundant, mirrors of vanity, existing because of the inability of some companies to do anything other than manage – control, destroy. Money makes these companies dumb. Mergers make them insane. Power is focused, whole classes of workers are corrupted and released into arbitrary unemployment victims of planned productivity gains, absurd self-narratives.
Intellectual labor is a agreement between men and the dream companies they slowly drive themselves into. Time punches the clock, sweat laughs in the face of genius.