Found via, yes, BoingBoing writeup (that’s where I seem to get all these stories I comment on, but that’s just because it’s one of my favorite web journals, right up there with Slashdot), it seems that the Olympics Committee has laid down some rather draconian rules concerning bringing outside food, drink, or items with the wrong brand logos on them into the games. This is ostensibly to prevent “ambush marketing,” but it’s also a form of protectionism akin to DVD and video game console region-locking. Sponsors such as McDonald, Coke, and Adidas have bought monopoly rights in the game. I swear, we’re getting closer to the corporatist world depicted in the cyberpunk genre every single day.
This isn’t new, of course; it’s been going on for quite some time, just on a smaller scale. The most publicized incident in recent years was the time a student chose to “ambush protest” with a Pepsi T-shirt on a day when Coke executives would be at his school. Do a little research, and in only about thirty seconds spent on Google you will start to see that schools are becoming a major branding battleground these days, with some schools even prohibiting wrongly-branded beverages to be brought onto the grounds. (I wish I could dig up the article I read a while back about that—among other things, it indicated that a Gatorade cooler used by a school’s football team had to have the logo hastily covered up until Coke could supply them with Powerade coolers instead.) Sure is different from when I was at school in the eighties. Back then, we had a couple of Coke machines (and a Dr. Pepper machine) by the cafeteria, and that was it. Nobody made a really big deal out of it (except my Mom who didn’t want me drinking that sugary stuff as it would rot my teeth…but that was on a strictly individual basis).
Now all of a sudden we have big business funnelling money into the schools to try to hook customers early and turn them brand-loyal for life—and this is something whose prediction far, far predates the cyberpunk revolution. Look at Pohl & Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants sometime to see what I mean; the ad execs in that book were talking about doing things like packaging icky school lunches in the colors of a hated rival of their client, to cause the kids to grow up assigning negative connotations to those colors (and hence that product)—and back then it was considered a satire, things that ad agencies might do taken to extremes that nobody really expected we’d ever reach. Well, guess what…we’ve reached those extremes.
So is it really any surprise that, having started with schools, the big business is now moving on to the Olympics? Given the International Olympic Committee’s track record of corruption, it’s perhaps even less of a surprise than “clean venues” in schools. Perhaps it was inevitable.
Between this sort of thing, politics, losses of freedoms, terrorism…I sure hope they hurry up and send a mission to Mars soon, because I think I want to move there.