J. K. Rowling’s criticism of Donald Trump is raising hackles on the internet. His loyal fans, once her loyal fans, are behaving like jilted lovers and threatening to burn their Harry Potter books in retaliation. Rowling says, “Go ahead. I’ve still got your money.” (Click) Pretty gutsy for an artist who depends upon the good will of her public. Of course, using her bully pulpit for the public’s benefit is what an artist should do, in my opinion. A writer can’t be all things to all people without losing oneself.
Some writers do try. They post pictures of birds and wildflowers on their social media pages or an occasional tasty recipe. The war of political words swirling around them provokes barely a sigh. Reading their posts, I’m reminded of the film, Life Is Beautiful about a Jewish Librarian who struggles to shield his son from the horrors of the Holocaust by pretending it doesn’t exist. The placid tenor of those posts while the world roils around them is almost surreal, like posting pictures of donuts in the midst of a global famine.
I understand what motivates these artist’s, of course. Unlike Rowling, we/they have no billion dollar mountain upon which to stand and view the world. A few book burnings will have no impact on Harry Potter’s longevity.
Madison avenue is also in a timid state of mind. All Kellogg wants is to encourage us to buy Frosted Flakes and Frosted Mini Wheats. But it recently ran into a buzz saw when their advertisements appeared on the Breitbart News Network, the right-wing organization formerly chaired by Stave Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and architect of the Muslim travel ban.
In fairness, the ad wasn’t placed by Kellogg, directly. As writers Craig Giammana and Gary Smith note, “Many marketers buy online advertising through third-party tech companies that distribute them widely across the internet,”) (Breitbart Advertisers Take Political Fire, Too,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 5-11, 2016 pg. 31.) Buyers don’t always know where their message was placed.
These days, customers tend to favor brands that line up with their political or personal viewpoints and if they are unhappy, they boycott, letting their opinions be read on social media. (Click) Marketing has become more than “getting the word out.” It’s destination has become part of the message.