One of the cool things about modern capitalism is how utterly patronizing and infantilizing it is. Ads are written in language that barely makes sense with the assumption that everyone reading them is a moron. You might therefore think that the advertisers are the morons, but no, it is you, somehow, who is the idiot!
Throw racial diversity into that grim machine, and you’ve got 100% pure American hell, baby. This morning, the music streaming service sent an email to its “Pandora for Brands” list with the subject line “Win the African American Vote in 2018!” The email and accompanying white paper—aptly-termed “The Advertiser’s Guide to Multicultural Audiences”—were obtained by Splinter. Both promise to teach advertisers “everything you need to know to market effectively to multicultural consumers.” (The white paper is also hosted on the service’s Pandora for Brands site and is available to download after signing up with your personal information.)
The email begins:
At Pandora, we’ve been celebrating Black History Month by shining a light on musicians who have and continue to make music history. 68% of Black Pandora listeners say music connects them to their culture. It is how they express their cultural identity and connect with one another. Campaigns looking to engage this audience and drive voter turnout can leverage Pandora to win.
Heck YES I love to leverage Pandora to win! Sign me up!!!
The email also contained some tips on reaching black listeners:
Feature “people from the African American culture or ethnicity,” said the human marketing person. But also “people from other cultures.” Bleep blorp.
The white paper itself, which can be read in full here, is essentially a guide to Other Races for advertisers, who by implication are assumed to be white and therefore only know about white people, based largely on survey data from Pandora. It contains a number of basic facts about black, Asian, and Latinx Americans—such as demographic and socioeconomic statistics, their “buying power,” and nations of origin—but also some straight-up weird shit that has to have been written by an algorithm.
For example, here is how it talks about black people, whom it also bizarrely refers to as “Black-Americans”:
Entrepreneurialism is one way this audience is bridging the gap in wealth. Black-owned businesses have increased 34.5% between 2007 and 2012. Most Black-owned firms make it a priority to hire from within the communities they serve, helping provide better income opportunities for other Black-Americans.
Black-Americans are young and connected as well, using technology even more intensely than their multicultural counterparts. For them, technology provides a way to express their cultural identity and broadcast issues that matter to their community.
Fascinated by new technology, Black-Americans are among the first of their friends to try a new device.
Then, perhaps worst of all (emphasis added):
Specifically, slavery had a lasting impact on family life for Black-Americans, as evidenced by 85% saying that family is what connects them most to their culture. Black families continue to exhibit a collectivist mindset, where multiple generations live in the same household and children learn to respect and care for their elders. Friends are often designated as “aunts,” “uncles,” “nieces” and “nephews” to provide the level of emotional, financial and psychological support the family needs.
Help me, I am dead.
In the absence of a distinct language, most Black-Americans lean on music to communicate and broadcast their cultural views and attitudes.
This sentiment was actually deemed useful and insightful enough to be a pull quote in the document, too:
Asian Americans also receive the MayoBot2000 treatment:
The dietary habits of many Asian-Americans reflect the unique food traditions from their country of origin. While some cultures see food as only a tool for sustenance, others see it as a way to experience refinement. The purpose of food among these cultures is pleasure, so a high degree of pride is taken in the preparation and eating. Asian-Americans are also more likely than other multicultural groups to eat all three meals a day with family members and more likely to enjoy a variety of foods in one sitting.
Asian American countries: the only countries where the food is unique and people enjoy it consuming it together.
Actually, no—apparently Latinx people also enjoy food??
Music and food have always played a central role in the Hispanic family dynamic, bringing the family together and helping maintain a sense of culture among younger generations. In fact, 72% of Hispanic millennial listeners on Pandora say they connect with their heritage most through music.
These listeners apparently ALSO like their families?? CITATION NEEDED:
Hispanic culture also puts high value on the extended family. U.S. Hispanics are more likely to lean on family members for emotional and economic support, in addition to supporting relatives who live outside the U.S. To further emphasize family values, it’s common for up to three generations to live in the same household or near each other, making it easy to come together for reunions and family gatherings.
The paper ends with these stirring concluding words:
Prioritizing digital and authentic connections across cultural touch points will be the secrets that unlock tangible results for any multicultural marketing effort. Pandora is here and ready to help with millions of active listeners and a range of data-driven, engagement-based targeting and ad solutions to make your message sing.
Prioritize “authentic connections across cultural touch points” to “unlock tangible results”—real human advice, issued by a living human. Splinter reached out to Pandora for comment and will update this post if and when we hear back.
Wow, we sure do live in hell. Distilling racial identities and history into bizarre generalizations, categories, and statistics for the purposes of selling laundry detergent and mattresses: capitalism at its finest.
You can read the full guide here: