Apostolic Admen

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Apostolic admen

Why have all the popes of history approved of the extravagant and costly architecture of St Peter's Basilica and the thousands of other places of worship around the globe? Is not the poetic imagery of Christ - a man of sackcloth and sandals - enough to inspire, elevate, and hold the flock together? Why embellish the house of God with the same elaborate fixturing and materialistic luxuries as go inside a Cadillac automobile? How is the advertisement of the Side of an automobile which makes it look as spacious as a king's palace any more dishonest and less honorable than the false perspective which gives such grandeur to Michelangelo's frescoes on the Sistine ceiling? Certainly it cannot be said that their objectives are different. Both seek to influence an audience - and, perhaps to stretch a point, the ad man does it with considerably less pretension. The ad man seeks only to convert the audience to his commercial custom. Michelangelo seeks to convert its soul.

The so-called distortions of advertising, design, packaging, and even business lunches are as essentially central parts of all products as wheels are essential parts of cars, as imagery is essential to poetry, and as decorative robes are essential for the priestly professions. A practising clergyman without distinctive and appropriately opulent robes to set him apart from lesser mortals would suffer in authority, credibility, and promise as much as a vial of perfume designed by Frankenstein or an IBM machine designed by Rube Goldberg.

Nor, as we saw, is the PhD engineer exempt from the influences of elaboration. He needs as many outer artefacts to provide reassurance for what he buys for his laboratory as the undereducated lady in the kitchen. To call some of the devices and embellishments employed to provide this reassurance by the pejorative name that is so commonly used, namely,

is not just silly; it is a denial of the things men honestly need and value. If religion must be architectured, packaged, lyricized, and set to music in order to attract and hold its audience, and if sex must be perfumed, powdered, corseted, sprayed, and shaped in order to sustain itself, then how can we deny the legitimacy of more modest similar embellishments in such a lesser world as commerce? It is more than silty to refer to such embellishments as silty. It can, in fact, be an error that can be enormously costly in business.

A promotion, or a clever ad, or an arresting package, or an attractive control panel, or even an elaborate lunch - these are essential features of the product because without them little or nothing would be sold. If a product is something somebody buys, then if it is not bought it cannot be said to exist - at least not commercially. If people buy the product promises they believe in, then whatever produces and sustains these promises is inherent to these products.

To make the point another way, consider the case of a chemical manufacturer who provides his customers, for no additional cost, with considerable technical services. Without these services there is the presumption that lots of present customers would simply not have bought the product, and certainly not this supplier's product if his competitors were supplying such services

Nothing could be clearer than that the technical services are a central part of this company's product. Without them there would be no sales - certainly fewer sales. To suggest that they are peripheral to the generic product is not just to prefer a more limited or somehow a more tangible definition of what a product is: it is to make a grave error. The customer is trying to satisfy his needs, to solve a problem. Without technical services he either cannot solve it or does so at a greater cost to himself. Hence, technical services are part of what he buys The same is true of industrial design in milling machines, fancy battles in cosmetics, and the accounting firm's advertisements for itself via the publication of timely articles under the names of its principals.


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