August 26, 2003
360 Degrees of Howard Safir (The Price of Tea in China)


In the movement towards the market-state and the metanational corporation, a lot of companies are developing new limbs and fingers, in order to do things they've never done before. White-collar work is getting outsourced, and things like the intricacies of Chinese currency are beginning to be understood (and hyped) as having something to do with all that unemployment here at home.

But the lost jobs and manufacture, goes the logic, are the price of a globalized marketplace. Dell can sell its computers anywhere, because they are made everywhere (including the invisible juridical-market-state.) Cheap labor makes cheap product, and cheap product can be sold anywhere, including the consumer-confident United States.

As these products and brands grow metanational, however, they are behaving in ways that may not remind us of how they did. Things get complicated; a cough drop is mislabeled “fuck” for the german market or other marketing problems of language or culture. Megacommunication problems have simply spawned megacorporations to solve those problems.

The Omnicom Group is one of those megacorporations. Omnicom is the holding company for three of the top 10 advertising agencies in the world. They also own a bunch of other big agencies, as well as the megaglobal media buying agency OMD. Their Diversified Agency Services (DAS) includes three of the biggest PR agencies in the world: Fleischman Hillard, Ketchum and Porter-Novelli. If you check out the Omnicom DAS website, they're not kidding: there are a lot of Omnicom companies you still don't know.

Because there are complexities. I'm talking about how complex global brands live outside traditional borders, and the protections that those borders provide. Whether that's in ether or on the sea, there are places where brands are in a wild west of the west: there is a different kind of intelligence to gather, a different kind of risk to manage. I am not speaking abstractly.

Think the DeBeers corporation and how it operates in the world, that's an obvious and extreme example. But there are much more subtle and pervasive ones. Which is why there are more guns for more hire, in general. Conflict is increasingly outsourced, from the Slomin shield to, for example, DynCorp. The acquisition of DynCorp by an IT company, one could argue, makes an old nation-state kind of sense. IT has always been an extension of military technology, and it's more a reunion than a blind date.

But ”demand for the corporate security industry's services goes beyond the immediate threat of violence.” We've been talking since the commercial internet that how a brand behaves is what a brand is. Think Enron, or Global Crossing, from whose converted bankrupt offices I write this. Think Martha Stewart, and how the brand affected the magazine -- Unilever's spend in 2002 was around a million, and this year, almost nothing) “Security” is now part of the perception business.

What does all this have to do with the controversial xNYPD Commissioner Howard Safir, and whatever happened to him? For one thing, he started Safir-Rossetti. Safir-Rossetti is in the business of “security, investigation, and intelligence.” Which is fair enough, they brought us the Res-Q-Line, some kind of Acme Corp. assemblage we are to use if, say, a 737 passenger jet comes through our ex-Global Crossing window. That kind of level-headedness under extreme conditions is what Safir is used to.

All of which is a long winded logical proof, I hope, because the point is that of all those Omnicom companies you still don’t know, Safir-Rossetti is one of them. Because it was less than two months after 9/11 that Safir-Rossetti became part of Omnicom, a “global leader in marketing and communications.” Making Omnicom the first communications firm to understand (and model) their business to include “security, investigations and Intelligence.” We are talking in euphemisms here, here are some of them: Travel Intelligence, Physical Security, Asset Recovery. Are these three of the 360 degrees of branding? Looks like it. So, I guess, were Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Dante Johnson, Anthony Baez, and Antoine Reid. All of them brought to you by.

(Extensive props to Dan and Jay, who brought chunks of this to my attention.)

Posted by kevin slavin at August 26, 2003 05:07 PM

from the Wash. Post

One multilateral institution that might not fare so well in a Dean administration, though, is the World Trade Organization. In what would be a radical departure, China and other countries could get trade deals with the United States only if they adopted "the same labor laws and labor standards and environmental standards" as the United States. Whether or not that demand was consistent with WTO rules? "That's right." With no concession to their relative level of development? "Why should there be? They have the right to have a middle class same as everyone else."

Dean says, "We've tried it" -- NAFTA, WTO -- "for 10 years, and has it succeeded? No. . . . What's the purpose of trade? If it's to create jobs, we haven't done that in America."

Posted by: dbrown on August 26, 2003 09:26 PM

hey kev, can you make these postings any longer?-thx, cary

Posted by: cary on August 27, 2003 11:06 AM

That's it. I quit. I'm taking my posts and going home.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on August 27, 2003 12:10 PM

shorter Kevin Slavin: The sky is falling.


Posted by: dbrown on August 27, 2003 02:54 PM

Speaking of outsourcing, the Republicans are moving some of their phone banks to India. Considering that New Jersey and other municipalities have hired contractors that hire Indians to man the phones for state welfare offices, I guess this shouldn't come as a shock. But how this stuff manages to slide right off Bush I'll never know. Remember that episode last January with the doctored "Made in China" boxes?

Posted by: carrie on August 27, 2003 03:05 PM
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