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There are also anxiety and 'failure' ads where executives choose the wrong technology brand. Lurking at the edges of these ads is an ominous corporate authority. Making the wrong decision unleashes his/its wrath (feared absent authority is not given female representation). Even when the authority is unseen, it is experienced as male. Films like Office Space and Fight Club capture the relationship of hierarchy, the absence of autonomy, and the fantasy of transcendence often expressed as revenge. IBM runs a series of commercials in which middle management professionals live in fear of senior executives and their decisions.

An IBM campaign from 2001 plays on fears of downsizing and offers its own technology as the solution. Entitled "The Axe," one commercial takes place in a darkened office. Silhouetted against a view of other corporate towers a corporate CEO and a technical operations executive converse. The title, tone, and dialog suggest that the CEO is about to fire this managerial executive who both expects to be fired and has already meekly accepts his fate. This anticipation reflects the volatile nature of the economy and the corporate labor market. However, his real anxiety begins when he is not fired and is given a task beyond his technical abilities. But just as zit cream alleviates adolescent social phobia, IBM claims to eliminate technophobia.

CEO: These things are always difficult.
Manager: I understand.
CEO: Because of the merger we now have
two of everything including two CIOs, you and Phil. You know I only need one guy.
Manager: I understand.
CEO: Yet we still have the hairiest integration project ever. With servers, storage, databases, it needs the right guy.
Manager: I understand.
CEO: You're the guy.
Manager: I'm the guy?
Female voiceover: And that's when it hits you.
You are so ready for IBM.
Manager: What about Phil?
CEO: Oh, he volunteered for some job in Paris.
Manager: Paris?

In a business world being overhauled by information technology, choosing the right technology solution is cast as a primary factor standing between success and failure. "Whether it's hardware, software, or service, it's your worst nightmare: Buying technology from a company that goes 'poof.'" As an executive sits alone at a bar, he reminisces about the fate of his company and his career.

Executive: Three years and a hundred million dollars putting in software for just-in-time manufacturing
Bartender: Yeah, so?
Executive: The world's biggest most profitable manufacturer just moved to something called flow manufacturing.
Bartender: Switch to flow.
Executive: I can't. One hundred million dollars and my software doesn't support it
Bartender: So, uhhh, what's up with what the big guys use?
Narrator: Oracle. The world's second largest software company is the first with integrated flow manufacturing applications.
Executive: Big guys. I used to be a big guy.

Music provides a low drone in the background while the depressed exec slumps over the bar eating nuts and the bartender refills his drink. No mountains to climb for this guy, just lonely alcoholism. Even a woman in a red dress at the bar ignores him as she does some paperwork.

One does not necessarily choose a specific technology but a corporate brand. Keep in mind that these commercials are about corporate branding as much or more than specific product offerings. The world of technology changes too rapidly. To associate with a specific product or information technology is often too complicated to understand. Instead jargon catch-phrases, such as bandwidth, networking, B to B, and flow manufacturing are used as generalized abstracted short hand that disguises lack of knowledge and the anxiety associated with it. We should also note here that some firms now recognize how alienating high-tech jargon can bed, and hence produce ads that joke about jargon (e.g., 3COM).

Ads aimed at executives often focus on technological and organizational decisions. Either the technology seamlessly integrates into an organizational structure or it transforms the organizational structure so it can adapt to a techno-economic environment. As a genre these commercials create an atmosphere of anxiety associated with accelerating technological change. Organizational flexibility is celebrated as a necessary style to survive in a market economy that rewards speculative success. Nothing is static: the organization, the economic environment, nor the career trajectories of the players. You are either going up or down.


New Economic Formations
Commodification
Social Relations of Production
Information Economy

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey