In the real advertising world, as portrayed on “Mad Men” and on Madison Avenue, advertising is glamorous, even romantic and seductive and often subliminally so. Advertising is so wired into our ephemeral psyche, that we discuss it with great aplomb. Most noticeably during the Super Ball spectaculars, or over some lurid ads meant to titillate, you find one group or another holding court on the topic with only paid advertising as evidence. And just as we seem to reflect on choosing movies, and other entertainment, based on how well they do at the box office, we expect and enjoy a great ad. Even the surreal announcements on the news of the box office numbers are meant to, and do, give some a kind of pleasure that is difficult to explain at times. Even the sight of flashing monitors, and droning audio ads, at every conceivable turn, constantly selling us stuff we really don’t want, is accepted with a sort of national pride.
Back in the late sixties and early seventies, if you worked in advertising, in New York City, you probably spent your summer weekends at one of the beaches east of Manhattan Island. The Hamptons, or Fire Island and it’s many tiny communities, like Ocean Beach or Ocean Bay Park or even Davis Park, all within a one hour train ride, or a two hour car drive, were all invested in and to some extent owned by the well paid advertising crowds that gathered for longer and longer weekends the closer you got to Labor Day. On the beaches, those days, you could almost predict someone’s status or for which agency folks worked by the book they carried or read behind their Foster Grants or Holly-Go-Lightly sunglasses. If you were seen with a paper back copy of Rosemary’s Baby, you were approached differently than say if you were carrying a hard copy of McLuhan’s “Understanding Media.” At the Hampton’s beach clubs, guys with Bronx accents actually wore blasers and tattersall slacks and penny loafers. Every one smoked too much, drank too much and my friend Jeff Stein, a fantastic art director, became the first person to successfully sue a major agency for aiding his alcoholism. The advertising neaveau riche took themselves very seriously in those days.
My favorite advertising book from that period was Wilson Bryan Key’s “Subliminal Seduction” which promised to explain, “some of the things you should know in order to defend yourself against media rape.” Other provocative titles like “From the folks who gave us Pearl Harbor” with colorful characters like Jerry Della Femina attempted to describe what eventually happened to US manufacturing and other business with absolutely no culpability for advertising. Risk became a strategy for many guys who went on to fame and fortune. Icons were being challenged, and iconoclasts were rising stars. Advertising books these days don’t presume to remind us of how, like chickens, we follow pretty much the same sort of pecking order in how we choose our appearance and that we are as vulnerable to star power today as we were back in the halycyon days of the sport of advertising. Business-to-business advertising today is different because the process has radically changed the way technology is adopted.
But do we want to rely on those same consumer sentiments to make major technology decisions?
The advertising that our careers and livelihood depends upon, today, must be given a fair share of the discussion. You may casually, even unconsciously, accept the ads for toothpaste and the insipid beer ads depicting young men, and now women, as dogs sniffing around a stranger for an alcoholic beverage. Do you demand a different consciousness from ads that might make, or break, your career? After a lifetime of disseminating information for technology buyers, it’s hard to call what works best for you, today, and what you all want to see and what may come next. Since we adopted the current online techniques for providing information to software and tech buyers, and directing them towards sellers, things seem pretty streamlined. Now we are challenged to complete the cycle by getting the buyers to stay in the loop and provide the contextual expertise to bring more value to the experience. Fortunately, there is a group of specialists – a growing group – who want to make sure decisions are made correctly.
Social networking has opened the book again for us and now is asking us how we might incorporate the blog and comment channels to bring value to the technology business consumer. In Prem Kumar’s latest ScorpFromHell piece: “Context is queen, especially for Social CRM” he reminds us that context is the glue that makes all this peripheral noise make sense.
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If we are to find our own way to present top level technology information for critical decision-making, along side all the tributaries delivering the online noise to your desktop, context indeed will be the key to success. Over the last six months we’ve tried to attract as much talent as possible to make a guest appearance and talk about their business. We’ve been extremely fortunate and and are extremely thankful to Zen Kishimoto, Bronwyn Johnson, Drazen Drazic, Mark Tamis, Mark Townsend and all our talented guest bloggers. This is a group of folks with much to contribute and we hope to help them all get their messages heard in the next year and do so in the context that is most appropriate. We want to especially thank Alex Williams for helping us get this off the ground and the NetHawk team and Hardik Mehta for their undying patience and ingenuity. These are some brave visionary folks and I salute them as the next generation of Internet communications’ leaders.
The next steps depend upon our community and what you want to help make your work easier and your life a little bit more fun. How can social networking help you? Because you have used many of the forums and online services to discuss problems you have or developmental discussions about particular applications or devices you own, we’d like you to consider sharing information on the decision-making process and how working as a team or with selected members, you can get all the answers you want and more. We think using the social networks that share similar projects, similar goals, are the best folks to network with on purchasing decisions. What do you think?