April 02, 2012

Stimulation Nation

We are addicted to stimulation.

Every bar has nine TVs going at all times. Every commuter is wrapped in an iPhone-induced cocoon of digital music, chat, or games. Every couch potato is checking his Facebook page while watching American Idol. Every retail store has music playing and screens fluttering. Every sporting event is a non-stop parade of videos, promotions, and giveaways. Every movie is a hysterical spectacle of explosions, fire-breathing monsters, gunplay, and sex.

The stimulation is unrelenting.

We are so immersed in stimulation that when it ends we feel uncomfortable. It is no longer possible to vacation in quiet. Every resort swimming pool has pop music pumped in. Every hotel room has a huge flat screen.

A great deal of this stimulation is supported and amplified by advertising. Everywhere we turn, there is advertising. You can't swing a dead account planner without hitting some. In addition to flooding all our traditional channels of communication, advertising has now saturated all our new media.

Against this background of constant stimulation and advertising overload we have the persistent chirping of new age marketing wizards and web hustlers.

First they told us that advertising was dead. When that observation proved to be astonishingly stupid they came up with another dubious premise to justify their unremitting defense of the Divine Church Of The Internet. It goes something like this...
"The demise of in-your-face marketing and advertising is close at hand, to be replaced by...a form of advertising that depends on 'many lightweight interactions over time.' "
This nonsense (which I have quoted before) comes from a big shot at Facebook.

It is a tidy bit of verbal sleight-of-hand that accomplishes two objectives at once. First, it subtly acknowledges the dirty little secret that anyone with eyes can see, but no one wants to say out loud -- that the Internet has thus far been a weak advertising medium. But it cleverly tries to make the preposterous case that this weakness is actually a strength -- that web advertising (specifically, content marketing and social media) are more effective because of their low impact.

There's only one problem with this lovely little fantasy -- it is entirely without basis in fact. Where are the dominant brands that have been built with "many lightweight interactions over time?"

Where's the beer, or the airline, or the fast food joint, or the pick-up truck, or the cell phone, or the hotel chain, or the yogurt, or the sneakers, or the soda, or the car insurance, or the bank, or the...am I boring you?... that have been built with web-centric "lightweight interactions?"

I, too, would love to believe that there is a quieter, less frantic, more serene world in which subtlety and delicacy will carry the day. But where the hell is the evidence?

The evidence is all in the other direction. We are a culture that is hooked on stimulation. We like our stimulation loud and we like it in hi def.

The idea that the Internet has somehow cured consumers of this addiction is a juvenile amalgam of fairy tales and baloney.

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