Monday, March 17, 2008

Very slow deaths

I've posted earlier about the non-death of focus groups, but I've recently visited some old industry friends who are scattered along the streets of various cities and it alerted me to the fact that many of us our making a lot of presumptuous claims of early deaths. Most significantly of advertising itself. So many people have been saying that advertising (by which they mean usually TV or mass advertising) is dead in so many different ways (here's a book; here's a blog) that it might come as a shock if you turn up in at a creative boutique in LA or NYC and see a bunch of clever people in cool t-shirts making a living by making television ads.

Now the evidence is pretty strong that more marketers are channeling relatively more money into digital marketing and relatively less into traditional broadcasting mediums, but does that constitute death or merely the winnowing of the crop. Perhaps it will be good news in the sense that it will only leave the shops capable of making really good ads (re: creative and effective) standing.

Nor is it necessarily the case that masters of the old media fade into obsolescence. There are plenty of examples of solid novelists who churned out equally good screenplays (Faulkner, McMurty, Ephron) adapting their craft to the demands of the new media and I suspect there will be an equally strong handful of so-called traditional creatives who will find new playgrounds for their skills on the internet.

Which got me thinking about other premature calls of death: like the customary U.S. system of measurement. It seems that I first learned the metric system in grade school under dire threats that our beloved but inefficient units (those charming inches and feet and gallons) would soon be disappearing. And that was decades ago.

All new media routinely proclaims the death of the previous dominant media (radio, movies, television, cable, Tivo, the internet) while the evidence is pretty strong that we prefer to supplement rather than replace.

The running boom, as well, was proclaimed dead, back in the early 90's as mountain biking, triathlons and other forms of endurance exercise seemed to capture the public imagination, but those applications for the NYC marathon keep increasing.

Cultural prominence fades or priorities shift, but true cultural death? That can take a very long time indeed.

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