Information is about relationships. Advertising is also about relationships, symptomatic of our cultural paradigms. Our concept of relationship is based on a 5,000 year-old model that is undergoing transformation.
I want to begin with a disclaimer. I do not intend to bash the media or genders. Our past history may some times seem sinful and in need of redemption. But blame and shame are serious limitations to progress. Personally, I see our process as evolutionary from human to more humane.
Advertisers and consumers have had a relationship like men and women in our culture. The male (advertiser) was expected to do the courting and the woman (consumer) was expected to act like Sleeping Beauty (or couch potato) and wait for someone interesting to come along. A customer with any discrimination could die in passivity while waiting for someone to offer something of value.
Well, it is now Sadie Hawkins Day in the media world. The customer is learning a little self-respect and is aggressively shopping for what she wants rather than what is offered up by the suitor. Consequently, she is snubbing uninvited, loud-mouthed, clowns who haven’t a clue.
Excuse me, is it a gender thing? Look at the early days of advertising, let us say, post World War II. Before technology provided a path into the suburban home (a woman’s domain despite the male castle fantasy), door-to-door salesmen (and they were all men until Mary Kay) would knock on the suburban door and the housewife would actually welcome the visitation, perhaps expecting flowers. Who can blame her for wanting the outside world to enter her cloistered tower. At least, in those days, salesmen were gentlemen with manners. Then, when the telephone, radio, and TV became a path to reach her (the consumer), she began to expect the world to come to her with bright lights, colors, and music to woo her attention and flatter her unashamedly.
Times change. “Sleeping Beauty” consumers are waking up. It is because consumers (as well as women) are becoming conscious of their basic human rights not to be seduced, manipulated, controlled, attacked, and raped by distasteful, intrusive, uninvited, abusive advertising.
I hope you get the message and I can now drop this gender metaphor and include us men in this story. It is not about gender, really. It is about passive, addictive consumers enabling a hierarchical, aggressive, competitive, dominator political and economic society. The Armchair Quarterback is a Sleeping Beauty, too. Boy-toy manufacturers do know how to woo the male ego. Wake up! You are not in control. Even with your remote TV control and virtual reality technology, it is just a Dream Team!
Maybe part of the evolution in consciousness has to do with technology empowering the individual with self determining information and entertainment acquisition. But the larger context is about control.
Our passive consumer market is changing into a truly consumer driven market. Nowadays, we, both men and women working in the world, have more need for privacy, seclusion, and safety at home and in our growing awareness of “personal space.” Still, telemarketers ring the phone at dinner time, the fax machine beeps, and 150 plus TV channels plug into our private space with varying social etiquette, if any manners at all. In self defense, we have to wake up and take control of our homes and our lives. So, we take the option for Caller ID and answer machines. We schedule our kitchen and bathroom trips for commercial breaks or sometimes turn the TV off to read a book or to surf the Internet on our home computer.
We are becoming more self determined in choosing what information we need and we are more willing to make the effort to find it. Technology helps. We insist that information, when it gets into our face, be relevant to our individual needs. We want to define the value, too. Marketeers, be aware! And be sensitive. We are not objects for your conquest! We will be equal and respected!
I really don’t have the print space or the patience to write about the statistics of the mass consciousness: how many people watch the commercials on TV versus how many are discriminating enough to turn it off, or how many “sleeping beauties” are waking up from victim consciousness. “It is blowing in the wind,” as Bob Dylan said.
Everybody is buying the new technology. Deals are being made and empires are being fought over in the world of telecommunications and information management. Corporate giants in all industries and even political parties are buying territory along the information highway, some thinking, with unchanged paradigms, that business will be as usual. If they are still expecting to invade our homes with dominator style, rape and plunder marketing strategies, they are in for a rude awakening themselves.
They will be surprised when Cyber Beauty slaps their face and sues for harassment as she says, “Get outta my face! It is my life and I will surf who I want to.”
In Part IV:Partnering for Intercourse or “Can we talk?”, we get down to learning a basic attitude for marketing and informing the population of the Internet as well as communicating in the corporate environment.
Originally appeared in the Script, the Houston Chapter MCA-I Newsletter, July 1995