When everything moves fast, we ever put the brakes on again?
Last week, I was at a conference where the co-founder of a well-known agency was speaking on the tenets of his shop’s success. Among the lessons was this simple one:
And as a roomful of people were caught in a frenzy to instantly tweet that piece of advice, I wondered: Are we capable of slowing down? Not just in advertising or business, but in life?
Being more deliberate in our jobs and our lives is easy to wish for, but hard to do.
In advertising, we see it in our clients’ ever-accelerating demands. They know we can change a layout within minutes. The old “make the logo bigger”? Every client knows you can change a logo, a layout, or some copy instantly. So what’s the problem? Do it already! Never mind if it was a deliberately thought-out request, or if it’s truly the best solution. Decisions get made in haste these days, for better or worse.
Even within an agency, unless the process allows for time, instant reaction becomes habit-forming. I once worked at an agency that did a lot of quick-turnaround retail ads. Not an unusual or unmanageable situation. But one day, a work order appeared with the words “HOT” on top. And the next day, another one appeared with “HOT” written on it. Soon, it became a pattern. The traffic managers and AEs knew that if they wrote that, the job would get done faster. But like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” once every job was a hot job, then none of them really were.
We live in an instant gratification age, and technology creates the expectation that nearly anything we want can, and should, happen rapidly.
In a sense, we’re rewiring our brains to accommodate the technology. Recently, a video made the rounds showing a toddler who swipes and pinches at a paper magazine, thinking it’s an iPad. Of course, she doesn’t know any better. Babies respond to visual and tactile stimuli as they learn to explore the world, and in that sense an iPad provides an experience the way an old See ‘n Say would.
What’s different now, I suspect, is that the toddler has an expectation of technology-related interactivity nearly everywhere. Heck, so do I. Not long ago, I found myself perusing the iPad Vanity Fair issue, pinching and scrolling in vain at many of the ads to give me some of the interactivity I expected. (And I’ll testify that it’s very disappointing to see a static full-page print ad recreated on an iPad.)
Perhaps we’ve done our jobs too well. We’re conditioned to expect an instant response from the world these days: instant shopping and payments, instant customer service, and instant entertainment. Anything less makes the brands that can’t provide those things seem inferior.
But when the speed of life and business speeds up, we lose our patience with everything. My handwriting was never particularly clear, but now it’s pretty much illegible. Why? Because my mind is now several steps ahead of my wrist: I’m obsessed with finishing the writing motions as quickly as possible. I’m in a rush to get on to my next task.
Is there any stopping this increased frenetic pace? Even new marketing principles reflect this. It’s now a common refrain for marketing gurus to say, “Just get it out there and perfect it later,” particularly when it comes to digital initiatives. But the wrong idea, or an unfinished one disseminated too quickly, can backfire on a brand.
If we're really living in a permanently sped-up world, soon we won't know another way to live. I don’t know if we can teach patience. I don’t know if our clients and businesses can relearn to appreciate the art of thinking before leaping. I don’t know whether consumers will appreciate waiting even a minute longer for anything when they expect it immediately. I don’t know whether people will regain the simple joy that comes with taking the time to be deliberate about work, play, or life.
All I know is, contrary to the agency co-founder’s advice, nothing seems to be slowing down. And we all have to move on to the next thing. Starting right now.
Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small.
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