Generations tend to define themselves by big events: the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger explosion, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc. These moments, unfortunately tragic, give people increased powers of memory to the point that they can remember the finite details of where they were, what they were doing, and even what they were wearing at the very moment of getting the news of something very big happening.
Too bad advertisers can’t brand those events. They’d get a big audience and lots of brand awareness. And no, people, I am not serious. No one wants “Hurricane Katrina, brought to you by …” Still, in an ever-shrinking mass-media world, I wonder if the thought has crossed the minds of those who like to see logos in lights.
I admit, as an ad guy, and lifelong student of mass media, I’m intrigued by how TV audiences are slipping, print media is disappearing, and a new trend in the decline of an old medium is announced every few weeks. For example, now that there are more cable channels than ever, fewer people are watching cable. Now that everyone has mobile phones, fewer people use them for talking (why, then, are they still called “phones”?). Even email sites—yes, email—recently reported a decline in membership and use. Facebook is reworking its email functionality to be less like email and more like texting.
So is that where everyone is? On their phones, texting? Is texting the new Seinfeld? Well, sort of. Smaller media is more personal, more intimate, and far more entertaining than most of what’s on TV. Think about it. Why watch a show about six bumbling “friends” when Facebook can do pretty much the same thing, but with everyone you know? The numbers prove it, too. How many hundreds of millions of people are on Facebook versus how many watched The Big Bang Theory last week? Do I even need to look up the numbers?
Apple got it right when it affixed the letter “i” to its latest products. iPod, iPad, iTunes…whatever comes next will be very much personal, customizable, and desirable to an audience of one. Thus, the state of mass media in 2011.
That is, until the Super Bowl. Then, it’s back to dancing monkeys to entertain as many people as possible in an attempt to sell stuff—at least for the duration of one big event.