Friday, July 27, 2007

John Locke To Al Gore: Tech Changes, Advertising Remains

John Locke To Al Gore: Tech Changes, Advertising Remains
Posted July 24th, 2007 by Joe Marchese
In a piece in the New York Times by John Broder regarding Al Gore's intentions to leverage advertising to continue his crusade against global warming, Broder quotes Gore: "The way nations and societies make up their minds in the modern age has much more to do with mass advertising than many of us purists would like, but that's the reality."

This idea made me revisit one of my favorite philosophical passages, written by John Locke in 1678: "The principle spring from which the actions of men take their rise, the rule they conduct them by, and the end to which they direct them, seems to be credit and reputation, and that which at any rate they avoid is in the greatest part shame and disgrace."

After citing examples, Locke concludes: "He, therefore, that would govern the world well had need consider rather what fashions he makes than what laws, and to bring anything into use, he need only give it reputation."

I have always thought that the beauty of philosophy is its ability to reduce what consider common sense into artful phrases that set a baseline for dialogue. I can't imagine anyone in the advertising industry who hasn't considered it his or her job to bring a product or service into "fashion" or give their product or service "reputation." But how many times have you stopped to think that advertising is how we change the world? For better and for worse. From propaganda to patriotism (many times the two becoming dangerously entwined), various forms of advertising has shaped our history. The ability to formulate and communicate a message to the masses - from buying a product to voting in an election - will always be the means by which a culture shapes its future.

The ad industry needs to take stock of the massive potential shockwaves digital and social media will have on market shares and bottom lines. We should also consider the implications of how media and advertising shifts will affect the ability of our future leaders' to move us to take positions on important issues. More importantly, to take actions that will affect change - such as who those leaders are!

As thought leaders in digital and social media advertising, it valuable to determine how those messages will be directed in new mediums. What advantages do social media potentially afford issues that need more attention, but don't have the budget to buy mass media? My question is this: How can the fragmentation/democratization of media improve our ability to raise our cultural consciousness through advertising?

The biggest advantage positive messaging has is that it's a great product to work with in an environment which demands "pull" advertising. Remember, being innovative in your methods of advertising won't mean anything if you're not inspiring. We should remember that fear and hate can be just as powerful, and sometimes more powerful methods for motivating people to take action. Both utilize social media's unique attributes.

With inspiring cause in hand, wielding social media correctly can prove to be an amazing asset. You can follow any number of steps laid out by social media marketing thought leaders, such as engaging your audience to create your messaging, such as Gore's Create-an-Ad contest to fight global warming. Additionally, causes can leverage social media's ability to create dialogue to educate and provide access to information and interaction. Finally, social media has a way of keeping a message, whether it be for a product or a cause, in fashion. The message borrows the attributes of the medium through which it is delivered, although anyone who has watched the YouTube debates might argue against this.

I disagree with Gore; mass advertising has no more to do with how people make up their minds in the modern age than it did at any other point in our history. (If anything, "mass" advertising is loosening its vice grip on influencing culture.) Advertising is just a method for distributing messages to people that has reached a critical juncture - and that must be understood by "those that would govern." I think Gore's on the right track. OK, time for me to get off the soapbox. What do you think? What would you do to help your favorite cause leverage social media?

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