How often have you heard people lamenting ‘well, everything’s changed – things are so different now…’ as if life as we know it is now virtually unrecognizable?
And it’s perhaps the advent of digital communications and media that have left marketers particularly susceptible to ‘everything’s changed’ syndrome, calling for sometimes overly complex, multi-layered strategies and solutions to help sell their wares.
But are things really that different? And are things now so complicated that we should really be stressing about originality and creativity? Or have we talked ourselves into an evolutionary myth?
Well, just as poor old Nessie – AKA the Loch Ness Monster – appears to be as popular today as she was when her picture appeared back in 1934, the legend lives on and – would you believe it – that fake news story was an early fake news monster of slightly different – but equally epic – proportions.
As rudimentary as it may have been, advertising has been around in since the 15th century when flyposting first began appearing in Europe.
As things eventually evolved, the first official newspaper ads began appearing in the Boston News-Letter in 1704. The first large format poster appeared in New York in 1835. The first radio ad aired on August 28th 1922 for the Queensboro Corporation, advertising a new apartment complex. And the first television ad aired on Canada Day, 1941 for Bulova watches.
And so it was, in 1994, some four hundred years after the first fly-posting ads appeared, AT&T posted the first digital banner ad online to augment their 1993 ‘you will’ campaign:
Sure, we’ve now got all sorts of digital ad formats, media channels and sneaky product placements, but is advertising and the intent behind it really that different?
But what about everything else?
While you may not be smashing your alarm clock over its bells every morning nowadays, you’re likely still shutting off a phone alarm of some description, having your dog’s wet nose stuffed in your face to get you to let it out, hearing the kids screaming for attention or cursing the garbage truck for its early morning pick-up.
You’ll probably still make a cup of coffee, munch down on some cereal, look at or listen to some news in one form or another, brush your teeth, use deodorant, run out of toilet paper (at a most inconvenient moment), and depending on whether it’s hot, cold, wet or dry outside, put on something that doesn’t look completely unrecognizable from thirty or forty years ago.
Wherever you happen to be going, you still have to get from a to b. And whether that’s walking, taking a bicycle, which has been around since 1817, a train, which has been around since 1839, the subway, which has been around since 1863, a car, which has been around since 1886, or need to jump on a plane – the first of which flew in 1903 – chances are your mode of transportation is not going to be completely revolutionary.
If you’ve got cash in your pocket (and most of us still do), remember that coins have been around since 600BC when they were created by King Alyattes in Turkey. Bank notes first appeared in 1661AD, the first Diners charge card in 1950 and the first American Express card in 1958. And while we’re about it, Monopoly has been around since 1935.
Our society still requires doctors, hospitals, nurses, schools, exams, school holidays, public holidays and (unfortunately), politicians who frequently appear to be barking mad.
We still require human interaction that often results in laughter and / or tears. We still read books which have now been around for a thousand years. It may not be a harpsichord, but we still listen to music and chances are that’s going to include a piano guitar, violin, trumpet and / or other musical instruments that have been around for centuries.
In truth, everywhere we look things aren’t that different. Sure, the buildings may be taller, but the people in them aren’t that different – and neither are their basic needs, wants and desires.
We still buy groceries, make lunch, make dinner, drink wine and think ‘good God, things have changed from ten years ago…’ We’ll then walk the dog, feed the cat, water the plants, kiss our loved ones good night, and lie down to go to sleep. Just like our parents, our grandparents, and their parents before them.
Sure things may be much bigger or much smaller, much cheaper or much more expensive, more complex or much simpler, but they’re not that different.
And if you’re still stressed about change, remember Cher is still singing. And death and taxes will always be constants – no matter how much we think things may have changed.
Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent.