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Ad Greats on Social Media

The advertising greats who dominated Madison Avenue in the 1950’s and 1960’s left the industry an incredible legacy. Among the assets passed down and still passionately referenced are their quotes. Taken in the aggregate these bon mots represent key philosophies of business and communication. It is amazing how timeless these musings and lessons remain. Yet, much has changed in the practice of delivering compelling communications.

“Advertising” is too confining a label, consumers play an ever increasing role in how brands define themselves, technologies proliferate at ever greater speeds and we are firmly in the grip and promise of social media. This led me to wonder what the leaders of Madison Avenue would think about social media. So I combed through their thoughts to find relevance and application.

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Social Media is a Thief of Joy

“Comparison is a thief of joy.” So said Teddy Roosevelt. The man was always good for a quick, incisive quote. In this case, he could have been referring to social media. The purpose of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other platforms have become much different from what was originally promised.

When social media appeared it was expected to deliver two different things. The first was to create democratic vehicles for the sharing of original, entertaining and valuable content. Sharing is definitely going on but most agree that the content is largely vacuous and self-serving. The few good bits are spread to the point of saturation and irritation.

The second promise was that social media would prompt earnest and real dialogue. That it would be a true exchange. That too has fallen short. It has become a broadcast tool where simplistic buttons are avatars for real conversation. A happy or sad icon is not a discussion or an accurate reflection of true thought and emotion. We are ‘clicking’ our way out of the effort of communications and relationships.

Where social media has ended up should come as no surprise. After all, it leverages human behaviors that have existed for centuries. Yet, it makes worse our worse behaviors. Pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed show up when we post, share, comment and click. They are certainly in evidence when we compare our life to another.

The fact is, we all wear masks. No one can be their truest self all the time or even in short doses. This begins every morning when we look in the mirror. Our image gets a little distorted and by the time we face the public, a mask or two has been affixed in place. We do the same thing on social media. Our profiles and posts are a deliberate and calculated curation of an idealized image we wish others to see and believe (and what we wish could actually be).

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The Welcome Return of McLuhanacy

Professor Marshall McLuhan is a fascinating fellow. His notable ideas: “the medium is the message” and “the global village” continue to inform and to prompt debate regarding their real meaning. Pundits argue that McLuhan predicted the World Wide Web thirty years before it was invented. His ideas covered metamedia, media ecology, figure and ground media, tetrad of media effects, and hot and cool media.

Born in Edmonton, educated in Winnipeg, and notable while a Professor at the University of tumblr_lmoz8xyPe11qais7sToronto, McLuhan passed away in 1980. He was a celebrity intellectual and as The Globe and Mail points out, “For most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s, McLuhan seemed to be everywhere – on radio, in print, in film (most notably with a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall) and especially on television. The latter, ironically, was a medium he considered pernicious, a certain harbinger of the eventual demise of print culture. He distilled his genius, including phrases that became and remain part of the daily lexicon, such as ‘the medium is the message,’ into sometimes puzzling aphorisms, an early form of the sound byte.”

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