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Could not agree more Paul.

As someone who has been in the business since the days of the two-floppy hard drive, I am always amazed at how many "social media ninjas" discover (not all that) old truths and report on them as if they'd first discovered them. A while back I did a post on how much of what was new is actually old (not worth dredging up the link) but even things like UGC had a previous life as "write the tagline for Puffy's cereal" contests in the 1950s and 60s. And yet to hear some of these people talk about it, you'd think it was a brand new idea.

Now the old guard reactionaries who'd love the internet to just disappear already are probably worse, but the complete lack of any knowledge of what came before them only serves to hobble the social media crew.

Though it does make guys like me and you a lot more valuable.

I am fascinated how instant everything is now. Sometimes things feel more like conversations (twitter), where other things (blogs, facebook) seem to feel more voyeuristic or one-sided. I see that there is an immense opportunity to educate and connect with social media, but I also fear we lose the element of real, face-to-face daily interactions. I worry that my computer wasn't designed to stay on this long.

A few weeks ago Merry Baskin paid us a visit here at the University of Oregon. After our week with Merry came to a close, the school gifted all participating students with their own copy of, A Master Class In Brand Planning: The Timeless Works of Stephen King. I have just begun, but the premise of the book seems to do just what you are talking about- remind us where we came from, what has already been and what our purpose is.

In what ways can young people shift their focus towards finding more value in history, while also staying current with evolving technology? Sometimes my head spins with all we are expected to know and learn. It's not about being good at a few things anymore, it's about challenging yourself to be good at everything- multiplatformed is a daunting term of endearment these days.

You mention the short-term lifespan of thinking ahead in business and this is something that scares me, especially with advertising- how can we promote long-term thinking in our work? How do you work to challenge clients with this kind of thinking?

We are not made to look far ahead. We can plan, but we are bad at prognosis. We are intuitive, but intuition is derived from our experiences of the past and what we derived as consequences or learnings.
We love Instant Gratification. We want it now and not in a few weeks. We learned that we do not need to perform above average to be rewarded above average.
We just work by rules of thumb because we cannot remember details. Too complex for our ancesters, too complex for us now.
We love rules, so we do not need to think.
We stopped being wise, we stopped using common sense.

... and, yes, we could do so much better. But we will have to start almost from scratch, I fear.

The Long Now Foundation, which you're probably familiar with, is precisely dedicated to alleviating stuckness in the now. i.e. to expanding the meaning of now. they build millennial clocks and write dates with five digits instead of four (02009) and do other fascinating things:

http://www.longnow.org/about/

that said, it is of course also dangerously possible to get stuck in the past and future. hence the value of meditation and present mindfulness in general.

furthermore, I find value in discovering things on my own, even if they've been discovered before me. actually, it sometimes takes discovering things on my own (...i.e. making mistakes) to make me appreciate what was discovered before me, and give me the patience to dive into it - so as not to, as you write, "spend our time having to relearn things we could have avoided by looking past the now."

I think I just went in circles, but that's kinda the point.

the opposite of long-term thinking may be short-sightedness, but the complement to long-term thinking may be present-orientedness. we can alternate between these complements, and embed them within each other, as we cycle along through the same seasons yet different years...

Awesome. I just tweeted "using words like 'everyone' in a blog post can quickly show how sheltered we are" and then saw this post which fits that same vein (in my mind anyway).

Lots of noise, scrambling for the next story. It's gross...and unnecessary. Thanks for a good post.

Nice post, good thoughts.

rewrite, save over, rewrite–with no tangible results worth evaluating in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of others.

I'd hate to loose history... it might run away and get unruly.
;)

Hi Paul,
I happen to agree with you (that the Age of Now seems unwilling, or feels it is unhelpful, to look at history).

However, in the interest of keeping this interesting topic going, let me throw out a possible counter argument:

Humankind never seems to learn from its past. We seem to be turning the other way while Natzi-like ethnic-cleansing is going on in northern Africa. Even though our nation went through a Great Depression, our recollection of history didn't keep us from making the same mistakes again. And now, there is much debate about how best to emerge from this downturn -- even though we essentially have a blueprint for it.

Another alarming trend that compounds the problem is the re-writing of history. Political figures are on TV saying that President Franklin D. Roosevelt (F.D.R.) caused the Great Depression, even though the run on the banks occurred in 1929 – three years prior to his taking of office.

Wikipedia, the incredibly handy online encyclopedia, is also ripe for history re-writing abuse. Here the facts they publish are based on the most widely agreed to beliefs. In other words, “truth” is based on popularity rather than an examination of facts. With one billion Muslims in the word, one can imagine a day when the Holocaust is reported as conjecture and not a recorded event in history.

So maybe the Now is what we really have to work within. And for those of us who see the value in history, rather than reference it, we may have to find a way to learn from it, but make our arguments completely about the Now.

Just something to think about.

Paul,

This theme has been on my mind a lot lately, both as something that has inspired new practices among our staff but also as something that has created an anxiety that seems to be ever present among our colleagues and clients. There are a few blog posts I’ve written in the past few months that I think might resonate:

http://tinyurl.com/cqc4y3
http://tinyurl.com/c72uva
and especially http://tinyurl.com/crkomj

If you happen to listen to the presentation I linked you to (the second link), you’ll hear me tell a story at our most recent company retreat about how I slipped, hit my head, and lost a week and a half of memory. Aside from the fall itself, the real shock was how I was so easily able to piece together that lost time from emails, calendar data, blog posts, Facebook, etc. It was truly surreal to be inundated with evidence yet have no memory of those experiences. But aside from the loss of memory, there was no other loss- it had little to no impact on my life since I had created such a trail of data. When I read this quote:

“‘… I also feel that we’re loosing history - that is to say that, by constantly documenting everything we do, or everything that happens - that the life span of history has become nothing more than ‘2 minutes ago from the web’. That frightens me. I don’t know why it does, but it does,’”

I’m right back there to my week of amnesia.

Anyway, profound thoughts. Thanks,

Chris

...by the way, I found your blog after reading you quoted by Josh Chambers at Viget Labs (http://www.viget.com/engage/timeless-marketing-advertising1/). Posted pretty much the same comment there, too.

Very insightful. Particularly the point about losing history.

Hi Paul, You've hit several of my own passion points in this post. I don't have a traditional advertising/ creative / planning background and perhaps that is why I feel even more strongly about this. I believe that innovation and creativity and pushing the envelope have their place, but what truly defines a successful strategy?
As a strategist and an entrepreneur, I am personally tired of convincing my clients of the engagement, the conversation and the buzz value - waht about the good old sales? What about meeting the bottom-line?
Agreed, we are working with newer problems, but the focus is not on long-term value creation anymore.

At a recent industry conference, I was very disappointed that while the panels talked about new ideas and new businesses, it never approached the subject of business models and the results. How good is an idea, a social media plan or a kickass marketing strategy without the numbers backing it up?

To your point about losing history - completely agreed. I find these so-called social media gurus and digitalites unable to compute information and process it. It is about the now, instant gratification - and unfortunately, while it may move the needle in the short term - its not creating long-term value.

I think you'll find this post I wrote interesting. http://jinalshah.com/2009/04/03/re-inventing-healthcare/

Paul,

First, thanks again for stopping by MCAD to speak with the students. Very insightful and generous of you.

I'm not sure it's possible to stop progress, unless you consider a path written by Vonnegut. As a species, we seem wired towards "advancement," even if it does us no good in the long run.

I feel two contradictory emotions for the advertising and marketing students just starting out. On the one hand, so much more potential for expression than I had starting in 1992. On the other, too many options! Not enough focus!

This coming fall I'm scheduled to teach Copywriting (huge emphasis on Gossage, of course). In a way, it's a 180 from The Future Of Advertising. But I like the contrast. And I think I prefer more options than fewer, when it comes to the bigger themes discussed in this (as-always) thoughtful post of yours.

History is what we choose and labor to remember.

Tim

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