The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Blast From The Past …
June 28, 2007, 7:15 am
Filed under: Comment

… yep, a carphone – as seen in a cab in Cannes.

Given we live in a World where everyone seemingly has a phone in their coat pocket – it was quite a shock to be reminded that once, mobiles used to be permanently attached to a particular space – but then we often forget about the advancements of technology until we see what we regarded as ‘next-gen’ next to what we use now.

Hell, I remember being ‘cutting edge’ when in the late 80’s, I had a ‘Rabbit Mobile’ … a phone that only worked when you stood next to a ‘signal station’ [most often found at Little Chef “Restaurants” on the M1] and could only make calls, not receive them.

What I find sad is that we have stopped appreciating ‘stuff’ … we live in a World of disposability and while we might get excited about things like R2D2 and iPhones, it tends to only last a short while before we are looking for the next big thing or improvement to impact our lives.

Without doubt companies play a big role in the development of this consumer attitude because they are constantly looking at what they can develop next [even if it is a small improvement on what has gone before] in a quest to achieve greater and greater profits … however I also think this ‘disposable materialism’ attitude is symbolic of an increase in the level of dissatisfaction we are having in life.

Dissapointment @ 25 Bday

Now I am not suggesting we’re all living lives of misery … but I do think a great many people feel they are not getting as much out of life as they thought they would / deserve / crave  – and this has quite possibly led to an increased focus on material possession as it helps validate or justify their existence and/or success. [perceived or otherwise]

I’ve written about this in the past [here, here and here] but an event that happened to me last Saturday, has affected me so deeply, I am questioning what I want, believe in and stand for – because I’ve realised how easy it is to never truly treasure what you’ve got.

I won’t go on as I am still formulating my thoughts – and I appreciate as a total techno-addict I am being rather hypocritical – but to me a ‘balanced life’ isn’t about finding a way to manage an equal level of work and play, it’s about finding a situation that ensures you appreciate an equal level of potential and reality and I can’t help but feel many people don’t live that way at all – mainly because the ad industry is fixated on selling ‘fear’ [as a strategy] because they believe it is the most effective way to generate short-term sales!

Unfortunately this all goes back to my point of too many people in advertising having brains, but not using them … but we’re aiming to put that right aren’t we, ha!

[I’m in Hong Kong tomorrow so I just want to wish you all a toptastic weekend!]

37 Comments so far
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so you wont be wanting the iphone we have for you then? someone else can have the fingerprint smudged electronic gizmo, i dont give a shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy, do you really have an iPhone for Rob? If he doesn’t want it, I’ll put myself out and take it off your hands. Rob, this is a wonderful post, I love the “disposable materialism” phrase as well as your definition of “balanced life” and I think you might be right regarding the drivers of consumption, but I think it is also influenced by the human desire to achieve more than your parents as well as an increase in both educational standards and perceived ease to achieve fame and fortune. It’s interesting though being in advertising, I think you have just officially opened Pandora’s box. 🙂

Comment by Pete

dear pete.
yes and fuck off.
love andy.

Comment by andy@cynic

If this was anyone else, I would say your experience last Saturday was the catalyst for this post but I know you have always felt this way about life and people so I can’t call you a hypocrite, even if you love technology like Elizabeth Taylor loves divorce. 🙂

Pete’s right, you have potentially opened Pandora’s Box but I think what you are saying has merit because the advertising industry has slowly driven people into an area of weakness and reliance even though they believe they are more empowered and confident than ever before.

Michael Moore covered a similar issue in his Bowling For Columbine film when he said the US news services tended to put the population in a state of fear which allowed them to be more easily “controlled” and while the ad industry isn’t as powerful (or clever) they have managed to put billions into a “state of edge” where they are constantly looking for the next thing that promises them the utopia of “life contentment” even though weeks later, there will be something else that says it can make them feel/look even better.

South Park did a great episode on this when one of the characters kept getting the “next big thing” in toys only to find his friends had already moved on to something better and cooler.

We are a society trapped in a bid to find happiness through materialism and while advertising and corporations have a lot to answer for, I think Hollywood and Television are one of the biggest influencers in “selling the dream”. I believe they are far more dangerous than advertising because with marketing, people still know in the back of their mind they are being “sold to” where in movies and TV, it is subtle programming to expect and want more, forgetting that these people are acting rather than living.

Aspirations and desires are wonderful things as they help people have a hunger to progress and follow their dreams, but when they are blinkered to what they already have, then that leads to a state of disatisfaction and my goal is to ensure I help nurture a World for my children where this “Life Balance” you talk about isn’t just spoken about, but embraced.

We have a lot to do to make this happen but as it will also help the environmental issue by cutting back on production and emissions, maybe others will help us in this area as well. Maybe. 🙂

Comment by George

Great post. And after George’s comment, I have nothing to say.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

good comment george, youre quite clever sometimes but i fucking hate those smiley things so im not going to waste my breath on your comment except to say i like the way you linked materialism into the environment problem. we should go the whole hog and make cynic an anti effective ad agency, but with the shit most agencies produce, we wouldnt be the first to that title would we? 🙂

that 🙂 was for mrs c

Comment by andy@cynic

iPhone? Did someone mention an iPhone???

I love your comments George and yes, I remember both the South Park episode you’re referring to AND the Michael Moore message.

There’s a great book in Oz called ‘AFFLUENZA’ which basically backs up your view that the visual entertainment industry is a lot more influential than advertising in driving societies materialism obsession … and they came out with this view that to most people in Australia, happiness is a flat screen TV, a new car and an extra 10k a year.

They also say that while most Australians talk about wanting more money spent on health and education, the real budget most Aussie households are worried about is whether they can afford a 50″ plasma television.

It’s a economics book laced with more cynisism that Geoff Burch could muster – which is probably why I like it so much, ha!

Comment by Rob

While this debate is all very intelligent and interesting, I HAVE A FUCKING IPHONE AND ITS FUCKING MAGIC! Thank you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Can I point out that the thought of you getting a free iPhone when I don’t, makes me physically sick!

Comment by Robert

You are going to be very ill then Rob, because all of our Apple team got given one. I just need to make sure my girls don’t feed it to their fishies like the time.

Can you send me that Affuenza book, it sounds wonderful. I’m actually seeing Geoff tomorrow so I’ll get his view on where he thinks society is heading and how much he believes it is influenced by corporation greed and mass entertainment channels. While I’m at it, I’ll try and get him to post his opinion on Gore, I am sure that will cause a flurry of activity on your blog 🙂

This is a really good post and maybe we should get Terri to do some real investigation into it, lets talk about it tonight. Right, I’m off to stare at my phone for the next 4 hours.

Comment by George

Thank you Fred for your compliment, but what do you think? Do you really agree and do you think it would be different if you didn’t have children?

Comment by George

Great post, & George, I really liked your comment. The whole concept of ‘disposable materialism’ is quiet scary as you see it grow. Countries that were once ‘developing’ are embracing the consumerist trend (as they have every right to)and this will have a big enviro impact.

Dubai is a really interesting part of the world to watch, it seems to be a culture of excess, and big is better. I see people going into debt to upgrade their cars, watches (do people still wear them), phones etc. At the same time they are living in poor conditions.

I also like that some of the best ad people in the business are actually encouraging debate on these issues, as it can be seen to conflict with ‘core business’.

Comment by Jade

I like this post Rob, mostly because it shows that you’re extremely concious of what is going on in the world and how it affects you emotionally, to the point where you question everything you believe in. I admire that.

Comment by Age

Hi Jade … I love the fact you’re on ‘holiday’ as you are writing much more, ha!

Obviously I totally agree this issue is growing in magnitude and is influencing and impacting other areas of society [like the environment] however I think it is important to note that while advertising/entertainment and corporate greed are all drivers of this situation, there are some countries whose cultural value system dictates people have to continually progress through life which drives the desire for material possesion and/or social status, regardless of marketing activity.

Lets take your watch example …

In many societies, where conformity reigns due to cultural/religious reasons [ie: Asia and the Middle East] … a watch can often be one of the only ways a person can express a sense of individuality and success to the outside World.

It’s role is not to tell the time, it is a symbol of status and individuality which is why in the UAE, more Men’s Rolex watches are sold to women than men – mainly because their size and cost allows them to demonstrate all the attributes that culturally/religously they are not free to express.

It’s a tough one and they’ll be no perfect answer – but what we do know is that things have to change and in a small way, people in marketing and advertising can help [whilst still fulfilling their clients corporate needs] if they just think abit more before they go and act.

Comment by Rob

Are you saying that Age in a desperate bid for a free iPhone. Or me to pay for our burger?

Comment by Rob

Short term strategy creates short term customers…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

The problem is that financially, companies are judged on short-term performance which is one of the fundamental reasons why corporate conservatism, “flexible” strategy and mediocre marketing is embraced and encourged.

Comment by Rob

lol, im being sincere!
though now a small part of me inside is hoping you will come bearing gifts! 😉

Comment by Age

Mr Cynic you’re obsolutely right about this.
Being a geek I follow economic theory – and believe it or not they’re using psychology these days. And guess what? We’re less happy now than the days when we didn’t have the money to continually buy new stuff – or feel the pressure to keep up.
When we get the latest things, we’re bored pretty quick.
And as for fear – we’ve got a lot to thank the 80’s for. As job security went down, working hours went up for the first period in 200 years.
I get a bit sick of work that uses manipulation in place of geniune usefulness or inspiration.
Life’s a bitch eh?
As you may have guessed, I’m in a feisty mood.

Comment by NP

“to me a ‘balanced life’ isn’t about finding a way to manage an equal level of work and play, it’s about finding a situation that ensures you appreciate an equal level of potential and reality and I can’t help but feel many people don’t live that way at all – mainly because the ad industry is fixated on selling ‘fear’ [as a strategy] because they believe it is the most effective way to generate short-term sales!”

The last bit (fear) is dead right. ‘If you don’t have x/y, no-one will like you, and you’ll die alone in a mental asylum’. Sums up quite a lot of strategies.

That said, I like those fear strategies which are a little bit knowing – ‘you need it because you’re weak’ is a classic example.

Selling reality? Well, many adverts could claim they do it already – witness the large amounts of folky, idealised dreamscapes that a lot of agencies seem to want to churn out at the moment.

Which, is frankly bollocks. Advertising needs to wake up to the fact that it’s not regarded as some form of ‘trusted friend’ any more, and needs to win people’s trust by a) getting people’s attention in an interesting way and b) Knowing that the product it advertises is pretty damned good.

Actually ‘being real’, as I think you are implying, is key. I don’t want to know how a new car will make me smell of dandelions/increase the size of my cock/is shiiiiny. No, I want to know it’s reliable, will do the job, and that the people who made it are damned proud of what they do. (Though I dislike car ads as a rule).

And there’s a danger of binging on supposed ‘reality’. But I’d like to think that’s changing, and will continue to change, what with increasing levels of consumer voice (google ‘cillit bang’ for the amount of tests/interaction consumers have had with the brand to prove this).

Comment by Will

And yes, I’d like an iPhone as well. 😉

Comment by Will

I love it when you lot get angry, you speak even more sense than normal.

Will you are absolutely right.

This thread is going in the confermit notes.

I like to think this is similar to what I was saying on my blog about honesty being an absolute prerequisite now. You cannot lie to people anymore. You can exaggerate as long as people know you are exaggerating for entertainment (E.g.: Lynx); but lie, and you die.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

the iPhone is absolutely overrated. I love my iPod for being no telephone. I hate phone calls. both incoming and outgoing.

Comment by Seb

I dont want an iPhone.

(Will that make them send me one to prove me wrong?)


Comment by Rob Mortimer

We need food, water and a roof over our heads. Those are the things we need. We don’t need phones, internet, coffee, coca cola or cars. They are not even “nice to haves” because they are not; nice to have.

What we do need is a little respect. We need to give it and receive it. The thing is we, collectively have forgotten this. This doesn’t only happen in advertising it happens everywhere.

Hello. Morning.

Comment by Marcus

If any of you lot get an iPhone before I do, then I will be pissed. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that because it’ll probably make Andy send you one just to piss me off.

Given the state of society and their cynicism of advertising, the whole ‘honesty’ thing is always going to have a positive impact …

… however this is beyond just truth in advertising, this is about helping brands achieve growth through helping society, not just treating them like walking wallets.

Whether it is Tesco’s and their “Book for Schools” program or Bank Of America and their “Change Is Good” campaign [to name but a few] … there are ways to make a positive difference in peoples and communities lives whilst still achieving clients goals, it’s just a case of listening to peoples lives, not just clients dreams.

Comment by Robert

Marcus – spot on. I’m very tempted to quote Aretha Franklin at you, but I’m being good..

Personally, I’d sum this part of the debate up as a desire to be spoken to as a person. Not as a consumer, not as the target market, but as a real person, who has their own individual hopes, fears and dreams.

Comment by Will

I think Marcus is right.

All these things we talk about, making life better, being honest, etc… its ALL about respect, both for the world and for the people in it.

Maybe that should be the overiding theme for this event idea. Respect.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I wonder if Sacrum would sing RESPECT if it went ahead. I wonder.

Comment by Will

He wouldn’t.

Comment by Marcus

good morning (just).

thank you rob (and everyone) for this debate! i already ranted about this kind of topic once in the last 24 hours and am glad to see loads of people are saying what needs to be said! special props to marcus and george..

Comment by lauren

Is he more of a James Brown fan?

Comment by Will

He’s B Rown and proud?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

…actually, forget I said that poor joke.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Which is what makes it so funny.

Comment by NP

So this is where the anger is!

Comment by John Dodds

George, I’ll try to answer that briefly, which may be easier said that done as I think this is moving into a meaning-of-life-discussion. Yes, my view is a bit altered since I have children. I can say that because I’ve noticed a difference; not a dramatic one as in a complete transformation, but a difference nevertheless. I am a less self-focused man with three kids and I like to believe I’m also less materialistic in my orientation than before. (Don’t get me wrong, I still love ‘stuff’, but relatively speaking it’s not as important and exciting as before.) The explanation is dead simple; I’m no longer priority #1 in my life, my children are.

So I have naturally lost a bit of interest in myself and what other people think of me. I don’t have neither time nor energy to direct large amounts of thinking into ego territory. And it’s quite a liberating feeling actually. Having said that, I should point out that this isn’t synonymous with being “egoless”. I’m not delusional. I have a blog, don’t I?

Achieving this “life balance” that’s been mentioned is absolutely critical and just like you, I also want my children to live in a world where this is being embraced. I want to do what little I can to make this a reality. Leading by example in terms of one’s priorities and choices in life is a good place to start. Our children won’t do what we tell them, but they’ll emulate our actions and derive their value system primarily from there.

As economies grow, consumers’ purchasing power increases and people acquire more material possessions, but it appears to me that people aren’t becoming happier, quite the opposite in many instances. People have ambitions, aspirations and dreams, which is brilliant, but everyone has to be clear about WHY they harbour these….what pursuing these will lead to….what the end goal is. If people knew the answer to this, they would find it easier to achieve this life balance by leading their lives accordingly.

I tend to think that happiness in life for me and most people is fundamentally dictated by the quality (read: genuine, honest and completely façade-less, loving) relationships that I/we have in our lives. That’s it. The quantity of relationships in a person’s life doesn’t really matter; you can only nurture and maintain a limited number of this “meaningful” kind of relationship in your life. And only this kind of relationship is what contributes to your life-happiness level.

Now this is way too long already and I may have just wasted a whole minute of your life instead of actually adding something to this. I told you from the beginning I had nothing more to say.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

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