Curiosity Saves The Cat

Image: The Verge

In today’s modern media culture, either stay curious, or die trying.

by Tor Edwards

I recently had a drink with a family friend — who is THE Mr. Mad Man — at his sprawling home tucked in the hills of Hollywood, drinking chilled vintage wine and talking about the hilarious stories of past Ad Man-days gone by: the glory of the 1960’s, the money of the 1980’s and the revolution of the 2000’s.

But what struck me most was hearing him say:

“This decade, it’s all too confusing. I’m glad I’m out, I wouldn’t know what to do with all your social thingys — you all have it tough now. Too many things to focus on, too much you now have to deal with and get past. It all just seems too hard.”

And this isn’t the first time I have heard this sort of comment. Mr. Mad Man seems to be one of many who feel this way. Young, old, in or out of the “biz” — there are people that are trying to embrace this wild, wild west that is the new modern media landscape; there are those who are ignoring it (as if it will eventually disappear and the grand days of just doing one thirty-second TV commercial a year will again prevail); or those folks that put “social” into a nice-to-have box or tag on at the end — as if it is somehow beneath the well-trodden, more traditional channels.

And that made me think — when did we become so afraid of the future? When did we shy away from being excited and curious to grow, and into a society that is filled with apprehension of the unknown?

In other words, does this modern media revolution really make things too hard? Too many new things to learn, like Facebook and Snapchat and Musical.ly and programmatic — and too many barriers to cross? Is the endless information that comes with our current landscape just too overwhelming?

Do we as marketers need to take a stand, and stick to what we have known, and hold true to the old ways?

And from where I am sitting, the answer is a resolute no.

Yes, the marketing landscape is evolving. Yes, it can be a lot to take in. But the fact is, it’s changing course, whether we like it or not.

In every generation over the last hundred years, there have been moments where how we consumed media pivoted — from the invention of TV, to the bang that was the Internet, to live streaming, to mobile apps, to social media and more. We as consumers and advertisers have adapted, evolved and progressed.

We’ve had no choice really. It’s adapt — or become obsolete.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not pointing the finger and saying we no longer should be writing an epic fucking “30 TVC.” I love making ads. I still think there is absolutely a time and place for a great commercial that changes culture and creates mass conversation…it just can’t be the only thing anymore. And we shouldn’t hate on that, we just need to be the experts once again in this modern landscape.

Because if not, we will not survive. Not when we have juggernauts like Google and Facebook leading the charge, and directly getting the business results brands are looking for.

1.79 billion monthly active users. Bigger than any TV network, ever.

But I’m not disheartened, because inherently what we do as advertisers will always be needed — we know how to build brands long-term. And that will never change, that’s our superpower as advertisers, we should always be the consumer, landscape and category expert.

The wild west that is the modern media landscape is just another channel that we have to master, because let’s face the facts: neither “traditional brand” or “just social only” clients, companies, people or campaigns can exist as solo entities anymore. The idea of having just ‘traditional’ ad shops or ‘social only’ shops will disappear. Sorry to say, but these days we need to know how to do both — really damn well.

Traditional brand, social, technology and media have all partnered up and had a one, large and very vocal baby — modern media. And we need to become the modern age agency parents, because the ‘old ways’ aren’t coming back.

The world has evolved, and we need to evolve with it. And it is up to us to as the advertising experts to wrangle and embrace our modern media future. If we don’t stay curious, just like the cat — we’ll be killed off.

Tor Edwards is a Group Brand Director at Mistress.