My week began by attending the premiere of Lemonade with a bunch of people who’d been spit out by the business of advertising. Fired because their clients cut budgets, because they worked for “traditional” agencies rather than digital shops, because their old skills were less relevant in a new consumer-controlled world where word of mouth, social media, one-to-one, and analytics are becoming as important as “the big idea” once was.
The movie that was good enough to play in a real movie house, attract a few hundred people, and earn the attention of Katie Couric whose CBS crew showed up to document the entire evening was made possible by the power of social media. Blogs and Twitter introduced the idea, identified subjects, connected volunteers, recruited resources and gathered a tribe that would never have come together in any other way.
Yet when I asked a number of the unemployed in attendance if they had embraced the new platforms and technologies, learned new tactics, mastered the art of personal brand building and started creating and generating content using the new vernacular, many answered with a tentative “not really,” or even a definitive “not yet.”
Amazing when you think about it. They’d lost their jobs because of all the change. The movie about losing jobs could only be made because it of the change. Yet many people still hadn’t embraced the change.
In putting a presentation together that might be of use to students, it struck me that the changes we’re seeing affect everything. Consumers are no longer spectators, they’re creators. Individuals whose total resources consist of video cameras and folding tables can create brands. Content distribution that relies on videographers and bloggers is often as effective as media plans that write fat checks to networks and magazines. Creative might be an old-fashioned message, but it’s just as likely to be an experience, an interaction or an application. And finally, agencies themselves no longer resemble their ancestors. They’re as like to be entirely digital, totally social, or completely crowd-sourced.
There’s an assumption that these students — supposedly native to the land of blogs, Twitter, social media and all things digital — will be more prepared for what’s about to come than those who’ve struggled to survive recent changes. Yet what’s happened in the last few years will appear to be slow motion once mobile really takes off, once applications like Red Laser are in the hands of every consumer, once we’re all walking around with Coolpix and Flip cams and whatever comes next year.
In Googled, the insightful and thorough new book by Ken Auletta, the author reminds us of all the now dying businesses and models that put their energy into defending the status quo rather than embracing the new. “Defensiveness mixed with fear fueled resistance to change.” As Auletta says, “They believed that consumers would always prefer to lean back rather than lean forward when it came to entertainment.”
I don’t think anyone can afford to lean back anymore; not the jobless creatives sitting in the Brattle Theatre watching a movie, not yet to be employed students slouching in their classroom chairs. If you do, you’ll just get blown away.
It’s time to lean in. Embrace what’s coming. Before it even gets here.