A debutante’s tea party: dessert


Kevin Roberts, CEO of the Satchi & Satchi ad agency, had similar ideas to Weymouth and Coates.  In a May 1999 address to the World Magazine Congress (the Justice League is just up the road from WMC headquarters), Roberts expounded on the environment of the print media at that point.


Social networks had barely been conceived.  Napster was still legal.  Well, legal to the point that it hadn’t been caught.  iTunes was still two years down the road.  To be fair, he was still – like the industry as a whole – wrongly convinced that the ad revenue model was feasible.

I don’t agree with some of his ideals, but he was still remarkably prescient in recognizing the environment in which magazines and other print media would operate.  He saw a “narrowcast world” emerging.

Ding, ding, ding!  Winner!  Some of the best points from his speech:

• It’s about “making connections with the hearts, minds, guts and nerve ends of consumers. The ability to create those connections, not the number of eyeballs you can access, is going to decide the media winners.”

• Technology cannot make connections. “That’s a creative process that has very little to do with binary codes and a lot to do with people.”

• “The scarcest and most valuable commodity in today’s economy is consumer attention.”

I just checked on stocks in “understanding.”  They are a little down, but good thing I diversified with bonds in “information.”  Whew.

On the topic of understanding, Richard Saul Wurman has some truths to bring to the table.  A self-described “information architect,” whose competency lies in the “ability, sitting across from you, to know what it is you don’t understand.”

Wurman is the creator of the TED conferences (technology, entertainment, design).

Side note: For a great backgrounder on TED, check out the FastCompany profile from the September issue.  To get a sense of Wurman’s humor, a quote on the odd, 18-minute cap on TED keynote speeches.  “It’s become mystical – it’s not f*ing mystical.  Fifteen minutes would be trivial, too short.  If you said 20, people would talk for 25; 19 seems perverse, 17 is a prime number, so I made it 18.”

Wurman argues for the Age of Also in an interview circa 1999.  Must have been a good year.  Apparently everyone was shoving their great revelations out the door in case Y2K sent us back the late Middle Ages.

Essentially, he posits that technologies won’t kill each other off.  I don’t think CDs will find resurgence, but in a broad picture, Also has merit.  Maybe magazines and newspapers shrink, but find equilibrium with e-readers and the Internet.  Perhaps television migrates more to the Internet, but the flat screens don’t completely de-evolve into expensive picture frames.

Also doesn’t account for how those media will be funded.  We have arrived back to the beginning of this adventure: the shortcomings of an advertising revenue model.

I’m a creative type.  I enjoy writing.  I enjoy drawing and photography and design.  The process of advertising – conceptualizing a great idea, executing it in a variety of platforms, connecting with the audience – the process appeals to me.  Ad-supported print content does not.  Ad-supported television from a box does not.

This is my plea to my generation.  We control the future, and it starts now.  In some respects, we’re already late.  We shoulder the burden and the opportunity to build on the falters of the media leaders who didn’t see the light coming fast enough.  Let’s mosey to the sketch pad (gasp! how traditional!) and design a new path forward.

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