We hit it off before the plane left the ground, and our conversation never encountered any turbulence. Five or so months later, during another of my trips to NYC for work and to take my seatmate-turned-girlfriend to the U.S. Open men's finals, Jennifer left a voicemail on a crisp Tuesday morning alerting me she had escaped safely from Tower Two.
I had planned weeks prior to work from our New York offices, so being in NYC on 9/11 was as predestined as my relationship with Jennifer. We barely left each other's side for the weeks that followed, and a few months later she moved out to San Francisco and in with me. While we were living together, she came home one day with a cardboard box containing two furry black kittens. She named the boy Momo and his sister Maxine.
Life sort of twisted and turned from there, and Jennifer and I grew apart. Today our relationship is intact, but no longer romantic. After our split, Jennifer (and the cats) moved back to NYC. Years later she married a great guy, and became both pregnant and allergic to the cats.
By this time, I had moved back to NYC and was an obvious choice for Jennifer to ask to take in Momo and Maxine. I hesitated due to my travel schedule and the distant memory of cat litter sticking to my bare feet -- but I knew giving the cats away was very hard for Jennifer, and she knew I missed them, so they moved in with me.
Like most cats, they walked around a new home on edge, spending most of their time huddled under the bed as their nerves were tested by doors opening and buzzers buzzing. Today however, over a year since they'd moved in, the cats act more like loyal dogs -- greeting visitors, sleeping on top of the bed instead of under it, and constantly following me around instead of scurrying away.
Now that Momo and Mackie feel safe and secure, our connection has become the unwavering and unnerving kind that makes normal people talk to animals while claiming to understand what is said back. Built with positive reinforcement -- aka, treats and gentle nose-rubbing -- this relationship took time to evolve.
Everything worth anything takes time.
This includes advertising to work -- if you define working as building a relationship with a consumer that will last a lifetime. As a medium, we started this decade in such an aggressive rush to prove online "worked," and we have never shed this manic positioning. So everything we do, make, and sell gets positioned as something that will work right away.
We need to stand behind our innovations, but stop promising advertisers that what we do works the second they take it out of the box. I understand the market pressure applied by buyers looking to report instant success, but we as a medium (both buyers and sellers) take way too much credit for consumer's actions, as if these actions aren't based on time spent with other media. In doing so, we feed the frenzy that ads must work versus positioning what they work towards over time.
Building relationships with consumers so they are less skittish, more ready to cozy up to an advertiser's brand and follow it around for the rest of their lives, takes time. Online publishers and ad agencies would better serve clients (and themselves) if they built this into their dialogue when they present the solutions they create.
This decade started by handing all of us a devastating emotional blow, regardless of where you were that day. As this decade comes to a close, I wonder why we operate at such a manic pace, trying to convince those we sell, that what we produce will work the second it's bought. Is it possible we are all moving so fast because we're all running away from the same pain?