Egomaniacs with Inferiority Complexes
One of the things I have noticed about the people I met while doing theater all those years was a common character trait. One thing about everyone engaged in the theater -- particularly those on stage -- that seemed to be universal regardless of age or sex.
Everyone seemed to be an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Here’s what that means:
You want to be the center of attention. You want other people to think you are great. You think you are great. But you are worried that you aren’t really any good, and so, no one else thinks you are good, which means you shouldn’t be the center of attention. It is a constant play between insisting upon your value, but needing to be affirmed for fear that you really have no value.
This is what I see the online advertising industry suffering from right now. In its nascent stages (some might argue it is still in those stages), the online advertising industry was too small and too new to think too much of itself. When the clear soda craze was sweeping the nation and the domestication of the dog continued unabated, the online medium was still a place were nerds told each other what they thought about ‘Star Trek.’ It was just too marginal to think much of itself. If anyone was advertising in the space, it was serious experimentation, usually being done by technology concerns trying to reach those nerds, or financial institutions trying to reach the moneyed men of CompuServe.
Then online advertising was thrust on stage, no longer the tech guy in charge of the soundboard. Online advertising was now the star. And being treated as such over and over and over again, it became impossible for online advertising to do anything but become conceited and egotistical. Who cared if our parents didn’t get the performance? We were hip; cool, avant-garde performing artists and folks were throwing money around like they were Hilton heirs. So what if the older folks didn’t like us? Our peers did.
Well, now those days are gone, and we’ve grown up a little. No one is lining up to see us perform anymore and our act isn’t the toast of the town.
Now, we want respectability. We want acceptance. We want status. But we are afraid we can’t have it because, maybe we really are just a Marilyn Manson rather than Marilyn Monroe, our fame a product of spotlights rather than real talent. We are trapped between thinking we actually might have great value and needing to be told we have more value than everything else.
Nothing symbolizes the bipolar nature of where the online advertising industry is now more than the constant comparison to television. These are not comparisons coming from people outside of the industry looking for analogy. Rather, these are comparisons coming from WITHIN the industry as a way to once again focus the spotlight on it. There are those inside the industry who continue to insist on the Web’s likeness to television as a reason to engage the medium as an advertising channel. Out of insecurity, the ego asserts itself to gain notice by comparing it to the better-loved member of the cast.
I would argue that television was, and IS, the most important medium of our time. The reason is because television allows for something that only the movies before it had: sound, motion, and pictures. THIS is what sets television apart from other media, both in terms of engagement by humans and its effectiveness as an advertising vehicle.
The online media industry needs to get over its TV envy and figure out a way to turn its "killer app" into a saleable proposition. So far, this killer app has been interactivity and data collection, hence the preponderance of DR advertisers. In what other ways can the advantages of the online medium be exploited? Print allows for a pretty picture and extensive copy, radio allows for speech and sound, TV gives you all of these and then sets them in motion. The Internet can give you some of each of these, though not as good as any one of them can (save maybe for copy). Combine these with the medium's killer app (interactivity and data collection) and you finally end up with something that advertisers might appreciate. You end up with the possibility for what some have termed "brand response" or what I call "engagement branding."
Then the medium will have the love and respect it deserves, knowing it has done well when at curtain call the audience stands and applauds.