Advertising, Media Should Abhor Nostalgia - Don't Be A Dinosaur All The Time

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 27, 2013
Consumers today are overwhelmed with the always-on, technology-advanced world we live in. And as a result, we are starting to see a paradigm shift where consumers are actually tuning off and disconnected from their phones, tablets and laptops.

It’s a trend being led by nostalgic feelings and belief that life was simpler before everything became digitally connected. A characteristic of this trend is a desire to actually connect with people in more genuine, face-to-face settings. People are craving authenticity that can only be achieved from disconnecting from the devices that bind, yet distract, us. And, if you believe any of the ridiculousness you just read, I am also selling some oceanfront property in Arizona (and Switzerland).

A great marketer should abhor the above assertions and reject this type of consumers-want-to-disconnect thinking in advertising and media agencies. Going back to the less digitally connected times is not an option. I would argue that this thinking is an innate resistance from the marketer to learn and adapt. Quite frankly, it’s lazy thinking and it’s been used time and again in brainstorms and boardrooms since advertising was considered a thing.

People do not want to connect less. What they want is control over how and when they connect. They want those connections to be well-considered connections.



Two things inspired the above rant: a white paper from a brand agency and a recent experience working alongside a large ad agency. Within the course of two weeks, I read and heard senior-level strategists and planners assert that consumers want to disconnect from their devices. Let’s consider why this is ridiculous.

The market can tell us a lot about cultural behavior. Twitter’s stock price and news of Facebook’s rejected offer of $3B to SnapChat (remember the selling price of Instagram?) should be enough proof. Let’s look at a perceived downside of people being always on. We’ve all seen it, people sitting around a table in a restaurant or café. A group of friends are together in one physical space, yet almost silent while typing or scrolling on their phones. It seems so impersonal to be with friends and not interacting with them face-to-face.

However, here’s another angle, maybe they are so comfortable together that words are not needed. Perhaps when people are sitting around a table and not chatting, yet on their devices, they are not ignoring a conversation between themselves, but actually extending the conversation to those friends that cannot be there in person. Possibly, they are sharing more and connecting more. Here’s a takeaway: Consumers are connecting more, it means just as much as it always has throughout history, and they like it. In fact, they love it, which is why Twitter and Facebook are delighting the stock market.

What does this mean for those marketers who are more comfortable designing creative assets around a nostalgic emotional sentiment’and planning around somewhat old-school and offline media tactics? They need to get on board — fast. This is why any head of or C-suite executive should stop the nostalgic sentiment or assertion in the strategic communications workplace.

However, there is hope for the advertising and media dinosaurs out there.

When you find yourself thinking: I don’t know about those new media uses so I will not work with them, stop right there. Instead of fearing the unknown, look at it as a challenge and start to dissect the situation as you have any great challenge throughout your career. In my current role, I am constantly bombarded by new, beta, confidential or soon-to-launch media platforms, apps and programs.

It is difficult for me, as I am not the most eager to embrace change. That said, I have found a way to apply my dinosaur ways with a tad bit of first-mover naivety. Here is what I do. I ask myself these four questions, in the following order:

  1. Do my consumers have access to this technology?

  2. Are they using this technology already and is usage trending upwards?

  3. Are they using this technology more than other consumer groups?

  4. Does the tone and topic of this technology complement my brand?

  5. Is my competitor using it?

As digital media continues to grow, more and more large techs and startups will pitch ideas for you and your consumers. The thing is, they are not all appropriate for your market, brand and business needs. The ability to not understand the tech, yet know how to interrogate a new technology, is something the dinosaurs can teach the naïve first movers.

We are not going back to a less-connected world, nor should we, and there is no need to fear that fact. You can embrace change by looking at every hot new thing as a challenge to be solved. Instead of fearing the change, quickly use your years of experience to ascertain if you can add your wisdom to make the change happen faster and benefit your brand and business. (Look at Coca-Cola’s many cases)

If your team disagrees, use those same time-honored questioning skills to ascertain if you have the right people around you, whether dinosaurs or naïve first movers, there’s a role for both on a balanced communications team.

2 comments about "Advertising, Media Should Abhor Nostalgia - Don't Be A Dinosaur All The Time".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, November 27, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.

    Time for you to sit down and read a good book.

  2. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, November 27, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

    You can look at all this new media as highly targeted direct marketing...embrace it. How much of your advertising budget have you been spending in direct marketing? How much should you increase it? Which media should you decrease? How can you analyze all these media choices to get the best results? take a look at some math I developed that actually lets you quantify the relationship between your advertising and sales. The math is called "The Barrows Popularity Factor." You can read all about it at

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