I spent a few hours this past weekend, and a few more during the week, chatting about the future of advertising with many influential people, but I noticed the absence of anyone representing the perspective of Middle American consumers, and I felt this would be a good time to talk about them.
I once heard a statistic that only 1 percent of the U.S. population makes more than $100,000 per year, but I think that 99 percent of that 1 percent lives in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the cities where I spend most of my time. Sticking strictly to this worldview can throw off our perspective and shield us from the truth about the consumer. I love to write about the influentials in these coastal cities, the folks who adopt technology at a lightning pace, and identify the trends they are creating and that will eventually trickle down to Middle America, but is it possible we're overlooking the general consumer to our own detriment? Do we risk missing out on the opportunities that are right in front of our face?
A woman I work with told me how she likes to chat with people on planes and ask them about their lives. She mentioned a conversation she had with someone from Ohio whose 15-year-old son watches only "SportsCenter" and never plays video games; he plays poker with his buddies every day. I was in San Diego over the weekend and I chatted with the local IT guy at the hotel I was staying at as he tried to fix the printer in the business center. He doesn't know how to text-message and wouldn't know what to do with my Treo; he was dumbfounded when I asked him to turn it on.
I'm not using these examples to judge or to look down on anyone. I'm only pointing out that sometimes (and I'm one of the biggest culprits for avoiding this) we need to slow down and ask average consumers in the average markets what they think about advertising and technology. I don't dispute in the least that digital advertising will become the primary method of reaching out to the consumer, but I'm saying that sometimes we get so excited by our own ideas that we forget to see what our parents and their friends, or our peers in smaller markets, think!
Wouldn't it be great to see a panel or a videotaped case study of three ad execs from Manhattan interacting with three blue-collar workers in Cincinnati or Columbus or Des Moines or Kansas City, letting the ad execs explain how they want to reach these people, and letting them respond directly? What about sending three New York digital ad execs to Kansas City for a month, equipped only with the tools that a general consumer in Kansas City would have to work with?
Maybe OMMA 2006 will feature a "Man on the Street" panel like this, or maybe there'll be a reality show all about this very topic: "The Simple Life -- Advertising Style," featuring Paris Hilton and Cory Treffiletti!
Well, until that time I guess I'll go back to writing about how cool technology is!