Media X: Space Cadets

Last week astronomers discovered a ginormous hole in the universe, nearly 6 billion trillion miles of nothing. They don't know how it got there or what made the hole, just that it's there and they think it's empty.

I know better. I've been wondering where all the innovation and imagination in media has gone. Now I know--it fell in that hole. But it doesn't matter, because there's no need for new thinking any more. The person who helped me achieve this epiphany is my son's girlfriend, a skinny, 19-year-old brunette who does neurotic like Olivier did Shakespeare.

The girlfriend is studying childhood development at the local community college, and last night, I helped her write an essay on the differences between her generation and her parents' demographic. (The youngsters live with me, except when the girlfriend decides they don't and they stay at the ex-wife's. Last night was one of the "we live at Jack's" nights.)

What surprised and distressed me wasn't what she said, but what she didn't. Nothing new, nothing revelatory. In fact, nothing to indicate that anything researchers or media agency types or clients or even creatives hold to be true is true. Her parents? Baby boomers who loved rock 'n' roll, television and were into self-exploration and political activism. Oh, and dropping acid and smoking themselves into a marijuana stupor.



Her generation? Millennials who love hip hop and alt rock, iPods and the Internet, and are into being rich. Oh, and smoking weed and drinking themselves into an alcoholic coma.

Nothing about social networking. No user-generated insights. No new way of buying, consuming, thinking or living.

Our pop-culture path has gone from "tune in, turn on, drop out," to "Get rich, get high, tune out." In other words, nowhere.

And that's when I had my epiphany.

I was wondering why every media idea, especially the ones that are hyped as radically new, all look and sound alike. The same viral-marketing claptrap, the same social-networking site stupidity, the same lame attempts to force digital extensions onto traditional media plans.

It all looks, sounds and smells the same. And why not? Clearly, except for the "get rich" part, today's consumers are doing the exact same things in the exact same way as previous generations did. Only the technology changes.

Oh, and the quality of the drugs. So why innovate? Just repackage your old ideas with new-media terms, multiply what you'd do with three networks on dozens across three different screens and there you go: the very model of a modern media plan.

Imagination and innovation? You don't need 'em. Launch them into space and aim for that big patch of nothing 6 billion trillion miles across. Then go drink yourself into an alcoholic coma.

Worked for me.

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