Monday, January 12, 2009
Easter Island, the Upper East Side and Madison Avenue.
All over the Upper East Side this morning sprouted strange monoliths, like the statues on Easter Island, the meaning of which very few can discern. These monoliths--two foot cubes of shrink-wrapped Verizon white pages got me thinking about dominant complacency, doing things because they've always been done.
I'm sure in Telco Towers there are scores of people charged with the procuring, production and proferring of phone books. I'm sure it is a major deal that takes countless hours and generates lots of stress. I wonder though if anyone at those telcos ever questions the efficacy of those phone books. At one time, yes, the were vital. They had a special place in a special drawer near the phone. As a society, we looked things up.
Today, however, we are always on. And we Google everything. I can't imagine either of my daughters, 17 and 21, wanting, needing, using a phone book. In fact, I can't imagine them even having a land-line.
Yet, phone books keep on coming.
Our whole industry is operating a lot like the telcos, if you stop and think about it. Watching just a few minutes of football this weekend I saw car commercial after car commercial. Nothing that betrayed an awareness that sales were down close to 40% last month. Would sales be any worse if car advertising ceased? I'm sure "marketing" people in all four corners bemoan the lack of effectiveness of :30s. I'm sure the cable stations and networks are panic-struck about declining ad sales. But ad innovation is non-existent. (:30s once made sense. I think it's a dumb length now. The internet has whetted our appetite for more information than the :30 can provide.)
But somehow the same tired formula prevails. We keep producing phone books. The man in the gray flannel suit is becoming as ancient and isolated as the the guys pictured above. However, instead of looking over the horizon, we are looking into the past.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 8:48 AM