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…unless you’ve got good news.

I have been gone three weeks. Ten days in Dubai. Ten days in St. Thomas. That is the longest time I have been away from home or office since I graduated college.

What’s interesting about that is not my itinerary, although I must say if you’re going places you could do a lot worse than Arabia and the Caribbean!
Rather, I think it’s peculiar that a man could go over 20 years without taking a 3-week holiday.

In much of the world lengthy vacations are normal (paid ones at that) even for the trades. Not so in America. Here we parse our annual allotment of two or three weeks like they were crumbs on a lifeboat: Three days here. A week there. A couple long weekends. And then it’s back to the office!

The other thing one notices on holiday is how connected you can remain with home or office, should you so choose to. Emails still arrive. Files and PDFs. Meeting Makers. It’s all there, should you so choose it.

Yet, remaining “in” or “out” is no longer the only option. With all the various forms of “ambient intimacy” now available (home and office email, Facebook, Twitter, etc), one can select a level of closeness.

What this means is I can stay in touch and also be disengaged. Therefore, while away, I perused my office like it was a buffet, picking an email here, and a meeting there. Skipping what bored me. I could come to my desktop at night or hourly. My choice.

So…Gone fishing no longer means OOTO unless you want it to. And it’s this last part that’s interesting: those levels of closeness.

Classic United Airlines commercial

When I first arrived to Leo Burnett, United Airlines was one of the agency’s most prominent accounts. And rightly so. The work “we” did for United was world class. In my book “Fly the friendly skies of United” remains one of the best ad lines of all time. The glossy commercials were Leo Burnett at its finest: big, wise, singular, damn near perfect in every way.

As good (and not good) as United’s work has been since, it’s never risen to the same level. Not even close. Want proof? What is United’s big idea today? You don’t know, do you? Neither do I. When you’re done reading, take a look at this classic spot and tell me (in the age of email and social networks) if the message isn’t even more relevant now than it was 20 years ago. Amazing, right?

Adpulp just did a piece about “ambient intimacy” defining it as the ability to remain “closer than ever” to people because of social networks and the like.

Adpulp: Ambient intimacy?

Hmm, I wonder. Can Twittering be defined as intimate? Is Facebook really about “friends?”

I doubt it.

I think ambient intimacy is like cosmetic surgery. It looks great but it’s just not the same. And frankly, it might even be egregious. Who knows what all this faux intimacy is doing to our culture?

The above United commercial, which I’m calling “Face Time,” reveals a deeper truth. Even then people were relying on “faxes and phone calls” instead of honest, face to face communication. In United’s narrative a company almost pays dearly for its laziness or “ambient intimacy.”

I could write a lot more about this and probably will. But do me a favor. Watch the spot and read the piece on Adpulp. Then tell me, is ambient intimacy better than a handshake or infinitely more perverse?

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