Do social networks provide “ambient intimacy” or faux friendships? A lesson from the “friendly skies of United.”
March 23, 2009
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.
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?