Buying makes me feel good!

I had a lot of alone time this Thanksgiving, as my girls went to Kansas City to see their cousins. I stayed back to spend the holiday with my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather is 97 and the Postaer men thought it proper to spend Thanksgiving with him. Come Friday, however, my father and brothers went to their respective homes on opposite coasts. That left me by myself, which was both nice and weird.

Being an introvert I’m already prone to introspection. Even in crowds, I hang out in my head. Needless to say, I was there a lot this long holiday weekend. Here’s the weird part: I kept on being nagged by this desire to buy stuff. Maybe it was all the holiday advertising beseeching me to get going on my Christmas shopping. But I actually think it runs deeper than that. I’d like to think I’m inured to the siren songs of the season, no matter how bright, brassy and loud they may be. After all, I am in the advertising business.

But I also have an addictive personality. It’s like there’s a hole in my person that demands being filled. Under it’s sway, I easily become restless, irritable and discontent. Back in the day I looked to fill the void in unhealthy ways. No more. These days I channel my obsessions with healthier activities like writing, reading and working out. But somewhere in between good for you and not good for you is the craving to buy things.

We like to joke about this craving for material possessions, calling hopeless cases “shopoholics.” Madonna sang about being a Material Girl. We laugh along with the powerless protagonist in Confessions of a Shopoholic. However, in the extreme this obsession can be just as troubling as any addiction.

Like a lot of men, I hate shopping. Still, I get urges. That new Macbook Air whispers to me. Normally, impervious to the lure of gadgets, my defenses weaken in the shiny, silver glare of Apple. Once the fever hits, I can also find myself dog-earing GQ magazine at this pair of boots or that sweater. I love watches, too. Cartier. Every year I covet their new watches, as if a gold and steel Chronograph will make me happy. Like I said, I hate shopping. But the Internet makes it so damn easy.

Understandably, advertisers would love nothing more than for all of us to succumb to these urges, to fill the holes in our souls with stuff and more stuff. Especially during the Holidays. Go nuts in December. Pay for it in January.

The last couple years the recession has tempered our consumerism. Retailers hope and pray not this year. They pray to pagan gods. Gluttony is not a sin when you’re doing it for others, right? Still, I wonder: Is there’s more to the name “Black Friday” than ledger sheets?


Note to agencies: We are not alone

For the last few years our agency’s worldwide mandate has been to “put digital at the core” of everything we do. This means exactly what you think it means. Instead of putting digital in a “bucket” or “silo,” and treating it as one of many marketing services, Euro RSCG revolves the company’s universe around it. And within that scheme, we (the employees) have been strongly encouraged to “get social” or get out of town! These directives are elemental to the agency’s primary purpose of “getting us and our clients to the future first.”

A couple weeks back, JWT named its Worldwide Digital Director, David Eastman, North American CEO. Worldwide CEO, Bob Jeffries indicated that this sent a strong message (to clients and competitors) about what direction the agency was going, and that JWT was serious about putting digital at the center of business operations.

As I write this, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago rehired digital ECD, David Hernandez from Tribal DDB. He’ll “provide digital creative leadership across all agency disciplines,” said Joe Sciarrotta, Chief Creative Officer of the agency.

And so it goes, by hook or by crook, ad agencies everywhere are finding ways to make digital their big story: on our creds, in our case studies, in general. Whether this is done via purchase or through internal machinations or both it is getting done. Some of us are doing it faster and better than others. But it’s a crowded field. And the race is far from over.

My point is not to ridicule this any of this. I wholeheartedly support it. What I find interesting is Ad Land’s belief that this is a media centric phenomenon, that the migration of marketing to digital platforms is somehow unique to our industry.

Everyone is putting digital front and center. Be it media, education, insurance, institution, government, finance, retail, CPG, the dry cleaners up the street. One is hard pressed to find any operation that isn’t doing business online, let alone marketing it that way. Some die trying (Pets.com). Some flourish (Amazon). Most are somewhere in between.

One has already heard the call that consumers are taking over the message. Ad Land’s first reaction was just that: a reaction. Born of fear. That somehow we –the creators and drivers of all consumerism- woke up one day and discovered a new landscape, and one where we weren’t needed anymore. That fear drove us to buy, hire and promote digital expertise with breathless abandon. To play catch up if you will.

But is the fear real? No more than it is for any other business. The only difference is somehow we deemed it our mission to re-take that landscape. Or perish. Perhaps we doth protest too much. By overly stating how important digital is to our operations, we demonstrate fear of being left behind.

I’ve said it before: We are all pioneers. The landscape is free country and has been since Al Gore invented it. We need only apply our vast skills (ideation, creation, brand management and so on) in the same direction as everyone else.

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