In the 1960s Bob Dylan told us that “The times they are a-changin’ “. These words, written in the evolutionary and revolutionary headspace of that time, also apply to the year 2008.
This is, perhaps, even more of a watershed period. The effect of change is incredibly widespread and is obvious in politics, norms, values, and philosophies. Possibly feeding off, but at the same time contributing to the above areas, we are seeing the world economically going into a tailspin.
And the problem is that we see reporting on this concerning issue, and that perturbing fact, but no-one puts them all onto the table at the same time. When you do this, potentially disaster stares right back at you. It goes without saying that advertising and media budgets are quickly decimated by a poor economic outlook. The rate of inflation is hurting. The “prime” crisis has wrecked the housing market in the USA, with average house prices in places like San Diego down by 21% year on year. South Africa is not unaffected: Locally, for very different reasons, we’re seeing depressed housing prices, but simultaneously there exists a rampant inflationary environment. Consumer confidence is down and business confidence is in tatters. Even companies operating in areas which are in demand at the moment, are bleeding.
As a result, The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement store, and surely one of the hot areas of retail at the moment, is closing 15 underperforming stores and have decided to shelve plans to open 50 others. With far fewer houses being built and sold, the reasons are obvious. And the ripples go through the economy.
What’s the effect? Stress! And we just aren’t coping. When consumers were asked to rate the “difficulty of change” today compared to the heady Dylan days of 1967, the results were scary: People are finding the same life changes more stressful 40 years on.
Marriage stress was taken as the standard (a rating of 50). Other life events were rated as follows: Death of a family member: 63 (1967) and 70 (2007); Being fired: 47 (Ã¢Â€Â˜67) and 62 (’07); Childbirth: 40 (’67) and 60 (’07’); Retirement: 45 (’67) and 49 (’07), and Change of job field: 36 (’67) and 47 (’07).
Hell, and then we choose to work in advertising Ã¢Â€Â“ an industry that is expected to have its finger on the world’s pulse. (More stress.) So, here’s a hot “medium” or communications technique (and no, it doesn’t rely on new technology, amazingly enough Ã¢Â€Â“ the telephone will do…)
It’s called Star Wrangling: Effectively, it’s designed to get the rich and famous to marketing events.
The trick is to get them there without having to pay. (You still have to pay a wranglers’ fee, of course, which can be upwards of $25,000). How is this achieved?
The Star Wranglers run massive databases on the Desirables of this world, and capture all there is to know about them Ã¢Â€Â“ their interests, pet causes, and projects they promote. Get an angle on your event, and do the matching. Other techniques involve using their under-parented offspring as a hook, and design event happenings that would appeal to the kids. Or to leverage the desire for “good publicity”.
P Diddy, for example, agreed to a !_LT_EMBusiness Week!_LT_/EM invite in order to meet the mayor of New York and chairman of American Express.
Only one problem: My phone isn’t ringing…
Harry Herber is the group managing director at The MediaShop.
This column first appeared in !_LT_EMThe Media!_LT_/EM magazine (August 2008).