One of the pulls of media has always been the social life surrounding it but, says Jamie Norgarb (channel director at PHD in Cape Town), it seems to have disappeared.
While many of the latest AMF topics covered by all sorts of industry experts have been hard-hitting, factual and figure-based analyses of the current state of measurement, research and analytics, I wanted to focus on (what used to be) the lighter side of advertising – the social side. No, not social networks. Face-to-face interactions, where real and meaningful networking used to take place.
When chatting to peers and colleagues, it’s increasingly apparent that ‘face time’ (no, not the iPhone app) with industry counterparts is about as rare as steak tartare. The humble meeting or a coffee catch-up is a thing of the past, falling by the wayside as emails, texts and Skype instant messaging takes over. And if these reasonably quick interactions are near-impossible, large-scale attendance at industry functions has become nothing more than a pipe dream. Was there not, once upon a time, a land of media and advertising where people laughed and learnt together? Dare I say it, after hours?
The main reason given for decreased social interactions is: “I just don’t have enough time.” With budgets under pressure, and fewer people working on more and more accounts, there are fewer hours in the day to socialise.
Then beyond the obvious time-starved nature of the industry at large, there is also the very real need to spend quality time with family and friends. That is, with what little time is left after a long hard day’s work.
While these are very valid reasons, being time-starved and having friends and family are not unique to today, so why is the downward shift continuing? Why does it feel that for the majority, and far too often, if we don’t have something material or financial to gain from attending a function presentation/event/talk, it’s just not going to happen.
Media owner functions certainly bear the brunt of this, where it’s commonplace to RSVP and not arrive, or not RSVP at all. Colleagues tell me the drop-off rate for those that RSVP for events but don’t arrive (or call to cancel) can be as high as 30%. In fact, the last minute (often same day) cancellation of trips involving costly flights and accommodation happen just as frequently. This, understandably, is very frustrating for those who have incurred the upfront costs.
Not surprisingly, if attendance at these sorts of events is suffering, support for educational bodies, such as the Advertising Media Association of South Africa (Amasa), has also been negatively affected. Monthly speaker functions used to attract upwards of 80 guests, who all saw value in learning from industry experts, getting together and networking.
Nowadays, it is more difficult to attract support, hindering fundraising efforts that go directly towards bursaries for young, new entrants to the industry.
Ultimately, the social cohesion that was once a very attractive, inspiring and endearing part of our industry only a few years ago seems to be fading fast.
Getting together to discuss the latest trends in communication, sharing ideas, learning from one another and catching up with industry friends is, and always has been, a rewarding and meaningful experience, regardless of whether there will be a goodie bag or not.
I’m not sure what the solution is, but I believe we need to find one. Perhaps we can start by asking ourselves what we can do, personally, to effect some positive changes. How can we contribute to creating a community of like-minded individuals, who may compete on pitches, or for the same share of tight budgets, but can still get together, share experiences and grow? Let’s get chatting and sharing. In person. Before the social side of media becomes a distant memory.
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