Chad Chadwick - president and creative director of Chadwick Communications in New York.
As work and play become one, advertising must change It is a new world, ladies and gentlemen. You will be distinct, or you will be extinct." Such is the gauntlet thrown to the American worker by ads for the online employment directory, Jobs.com. The message: The office is a radically different place than it was a few years ago.
Technology's promises--mostly unfulfilled hyperbole for much of the "information revolution"--are paying off in tangible ways. People "own" their careers as never before, in both real and metaphorical terms. According to The New York Times, only 200,000 Americans had equity in the companies for which they worked in 1974. Twenty-five years later, more than 10 million workers can claim a piece of the pie. Further, 6 million Americans left their jobs for other positions in 1998. In 1999, that number nearly tripled: to 17 million.
Fewer and fewer of us are willing to settle for work that merely pays the bills. Clearly, we seek employment that fulfills us as individuals.
But liberation has not come without a price. The line between work and play has disappeared for many. From cell phones to telecommuting, technology has, in theory, given us the freedom to do what we want--when and where we want to do it. But in exchange, it has removed our safety net.
Though we can take advantage of new opportunities and create situations for which we believe ourselves best-suited, we have no choice but to assume greater responsibility for the consequences of our actions. Who, beside ourselves, can shoulder the blame if we don't turn this unprecedented freedom to our advantage?
Consumers are challenged now to "become" themselves. For most, their work has become an indispensable part of the process. A change
of this magnitude presents a real opportunity for advertisers and marketers.
Until recently, consumer culture was based on immediate gratification: a thirst for the 5 o'clock whistle and "Miller Time." Successful advertising reflected that reality. Now, however, people want to cast themselves as the heroes of their own lives. They no longer buy products or services; they buy self-image.
To communicate with consumers, marketers must create a platform through which that self-actualization can occur.
Consider a new branding campaign for IntraLinks.com, an Internet business service. The tagline, "Is it work if you love it?" speaks to the new American worker. If you love what you do, you do it well; it becomes less work than personal growth. While others promise freedom from their jobs, IntraLinks is offering a way to build a career on one's own terms.
Of course, the most potent ad campaign of the last decade, Nike's "Just do it," also drives this point home. Nike recognized it wasn't selling the sole of the sneaker, but the soul of the wearer. "Just do it" speaks to the person in all of us who knows he or she is equal to the challenges implicit in the new economy. All we need is a little push.
It is, indeed, a brave new world. Distinct or extinct--it is as much a choice for marketers as it is for each of us in this new technological age.