Art & Commerce: Beyond Knowing

The truth about current market economics, writes Jeff De Joseph, is a lontananza
The sum of Dino’s instincts had to do with the old ways–ways that kept the world lontano–distant, safely and wisely at bay,” wrote Nick Tosches in Dino, his biography of Dean Martin. His evocation of that peculiarly Italian state of being–lontananza, a quality beyond knowing–may be as good a description of the current market conditions as we may find.
The Dow has surpassed the once-undreamed-of 11,000 mark. What’s confusing is why the upward trajectory has been so steep. The fact that the tech sector is driving a large portion of the economy is a new development. But there are signs that its power is faltering. In the past four months, new issues of Internet stocks haven’t taken off. What’s happening with this once-powerful market force?
One group of pundits assures us that the cyclical nature of markets is an immutable truth. But by that theory, the slowdown of tech stocks should have heralded an upswing in industrial stocks. And that has not been the case.
Another school maintains that when growth stocks falter, it’s time for a return to value. Yet we see no signs of that happening, either.
Of course, the factor cited above all others is that wonderful neologism: dot com. Open a newspaper, browse a magazine, surf TV. You can’t even count the times dot com is invoked as a cure-all. It’s the magic force behind a slew of startups. It’s driven ordinary managers to extraordinary wealth. And it’s driven basic economical propositions to harmful, desperate or reckless permutations.
The result is a hysteria that makes the gold-seeking 49ers of yore seem like the soberest judges. We’re all a little crazy over dot com. Economists are finally warning us the bubble is about to burst. But is it?
The truth is a lontananza: Nobody knows.
Clearly, dot com isn’t going away. We in advertising must deal with the consequences. But how?
Doremus Advertising is developing a new mathematical model that will bring order out of the techno-chaos. But in the ad community, we need to follow these procedures:
– Understand that to consumers, virtually all categories are commoditized. Products become interchangeable. The defining component is how the vision and values are expressed.
– Learn from dot coms that high-impact, holistic marketing makes non-entities into macro-brands. The mission of marketing is to surround the market with the brand’s proposition, values and differences. And the best way to do this is through the style and sophistication of the communications.
– Take advantage of leverage. The audience needs to be refreshed by new communications. Nothing stands still, especially the dialogue with the street. Even if people don’t know the product, they can recite the slogan. Demonstrate vitality and viability using communication as a surrogate.
– Take advantage of the media’s need to feed itself. Create content. Spread the word through print, TV and the Web.
The dot-com era has given us a heady optimism that can be useful fuel for the near future. By reaching a new level of maturity, we can convert that optimism into a forward-looking philosophy that draws on experience, moving us ahead to an interesting post-dot-com era. And we can move past lontananza.
Jeff De Joseph is executive vice president and chief strategic officer at Doremus Advertising
in New York.