Shock and Awe
Do you remember watching what appeared to be Fourth of July fireworks as newscasters kept repeating, “This is the shock and awe part of the invasion. This is shock and awe?” Do you remember how the Iraqis seemed to be neither shocked nor awed? Watching as they drove their cars calmly through Baghdad during the worst of it, I actually wondered if a person in Baghdad might not have ordered a pizza and had it delivered. But I'm not talking about Iraq today; I'm talking about you and me and marketing in America.
Americans have been living amidst a similar “shock and awe” explosion in technology for nearly a decade and our response to it has been much like the Iraqis'. Unimpressed. We talk on tiny, unwired telephones that connect us to all the world and we carry cameras that take pictures without film and we listen to iPods that hold more songs than entire radio station play-lists and we engage in role-playing videogames with friends worldwide via the Internet, then we stare blankly and ask, “Is this it? Is this all you got?”
The die has been cast. The mold has been made. The next generation has been formed. Let me describe the shape of it:
The first casualty of this explosion in technology has been the elimination of childhood. Opie don't live in Mayberry no more. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have become dusty icons of an earlier America. Children who never sat at that Thanksgiving table, played marbles with those neighborhood kids, skated on that frozen pond or skinny-dipped in that swimmin' hole cannot relate to the drawings of Norman Rockwell.
Is this going to be one of those whining “things used to be better in the old days” rants? No, not at all. I'm merely wiping the mist of romanticism from the lenses of clear-eyed truth. And the truth is plainly this: kids today are growing up in a different world than the one that you and I knew. Things have never been this way before. Or even anything like it.
Have you watched cartoons on TV lately? The level of social satire in cartoons targeted to 6 year-olds would astound you. Even more alarming is the fact that most of today's kids understand it. Ambushed by unexpected adulthood, children are being robbed of the carefree days that would have sustained them with a lifetime of memories. They are a savvy, streetwise generation that was never given a chance to be naive.
The second casualty of this explosion in technology has been the fragmentation of mass media. Thirty short years ago, I could read the daily newspaper, watch ABC, NBC or CBS, or tune in to one of half a dozen radio stations. That was the size of my world. There was no FOX or WB and cable TV was only a rumor; there was no A&E or BET or CNN or HBO or ESPN or PAX or NICK or CNBC or Oxygen or Discovery or History channel. FM radio was only wishful thinking and there was no such word as “website.”
We're suffocating beneath an avalanche of media. What is an advertiser to do?
I'll not speculate today about the future of mass media, but I will deliver some good news about the future of childhood. Jan Wagner, a recent graduate of Wizard Academy, has created a world-class helper for today's pressured children. Yello Dyno is a character like purple Barney – but from the mean streets – who teaches kids how to sidestep bullies and avoid dangerous situations. And he does it all in a non-fearful way. With any luck, Yello Dyno will become the new hero of kids ages 5 to 9. If you can spare a minute, visit Jan and Yello Dyno atwww.YelloDyno.com. (Be sure to listen to the sample Yello Dyno song.)
It's people like Jan Wagner that make Wizard Academy proud. Together, we can change the world.
Roy H. Williams