July 30, 2008
Teenagers don’t use email. They text or IM. Email is too slow. They can watch TV, conduct 12 IM sessions, listen to music, respond to text messages, talk on the phone and do homework all at the same time. When sending text or instant messages is too restrictive, they post to all of their friends at once, on Facebook or MySpace. Teenagers actually believe they will die faster from cell phone deprivation than if they stop breathing. Computers are important; cell phones are basic necessities.
This is the new audience for advertising. Linear communication is not going to work.
An entire industry was built around designing a message and getting it out very efficiently to a lot of people. The communication may have been to a lot of people, but it was linear—us to them. Change was slow. Feedback was slow and imprecise. They could be broken into segments, and each segment had its own message, sent linearly to sub-groups of “them”. “Them” didn’t communicate much with each other.
The new audience needs speed, has mass attention-deficit disorder, talks to each other constantly, and gives lots of feedback that they want to be heard. Thanks to technology, we can now address each of them individually, and even know where they are when we send them messages. The switch from mass media to internet to mobile has changed everything about communicating with “them”, and made their messages to each other just as important as our messages to them.
Ad agencies had better understand the technology that makes all this possible. Web design is just linear communication on a new platform. We need to be interactive and mobile and personal. We need to insert messages around the non-linear communications that “they” send to each other. We need to know what will capture their attention in the seconds available so they’ll see our messages at all. This is pretty hard to do, and the mobility and technology of cell phones makes it even harder. But the precision and individuality of cell phones also makes it more valuable.