Technology Changes Advertising, But It Might Also Change Something (gasp!) Even Bigger

I come from a military family.  My Dad graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and my older brother was ROTC at Penn State, eventually retiring as a Commander of a P-3 Squadron.  I am deeply grateful that America supports a strong military, given a world infested with Somali Pirates, insane tinhorn dictators, and fragile democracies. Still, the old question of “guns or butter?” always stuck in my mind, fostering my personal military industrial complex. How could reasonable people ever aggressively wage peace in a violent, selfish world?


Finally, we might have some real tools. Ammunition and weapons never provided a lasting answer, but perhaps technology can. Maybe the keys to more universal justice will prove to be literacy, laptops and broadband. Think about it: a literate populace can not be isolated from an ever-tighter global community.  A laptop allows anyone to express and share their unique thoughts, sounds and images. And broadband allows the one to instantly connect with the many all over the world. With literacy, laptops and broadband, the traditional barriers to communication fall away; genocide in Darfur can be brought to our desktops, starvation in North Korea can be felt in our homes, the world’s huddled masses can no longer be bottled up by the dictatorial few.  

“Mass amateurization” as the sociologically-insightful Clay Shirky calls it, threatens many aspects of our marketing business with devaluation and commoditization.  But if it also helps the oppressed, the abused or the marginalized gain their voices and have them magnified by the amplifying effect of a global social network, well, that mitigates my professional uncertainty somewhat.  I can live with that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

One thought on “Technology Changes Advertising, But It Might Also Change Something (gasp!) Even Bigger

  1. BTR says:

    Guns or butter, or in today’s world: maybe laser guided weapons or a virtual classroom. No doubt the ability to break down barriers results in a better understanding of other cultures. Sometimes those barriers are physical as evidenced in Kosova & the FRY or religious which is seen around the world or maybe family based (Hatfield and McCoys). Regardless of the cause the ability to cross or minimize the barriers are the key to a civilized world.

    No doubt over the years technology has proved to be key in this effort. We saw it in 1492 when Christopher Columbus braved the high seas and sailed beyond the horizon of the Spanish coast to find a new world. We have seen it in this era when the young are educated and exposed to thoughts beyond the reach of their community. I have seen it in the middle east when the young are educated outside of their home countries and are able to bring back their lessons.

    Technology plays a big part in breaking down barriers but more important is allowing the thoughts/ideas to flow regardless whether they are technology based or not. When oppressive leaders stifle growth, technology becomes just another unused tool in the toolbox. Technology gets trumped by human interaction every time. It takes the good will of our human spirit to know how to use the technology.

    A very wise man and the one credited with taking the US Navy into the technology age, VADM Jerry Tuttle, always reminded leaders to never forget to get out and meet your compatriots and adversaries, don’t live behind emails and technology. We need to get the young in Darfur and other impoverished areas of the world introduced to opportunities that allow them to reach out beyond their villages but more important we need the good people who have the skills to navigate the cultures built on centuries of oppression.

    Back to the guns or butter quandary, many times those carrying the guns are the ones carrying out the gun boat diplomacy, handing out the Hershey bars to the villagers, building the schools and power grids which will be used to support the technology tools. Just as police on city streets are many times the first to help break down the power of the gangs that intimidate neighborhoods. Ask the military and police and you will find they are the first ones to say they hope never to use their guns and would much rather sit at the table and share the butter.

    As an aside I assume your brother went through NROTC (Navy) not ROTC (Army) since he flew P-3s, a navy aircraft. May seem like a small detail but probably not on the first weekend in Dec when he and his father watch the mids and cadets face each other on the football field!

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