My venture capital friends don’t concern themselves with whether or not Kevin Jonas is dead (“Kevin Who? Does he play for the Brewers?”). My accountant acquaintances may or may not know who Leodis McKelvin is, or care what it means to professional athletes when a poor on-field performance leads to fan vandalism of their homes. And most anyone I know who is gainfully employed and enjoys a social life of even the most modest proportions has better ways to occupy their time than watching Shaquile O’Neal embarrass himself in a pool against Michael Phelps.
But this isn’t a luxury for anyone in advertising. Being informed about ephemeral pop culture happenings is part of the business. It’s why I kept a subscription to People for years, despite the certain knowledge that my brain cells shrunk everytime I read it. It’s why we have to pay attention to pop music and reality TV. It’s why we have an opinion on Kate Gosselin’s new hairstyle (“Hate the waves!”).
For years, if you had a friend in advertising, you wanted her on your Trivial Pursuit team. Because advertising people spend countless hours learning the names and attributes of every human footnote who earns even fifteen minutes of fame.
Which is just one more reason why advertising people should embrace the web with appreciative abandon: it makes these needs easier than ever to know. If you want a list of one hundred topics that are popular right now, you simply punch up Google Trends and the top 100 most discussed topics on the internet are there, neatly listed for your perusal. Along with perennials like diets and recent television episodes, you will find the names of basically anyone in the news. And phrases enjoying their moment of pop popularity.
I read through this list every now and then and always learn something that I can use in conversation later. It’s quick, it’s effective, and it’s glaringly obvious that as a culture, we are not a particularly intellectual bunch. That said, I took some heart in trend #26 today; apparently a number of people want to learn the definition of “admonish.”
And you thought boobs like Joe Wilson and Serena Williams and Kanye West couldn’t teach today’s young people anything…