11 May 2010 11:28 pm   //   Filed under: Media, Technology, TV commericals

Notes on impatience

We can find anything we want on the Internet. The other day, I had an old advertising jingle stuck in my head that I remembered from childhood. (“You’ve got a lot to do before lunch!”) It took me about 10 minutes to find a YouTube video of the 1992 Cheerios commercial it came from.

How quickly things change. Remember when we used to wait to tape songs off the radio? Today we can find almost any piece of media we’re looking for with a few taps on a screen.

When we can’t find something, we actually get frustrated. Recently I read a book called Where The Suckers Moon about the history and impact of advertising, as told through the story of Subaru’s ill-fated 1991 ad campaign. Later I went online looking for samples of the 1991 Subaru commercials mentioned in the book. They’re nowhere! How exasperating!

With this impatience, we anticipate instant progress. This week I read a Bloomberg News story titled, “Time Warner Supports U.S. Postal Service Elimination of Saturday Delivery“. I thought to myself: “Quaint!” Magazine publishers and the Post Office are both collapsing. Surely within 10 years paper distribution of magazines by mail will be a mute point.

Our calls for instant progress are unrealistic. Then I remembered a scene from Where The Suckers Moon in which the ad writers predict the demise of car dealers within 10 years. Dealerships are inefficient, unnecessary and old-fashioned, they reason. Customers would rather order cars and have them delivered, and factories would rather sell right to customers. Didn’t happen. Today, the Internet enables custom ordering and delivery of many products, but not cars. The car dealer system is too deeply entrenched. The same may be true of Time Inc. magazines, the U.S. Postal Service, and the massive and diverse business infrastructure intertwined with their interests. Maybe we’ll be reading paper copies of magazines in 2110.

But we need to demand progress anyway. Nobody ever solved a problem by sitting around waiting for things to happen, or predicting that everything new would fail. Impatience can bypass realistic (and low) expectations. Impatience can invent new systems on the fly that are often stronger and nimbler than if they’d been carefully planned. We need to be impatient. Impatience is good.