If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am a proponent of Internet culture. As a Millennial, it’s my responsibility to advocate for the thing that defines my generation. But, there is one thing that Internet culture, specifically new media, is doing that seems dangerous at this point in America.
We can all agree that for more reasons than this article will go into that Americans are living in an extremely divided culture. Not everything about the division is bad. For example, it’s easier than ever to find your niche. If you’re interested in a beauty guru who is also a choreographer and has a successful YouTube cooking show, there’s a community for that. Whatever you’re into, the Internet will provide you.
It makes people feel more connected and more authentic than ever.
But it’s also making it impossible for Americans to have shared experiences. For as long as entertainment was confined to radio and television broadcasts, we were all forced into enjoying the same things. It’s easy to find something to talk about with the people at the grocery store or anywhere in your community if you had a 1 in 3 chance of watching the same show as they did the night before. And finding common ground is the best way to fight against divisive forces.
Now, not only do we have a streaming culture that has effectively killed TV, but we’ve got literally hundreds of TV networks. The evening news, something that should be pretty centralized and shared between everyone is divided between Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. And if you’re someone who watches Fox News, you’re almost certainly never going to tune into the other two. And vice versa.
So if, by some miracle, we all decided to turn off our streaming and get back to television for news, we would still be divided as to which station to watch and trust.
We’re in a hole that I don’t see us ever getting out of.
For advertisers, it makes connecting to your audience that much more difficult. We can no longer tell generic stories that will resonate with everyone, because everyone isn’t watching the same things anymore. We rarely share the same experience anymore, so unless your ads are hyper specific to your target audience, you’re going to be forgotten.
And the word of mouth element of advertisements is feeling the effects as well. The likelihood that your coworkers or a random stranger at the train station watched the same show as you last night is slim to none. That would mean that they chose TV over streaming, live viewing over DVR where they can skip commercials, and the same channel as you rather than the 400 other choices they had.
Against those overwhelming odds, it’s easier just to talk about the whether.
Take the holidays — it’s a shared experience for the vast majority of the country. And yet, I haven’t heard any talk of standout spots from the past five years.
Instead, people mention that it doesn’t feel like Christmas until the Hershey’s Kisses "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" ad plays. A spot that is more than 10 years old. We can all relate to it because it was released way back when we all watched TV together, before streaming took over.
That leaves us with one true, live shared experience left. Sports.
The Super Bowl is something that hasn’t lost much steam in terms of viewership or cultural conversations. It’s also the biggest night for advertisers. It’s the only time you can create something that brings people back together and gives them something in common that they can talk to each other about.
So as much as I dislike the NFL, it could be the only thing left that could heal the division in America. It may become the only way advertisers can get their ad to live beyond its 30 seconds. We could be so deep into our demographics that the Super Bowl is the only thing we’ll share.
Unless, we recognize it now and work to figure out a solution.
Which is my personal preference. Don’t make me rely on the Super Bowl to have something in common with the people in my community. Don’t let the Hershey’s Kisses ad be the last great commercial.