Are ad agencies promoting the digital divide?

24 Oct

Are we plugged in and tuned out?

We promote businesses on Twitter, Linkedin and foursquare. We blog. We are on our Blackberries and iPhones, downloading apps and sharing them. We like businesses and ideas on facebook. We dig iPads (even if we are going to wait until the 3rd generation when a good word program magically appears). This is all very good.

I wonder though if our digital/social obsession is putting us out of touch with too much of mainstream Canada?

We forget that not everyone has a computer, uses one, or even has an email address. In 2009, only 62% of Canadian households had a computer. (Wiki Answers)

How many of those online households do you think are also tweeting? And reading blogs? And clicking on facebook ads?

This is the digital divide.

If 38 % of our homes don’t have computers, what do they have? An increasingly smaller wallet with less disposable income all the time. Their behaviour is less shaped by new technology, with its prohibitive cost to enter, than by economic imperatives: debt, refinancing, budgeting, consolidating.

Ad people probably need to close our laptops more often, leave our smartphones re-charging and spend time walking around observing. What we’ll start seeing is not how many people are paused mid-sidewalk to answer a text or check-in to their location, but how few. Many more will simply be going about their day, reviewing their mental checklist or tuning out with their earphones in.

We are the consumer experts after all. Not just pimps for the early adopters.


7 Responses to “Are ad agencies promoting the digital divide?”

  1. brainstormingconsultants October 24, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    This social media stuff is over hyped and is a cheap way of trying to sell junk on the net and all you have to do is look at Facebook and Twitter to a lesser extent to realize this.

    It is just the old Bulletin Boards matured and in a graphical user interface. Nothing really has changed except the names.

    I still prefer to use email rather than try to convey a message in 140 characters or less and texting just sucks.

    If you are going to try to shove your message down my throat, then have the decency to do it on a webpage not on twitter. Yes you can send a link but don’t try to sell me at 140 characters. On Facebook at least you can stretch it out alittle further and can use it some what like email.

    If I’m going to buy something I like to hold it in my hand, not read bullshit reviews of it on the net and look at glossy photo’s of it. We don’t buy property or cars like that, so why would we buy anything else like that on the net.

    So after reading this rant, shut your computer down and go watch TV, the Lions or the Canucks must be loosing or go for a stroll in the pouring rain or read a book, it will do you good to get away from this medium.

    Me, I’m going to go out and do alittle photography.

  2. dougbrowncreative October 24, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    Morning Brain, well I do agree with you that there is currently a disproportionate amount of attention being given to social media, nonetheless skilled practitioners are making hay. It doesn’t seem to work as well for those who are invested only casually in it. Like anything else I suppose.

    Online content can generate the interest to dig deeper when it comes to bigger purchases. Things like Twitter serve as thought-starters rather than deal-closers. People are still people. We just find information and get influenced by others in new ways. Thanks for the rant.

  3. Reg October 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    Having recently ‘let go’ of my blackberry as I departed my employer (who had provided it to me as part of my role), I’ve spent the past 3 months “off the grid”, at least in terms of mobile technology. Thus, when I go for a walk (in the rain or not), or get together with a friend for a coffee or meal, I am truly “unavailable” in the old school kind of way. Interestingly, when I tell friends, colleagues or acquaintances of my lack of mobile, 9 times out of 10 the response is shock, disbelief, or puzzled stares and cocked heads that silently say, “What, are you crazy?” or the like.

    While I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the mobile ‘tool’ or that I hadn’t screwed up on a few social engagements once I’d left my apartment, forgetting to even have written it down (i.e. what address were we meeting at again, and what time was it for…?), it has been an otherwise really pleasant exercise in unplugging (albeit not entirely — obviously I’m responding to your blog at my computer, so I’m not really off the grid…). It’s been a nice relaxing way to help me organize my life differently and not be constantly available/connected. It really isn’t all that long ago that we all were not handling our lives through digital interfaces.

    Does that mean I’ll remain without a mobile phone indefinitely? Unlikely — I do appreciate the tool and conveniences, etc. However, it’s been a really good reminder that there is life beyond mobile, and that apparently a good portion of the population functions without it as well.

    Still, it’s been a good mini-social science experiment for one — I dare each of your readers to take a “no-mobile” challenge in some fashion in the near future, if even for a day, and see how it is to be truly unavailable. Maybe I’m just waxing romantic for a time that once was, but it’s amazing how the frenzied pace of digital adoption has nearly obliterated (at least for the adopters) our memory of how to live and thrive without all the tools and connectedness (ironically leading, in some cases, to a different kind of dis-connectedness).

    Here’s to responsible and (self-)disciplined use of the “tools that enable”, so they don’t end up enchaining us.

  4. Amy October 25, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    I know I piss people off because sometimes I don’t respond to texts or return their calls as quickly as they would like. Most of the time my phone is in my purse on the kitchen counter and I am in the living room. I can’t hear if I have a text from there and if I’m in the bedroom I can’t hear the phone ring. Sometimes, even when I do hear it ring, I don’t rush to answer it. Shocking, I know. It’s just not that big a deal to me.

    I like my cell phone for the convenience it gives me, not the convenience it gives other people to connect with me. I appreciate businesses with websites, but I don’t want them tweeting me or sending me emails. I like to have the marketplace available to me whenever I want to visit it, but I don’t want it to come knocking on my door.

  5. dougbrowncreative October 25, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    > Reg, I would take the no-mobile challenge a step further and say ” no nothin.” The cold turkey method is the only way to foster a sense of how enslaved we have become to these tools. I know people who would panic at the thought. They wouldn’t be able to tweet their feeings or like their friends photos or chit chat with someone they hardly know. The feeling of isolation would be devastating.

    > Amy, you seem to have your feet firmly planted on either side of the divide, which is admirable. New technology is kind of like drugs. It’s hard not to slip into habitual use. And then you’re hooked. You obviously don’t need the interventions that some of us do!

  6. Janis La Couvée October 25, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    As someone firmly planted in the new and the old, I appreciate newer technology for the ability to know the PEOPLE behind the brands and companies I choose to do business with.

    Some of my buying behaviours have changed because of this – not all. I still do my research, and refuse to be swayed by obvious marketing messages.

    As for technology distancing us from real connection with people – not so. My circles of friends and acquaintances have grown incredibly in the last 18 months. I have used social media tools to connect with a wide range of individuals I would never have met otherwise. Trust me, when we get together, the mobile devices and distractions are off – we talk!

    In spite of all this – I am well aware of the need to ensure that our communications reach all sectors of society. When I’m promoting community events, I make ample use of traditional media (radio, TV, print, newspapers) and don’t neglect neighbourhood networks, postering, and phone trees.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post Doug.

  7. dougbrowncreative October 25, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    We’re pretty lucky in Victoria aren’t we Janis. We have access to all the technology we could possibly want and a vibrant social media scene to engage with. Contrast that with my experience up in Yellowknife last month where the big challenge was getting computers into the communities so they could begin to connect online.

    There will always be good hard data we can take our cues from when it comes to choosing the media that customers are using. I agree with you that finding a balance between traditional and new media is important. Thanks for your comment.

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