No-one has ever written on advertising and communications as well as Jeremy Bullmore.Â In fact, no-one has ever written a tenth as well.Â Maybe not even a twentieth.Â But when I read his latest piece in the Marketing Society’s excellent Market Leader magazine (available on 7-day free trial at www.warc.com) I found to my amazement that I disagreed with him.
In hazel-rather-than-brazil-nut shell, he arguesÂ that there’s nothing so new about the Internet because people have always “interacted” with communications.Â He says that all good communicators in the history of the world have realised that half the job of communication takes place in the communicatee’s brain (yes, yes, your communicatee’s brain is saying there’s no such word, and you’re right).Â The only difference, he says, is that this kind of “interactivity” has taken place in private, one to one, between, say, writer and reader, whereas on the Internet interaction happens visibly, publicly and often between many people.
OK, the great man is half-right.Â It certainly is true that people “interact” with communication.Â They don’t just receive it passively, except maybe old-style Procters commercials.Â And clever communicators think of their work as a dialogue even when it’s taking place remotely, via the printed word or the television script.
But to say this kind of interaction is anything like what’sÂ happening on the Internet seems to me, well, frankly,Â a bit daft.Â When we say that people are “interacting” with communications on the internet, what we mean, increasingly, is that they’re taking complete control of the proceedings.Â Â Look at Wikipedia.Â Or at My Second Life.Â Or YouTube.Â Consider that in the top 20 google listings for Ryanair, nearly half are sites consisting of negative comments from consumers, or the media, or both.Â Search “natwest” and “complaints” and you’ll get over 54,000 listings, including serious players like financevictims.co.uk and grumbletext.co.uk in the first ten.
People say the Internet is like a High Street, and up to a point it is, but the trouble is that it’s lots of other things too – one of which is theÂ corporate PR day from hell.Â Every day.
What the Internet really does is to democratise everything.Â Â It’s the Formula One, supercharged, foot-to-the-floor acceleration of the democratising process that technology has been driving for 20 years.Â
It started withÂ some craft skills.Â Â Advertising artwork?Â Once you needed a ten-year training, not to mention a trade union card.Â NowÂ you need aÂ Â£500 Mac.Â Recording music?Â Â Once you needed musicians, a studio and an engineer who could twiddle 200 buttons while splicing recording tape with his teeth.Â Now, a Â£400 home studio has several times the power of the machinery in Abbey Road Studio 1 when the Beatles recorded Revolution and When I’m 64, to choose two pertinently-named tracks.Â I could go on:Â they even say thatÂ those who’ve spent enough time on Microsoft Flight Simulator might make a decent fist of landing a Boeing 737 in one of those Airplane-like “Oh my God, they both ate the fish!” scenarios.Â
I have my doubts about that, but I have very little doubt that the publicness of the interaction that happens on the Internet will make it more and more and more different from any other kind of interactiveness that’s happened anywhere else ever.Â All sorts of interactions that were previously thought completely impossible will become commonplace.
Even idiots fromÂ financial agencies slagging off that brilliant Mr Bullmore.