Everybody Knows

August 15, 2011

So they’ve taken to the streets of London. Commentators across the world have been arguing the whys and why fors. The rage, the anger, what Marlon Brando called ‘the horror’ in Apocalypse Now.

To me it has brought to mind the Leonard Cohen song Everybody Knows:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

It’s an age old problem of the haves and the have nots, and one that you could argue is ingrained into every day advertising services: the who, what, where and when of a Louis Vutton campaign is at a marked contrast to the standard Iceland campaign. Marketing speak of ABC1’s and C2DE’s are everyday conversations. Somewhere in all the communication clutter there is an ethical line between selling people what they want to reinforcing stereotypes and suppressing the less privileged (and yes I know advertising is only a small piece of a much larger jigsaw).

More and more, the power of the media is taking a central role in this broader debate. On the 3rd October 1951 Bobby Thomson hit a home run for the New York Giants that the Americans dubbed with typical understatement as the “Shot Heard ’round the World”. But you get the point, a cultural moment that transcends the ordinary and through the power of media (nascent TV and radio) resonated with a far broader audience. This power of media can often and often has been used for greater good as Bob Geldof showed the world back in the ‘80’s. Now here we are in 2011 and the role of media seems to be evolving into murkier, more sinister waters. The recent News of the World scandal and subsequent downfall showed that not everyone walks the ethical line with the same care and attention. In London, following on in the footsteps of Egypt and some other middle eastern countries, social media tools are the centre of attention: half purveyors of content, half deadly weapons. We didn’t need to be told but my word, these are powerful communications tools. So media has as crucial and as central a part in the shaping of cultural direction as it ever did in the 50’s and 80’s. Exciting time to be working in media. Look out for that ethical line.

Tim

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