Direct Line Blog

Rushkoff: "Put Down the Botox and Join Real Life"

Share this article:
Douglas Rushkoff gets his rant on at the 2013 Digitas Newfront (Photo courtesy of Digitas)
Douglas Rushkoff gets his rant on at the 2013 Digitas Newfront (Photo courtesy of Digitas)

You wouldn't expect a respected author and counterculture figure like Douglas Rushkoff to be a fan of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Well, he isn't. But he says watching the reality show did serve as the inspiration that triggered his newest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, an examination of the human response to living in a “real-time and always-on perpetually connected world.”

“I'm a media theorist, so when I watch a show like The Real Housewives of Orange County, I'm watching to try and figure out why there are so many communication breakdowns between these women,” Rushkoff said at the Digitas Newfront event. “It's a show about women who go and have meals together and get into fights.”

But then it hit him—Botox. “These women put so much Botox, so much plastic into their faces they can't make facial expressions anymore that are appropriate to the moment they're in,” he said. In attempting to freeze their faces at age 29, they've surrendered their ability to fully exist in the present.

“When you look around at the business landscape, at culture, at our personal lives, you see the same thing happening in many forms,” Rushkoff said.

And therein lies the rub for brands. We're living in a world where people actually suffer from phantom cell phone vibration syndrome. We're ceaselessly connected, which means gone are the days of telling a single story or disseminating a single message.

“It's something most businesses, and agencies in particular, try to do—to lock down some sort of historical moment of brand mythology rather than embrace the actual present and what it is to live in a real-time universe,” Rushkoff said.

Let's say you sell food, more specifically oats. Back in the day you'd have a stall in the local market. People would mosey on over to you for a chat. You'd discuss the price of oats in general. Your prospect might pick up some oats out of your oat bag and let them pour through his or her fingers to test their quality. Then an oat purchase would be made based on a human relationship. That's true one-to-one marketing.

Today, people buy their oats in plain brown boxes. “But [we] don't have a relationship with a plain brown box, so you put a Quaker on it,” Rushkoff said. “Then you develop mass media so I have a persistent relationship with the Quaker on the box.”

But slapping a Quaker on a box isn't enough anymore. Not in what Rushkoff dubs the “peer-to-peer reality.”

“The only choice is for the company to become the story,” he said. “You can't say, ‘These are great cookies because they're made by elves in a hollow tree'—that's not a real-time story for a peer-to-peer communicated universe.”

It might sound scary,but it's a sheep in wolf's clothing for marketers; an opportunity in disguise.

“Your job is to help the company actually do things worth talking about that comprise a real-time nonfiction story capable of surviving in a peer-to-peer universe,” Rushkoff told the audience. “That's the opportunity in the digital era.”

Messaging isn't linear; it's alive.

A jeans brand used to be able to say, “Buy these jeans now and you'll get laid later,” Rushkoff said. “But what if I'm getting laid now? Then what do I need your jeans for?”

Not that Rushkoff is a true believer in the always-connected/always-on society. In February he quit Facebook because he felt the social network was exploiting him for data, noting that “the true end users of Facebook are the marketers who want to reach and influence us.”

Cynicism aside, Rushkoff left the assembled Newfront crowd of agency folk with a final appeal: “I'm imploring you,” he said. “Put down the Botox and join real life.”

Share this article:
close

Next Article in Direct Line Blog

Sign up to our newsletters

Latest Jobs:


Company of the week


Concerned about growth? With over 25 years experience in the industry, the list experts at Fairfield Marketing Group possess the know-how to help immediately improve any domestic or international direct marketing effort. First-time and well-established mailers can rely on Fairfield Marketing Group's expertise to help launch campaigns into positive and profitable ventures.

Find out more here »

More in Direct Line Blog

In a World of Technological Novelty, Execution Prevails

In a World of Technological Novelty, Execution Prevails

A successful business and marketing strategy needn't rely on unique ideas so much as exceptional execution of any idea, a marketing expert says.

Is 5-Day Delivery USPS's Way of Saying It's Giving Up on Mail?

Is 5-Day Delivery USPS's Way of Saying It's ...

The head of the PRC and a noted union leader think so. They wonder why such an exclusive business isn't 24/7 instead.

Président Replaces Cheesy TV Spots with Digital

Président Replaces Cheesy TV Spots with Digital

Marketing + Cheese: What more could you want?