April 13, 2010

The New Age of Innocence in 2007


By Wendy McHale, Publisher

Being in Vienna earlier this week to welcome in 2007, we celebrated it by waltzing to Johann Strauss Jr.'s "The Blue Danube" masterpiece in St. Stephen's Cathedral Square in the heart of the "Big Village" as the Viennese refer to their city.

There was no "countdown" leading up to midnight, no ball dropping, no party-hats, no fireworks; nothing really that we in the USA associate with New Year's Eve. In fact, no one was really watching the time! Somewhere between 12 midnight and 12:15PM the crowd only became aware that the New Year had in fact arrived once the orchestra tuned itself up and then began playing the most divine music, all under a crystal clear moon-lit sky in the crisp, cool night air.

Martin Scorsese's film of "The Age of Innocence" has the same pomp and circumstance, elegance and outward appearance of New York Society civility as well; yet things are not as sweet and dreamy on the surface as they appear. If you listen closely, you can also hear the whispers of name dropping, character assassination and duplicity amid the glorious ballroom which are anything but innocent.

Welcome to the New Age of Innocence on Madison Avenue!


Yahoo! Movies summarizes the "Age of Innocence" film this way: Set amid the stifled world of New York high society during the 1870s, an aristocratic lawyer struggles with his growing passion for his fiancee's beautiful cousin, an expatriate countess who has abandoned her marriage.

Similar to film adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel, Madison Avenue finds itself amid the stifled world of ad agencies, trying to adjust to the new landscape of consumer preferences, while new media "innovation" agencies focus on which fork to use now that they finally have a seat at the table.

For as much as both groups are poised and appear to be open to dance together, they will hardly have a graceful waltz. More than a few of the old standards of marketing etiquette will be broken in 2007. The New Age of Innocence promises to be as vicious and duplicitous as Scorsese's brilliant film.


Acting out Madison Avenue's newest passion play, Newland Archer, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, typifies a successful marketer; open to new ways of satisfying customer needs to maintain - if not increase - its position in its category society. They find themselves intrigued with new, profoundly intrusive vehicles such as MySpace, You Tube and user-generated content - as much as because these have influenced their own personal media usage patterns - as well as due to the research reported almost hourly about these how they will mashup other media.

With Winona Ryder playing May Welland, imagine for a moment that her clutching to the traditional lifestyle she has always maintained - living in her own private Idaho - is not all the different from, let's say, traditional media's view of things.

And then there is Countess Ellen Olenska, the beautiful and powerful new presence of New Media in Daniel and Winona's world, entering Madison Avenue society with radically different ideas, expectations and standards from what Day-Lewis and Ryder have enjoyed. While they all contend to be a family, like any relations, there are rivalries, hurt feelings and fears of the effect each will have on the other.


No surprise that these conflicting agendas build up and challenge each party's view of themselves and the world they now live in. So of course, it gets very very ugly.

That is how we envision how the two worlds - the two families if you will - of Madison Avenue will dance together, uneasily in 2007. No longer can each position themselves on the opposite sides of the room, gossiping amongst themselves as if the other does not exist.

The primary element that from time to time will cause both to have two left feet is that each speaks a different language and does not have the patience, the desire - and with some - even the ability to learn who will lead and who will follow on the floor.

Madison Avenue's New Age of Innocence will be anything but. The reality is that conflict, misunderstandings and internal/external struggles will be notably present this year. Expect the social lubrication to be a mix of Jagermeister shots along with a glass of sparkling Champagne.

Yet all of this does not mean we cannot enjoy the 2007 ball. For as much as there is tension in the room, there is an ever-present electricity in the air that brings everyone to the table, the indescribable excitement of attraction; of doing a deal and making and agreement which benefits each party.


Madison Avenue should contend that for all its clumsy feet and toe-stepping between media and marketing partners in 2007, it is all part of the ceremony; the culture we live in.

It's that particular aspect and observation I could not help but notice in Vienna. Europeans have a different sense and sensibility than we do as Americans. Their intensity and ambition - to be the belles of the ball - seems not as intense as ours. They trade off (what we call) success with a better quality of life.

We at the MadAve Journal will always try to include a waltz on our daily dance card, with the goal of sharing a little of that grace and poise with our readers. After all, there is more to life than countdowns, balls dropping and party hats. In the city of Mozart and Strauss as well as on Madison Avenue, listening more to the music than to the whispers will always make work more exquisite.


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