Friday, March 25, 2011

The Future of...Me

I have it damned good. I try to remind myself of that as often as possible, because I find it remarkably easy to slip into pessimism, or even outright cynicism. And since so many good, exciting, transformative things are happening right to me right now, I thought I could risk your indulgence in writing a more personal post than is normal. (I will strive to ensure it is less than completely irrelevant to people who aren't me.)

First, my wife and I are expecting our first child this summer. This has triggered an instant change in every parent we know from trumpeting the glory of child-rearing to cackling about the lack of sleep we'll be getting for the foreseeable future (estimates range from 6 months to 18 years of sleeplessness, depending on the parent, or perhaps on the child). I am hesitant to say anything back to people who have already run the gauntlet, but can I say in general that our society's attitude towards parenthood is completely screwed up, and is based on the notion that every moment of life should be the best it possibly can be? I don't look at my child as a moment-to-moment affirmation of my life choices and how great I am, but as an investment. I'm not particularly thrilled at the notion of a baby (it's exciting, but I know it'll have plenty of pain), but I'm increasingly ecstatic as I think about that child being 3, or 10, or 18, or 25. The point is that you're investing yourself in the future of humanity and, in particular, in expanding your family to include another member who will be loved, and love back. Sure, a baby loves in its basic way (and that way is damned hard to resist), but that love matures and grows and becomes more worthwhile with time, and THAT'S why I wanted to get married and have children, dammit! (Ok, rant over.)

The next (potential) big change is buying a house. Is it any surprise that the first change triggered the second? As many flaws as there are in the system of home purchasing as there are, I have to say that it's extraordinary that our society fosters the purchasing of property by new families, even as the country (or many parts of it) get more crowded. We still have this cultural commitment to family and individuality that I think is, for the most part, a very healthy and even critical thing. We still allow and encourage people to chart their own course, and making a decision to buy a bit of land and a house to call home is a big part of that, both practically and symbolically. I wonder if, between a rising population and increased governmental and social pressure to live a green lifestyle, if this institution can be preserved in the future.

With all this change, the most stable aspect of my life is work. But is that stability only an inch deep? I don't mean that I won't be working at Cline Davis & Mann in a year, but that the whole industry might be on the cusp of transforming in ways that will make my actual work very different than it is today. Right now healthcare marketing is all centered around personal one-on-one relationships between the physician and the sales rep. No one entirely likes this state of affairs, but it has persisted because reps do provide a needed service (quickly disseminating information about new drugs) and because the physician is a relatively small market not efficiently reached by mass mediums like television. (There are exceptions, but I'll leave that aside.) But both of the above assumptions no longer entirely true. Reps increasingly don't have time or access enough to share meaningful information, and there are other ways to effectively target small markets. Everyone in the pharma advertising industry, just like the consumer advertising industry, acknowledges that digital relationships are somehow going to supplant or and the very least supplement traditional communications. But no one knows how. My contention is that the 'creative' aspect of advertising will primarily provide inducement for an audience member to enter into, or deepen, a digital relationship. The business end of advertising will be making use of this relationship in a way that doesn't turn the audience off. It's going to be a delicate dance, and we're so far from figuring it out the way that rep brochures and journal ads are figured out that everyone who thinks about it gets intimidated.

So my future doesn't look to hold a lot of stability. But it does hold adventure, and excitement, and possibility. And I have a great wife and family as the base to build on. And so, onward!

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