To Live and Die in Obscurity
I have an idea (here we go again…). When I talk about obscurity, I don’t mean the kind where our deaths are not front page news. That’s pretty much the case for most of us, and we know that being front page news doesn’t mean anything either (case in point: Anna Nicole Smith, RIP). Most of us will live and die in our own little worlds, our lives affecting the people close to us, but not always reaching millions. That is the way the world works when we have billions of people alive at any one time. But there is another kind of obscurity, one that itches my soul and makes me wonder about how we spend the finite number of hours we have on this planet. It started with a bowl of cereal.
So there I was, eating my Honey Nut Cheerios (you can have your Fruity Pebbles, there’s nothing like a bowl of Cheerios) and I saw the back of the cereal box. At first I thought it was a parody of Seinfeld’s Bee Movie, but then I realized it was some kind of Choose Your Own Adventure web movie featuring the bee from the Cheerios box. Here’s a screenshot of the site:
Upon seeing the Honey Defender, my mind immediately went into overdrive: How many MBA’s worked on this project in corporate marketing at GM? How long did it take them to come up with this campaign? Did they treat this thing seriously, having update meetings about the site on Wednesdays? The site is pretty sophisticated, so what was the total budget for the site? Did they wireframe the UI? Is there an art director out there, with a Master’s in Fine Arts, who can claim that the Honey Defender is one of the biggest projects s/he’s ever headed? Most of all, with all the time and effort that went into this site and project, does anyone on the outside grasp the level of sophistication required to make something like this and does it not seem utterly ridiculous to anyone else? You know I preach a lot about how I don’t want to judge people. But these people had a choice! They ostensibly had a choice among life callings, careers after graduation and they chose to make intricate marketing campaigns that include really fancy movies and movie technology to promote a cereal. Call me crazy, but that is the obscurity I am talking about. To spend your time, your precious, limited, finite time working for someone else to promote a cereal that is already a billion-dollar bestseller – says so right in the annual report – seems surreal to me. Cheerios is doing just fine without the Honey Defender. When did selling cereal become a multimedia, Pink Floyd concert-with-special-effects-light-show?
If people are this talented, if we have this kind of sophistication and amount of resources to promote a fake movie about CEREAL, the possibilities out there are endless. We can create anything, build products that don’t exist yet, create relationships and foster collaborations that seemed impossible just a few years ago. But if we limit ourselves, or push and encourage bright people to work in obscurity because they can make a six-figure income and be part of a stable organization, we’re putting limits on ourselves for no reason. The world is out there. Don’t limit yourself to the obscurity of someone else’s not-that-great idea.