Rescuing the Message from the Medium

I fear we’re losing the message to the medium.

McLuhan was right – the medium is the message. But when McLuhan wrote his works, he was living in a time when media evolved in serial stages – that is, for hundreds of years, print dominated; then for decades radio came along; and then television.

Each of these media had their own particular influence on our senses: print enhanced our visual processing while dampening our oral tradition; radio somewhat brought back our oral tradition; and television further enhanced our visual and auditory senses.

Before the Web, people had time to adapt to these media because they came along in different stages. Media evolved serially in time.

But today the Web is evolving all different kinds of media at the same time. Today’s media evolve parallel in time.

The Web is mother of all media.

The influences of these ever-evolving/devolving media come at us at once – not over centuries nor decades, nor even years but months.

So if the media are the messages, what are we talking about? What’s being said? What are we losing?

Soon, our immersion in these media – by choice or not – will mean that the messages we send and receive are the media we use.

The implication of the medium is the message is that the message is a prisoner of the medium!

But there’s something wrong about that. There must be some rescuing element.

We simply can’t be social if the messages we send each other are not messages but media.

So how can we snatch back the message from the medium?

I argue that the rescuing element is Art.

I argue that Art is Technology’s creative twin.

Art has always been Able to Technology’s Cain.

And yet, Art always resurrects. “Art is eternal.” You never heard that about Technology, did you?

While Technology advances according to what’s created, Art creates what advances.

Art is our creation of meaning. Meaning, not the medium, should be the message.

If you want to have a meaningful life in a time where media are proliferating at an an unprecedented and ruthless pace, I suggest you do the work of creating the meaning instead of making turkey stuffing for media.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lone individual expressing your passion or a multinational corporate enterprise: if most of what you’re doing is fueling the medium with messages, you won’t create meaning.

Any enterprise without meaning is just a shell – an empty medium propogating meaninglessness.

The way to rescue the message from the medium is to keep at the message.

Forget focusing on the media so much – create! create! create!

Create the message so full with meaning that it bursts right out of the medium.



Healthy Media

It’s so true that it’s a tired cliche: The medium is the message.

Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation almost 50 years ago has everything to do with our time.

Media are no longer intermittent parts of our lives.

Print, radio, television – you turned them on, you turned them off. You did the turning.

Today’s media – they stay on. ¬†They’re sleepless faeries. They do the turning.

Each of these media has their own unique properties, possibilities, limits and uses.

What are the messages of these media? The media themselves.

The message of Social Media is Social Media.

So if the medium is unhealthy – addictive, misinforming, infiltrative, distracting – the message is unhealthy.

Those of us who want to make the best use of Social Media for healthcare, need a clearer language about how we can make the Web better for patients, providers, researchers, etc.

When we’re discussing the intersection of Healthcare and social media – whether a particular medium is good/bad for in a particular context – perhaps we should ask “Is this a healthy medium?”


It’s hard to understand what it means to claim “the medium is the message” because we’d like to think that the container and the content are different. The medium is the medium, we think.

Let’s think of it this way: What’s the message of a petri dish of bacteria? It’s the medium: the petri dish of bacteria.

The message of a gene is…a gene.

Healthy Media are those media which produce healthy messages. They propagate health.

The message of Healthy Media is Healthy Media.

If you’re looking for Healthy Media online, you’re looking in the wrong place.

So: what are Healthy Media? –

The cells in your body.

Your body.


You are a healthy medium propagating the message of you.


Sometimes the messages falter – bits and parts of you break-down. It may hurt. It may depress. It may kill.

But: there you are, all the while a propagating medium of health.

Can – and does – Social Media play an important part of staying and becoming healthy? Yes. And no. So you take the best and propagate the best.

But Social Media is not Healthy Media. It’s its own medium.

You, on they other hand, are a true social medium.

A healthy social medium.

What’s the message of your body? What messages are faltering?

Can you find other healthy social media – other you’s – to connect, share and help each other?

Because if you can do that, then you are building a network of Healthy Media.

Social Media isn’t the right phrase in Healthcare.

It’s Healthy Media.

You never thought of this before, but Medicine is about propagating Healthy Media.

Health Care keeps the Healthy Medium well; fixes it when it falters; and dignifies it when it dies.

You, my friend, are it!

You are a healthy medium.

You are the message of health.

The message of health is you.

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocialHealthy Messages from Hermes


David Ogilvy Predicted 13 Changes in Advertising

Predicting how technology shapes our future is always an interesting sport. Science fiction writers usually get things right in principle, but often miss the mark on specifics. So let’s take a look at what David Oglivy predicted three decades ago about how advertising would evolve.

In the last chapter of Ogilvy On Advertising, Ogilvy predicts “13 changes”:

  1. The quality of research will improve, and this will generate a bigger corpus of knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t. Creative people will learn to exploit this knowledge, thereby improving their strike rate at the cash register.
  2. There will be a renaissance in print advertising.
  3. Advertising will contain more information and less hot air.
  4. Billboards will be abolished.
  5. The clutter of commercials on television and radio will be brought under control.
  6. There will be a vast increase in the use of advertising by governments for purposes of education, particularly health education (emphasis added).
  7. Advertising will play a part in bringing the population explosion under control.
  8. Candidates for political office will stop using dishonest advertising.
  9. The quality and efficiency of advertising overseas will continue to improve – at an accelerating rate. More foreign tortoises will overtake the American hare.
  10. Several foreign agencies will open offices in the United States, and will prosper.
  11. Multinational manufacturers will increase their market-shares all over the non-Communist world, and will market more of their brands internationally. The advertising campaigns for these brands will emanate from the headquarters of multinational agencies, but will be adapted to respect differences in local culture.
  12. Direct-response advertising will cease to be a separate specialty and will be folded into he ‘general’ agencies.
  13. Ways will be found to produce effective television commercials at a more sensible cost.

Ogilvy was a smart guy. On the surface, most his predictions seem almost utterly wrong and ridiculous. #8 on political honesty is laughable (perhaps he was being snarky?). To be sure, there’s an air that’s a bit Austin Powers-ish in Ogilvy’s sensibility, but his fundamental advertising views were rather timeless.

And yet, if you overlay today’s technological scenery onto some of his predictions, there’s a certain logic which still holds true.

Twitter, blogs…the Web weren’t around thirty years ago, so I suspect if he were around today he’d appreciate how today’s media challenge traditional assumptions concerning the canvases of marketing.

Let’s look at one example: #2, “There will be a renaissance in print advertising.” Given the bankruptcies of newspaper companies, his prediction seems way off, right?

But: there is a renaissance in today’s version of “print” advertising: the iPad exemplifies this. Ogilvy sensed that “print was (going to be) dead” and he probably understood it would need a resurrection.

What the iPad represents is a convergence of new media (software) with traditional media (hardware). For the last fiften years or so, our conception of information consumption has been based on the Desktop Model. Consequently, we’ve grown to assume that the “old” way of consuming (head down, gazing into something you hold in your hands) has vanished forever.

But the iPad destroys that assumption. The iPad is bringing back “print” but in an electronically-enhanced way.

If that’s true, then the traditional creative skills of advertising are not only not dead, but will be essential as we see the maturation of these novel media.

Skilled marketers will know how and when to thread and weave the following: long copy and short copy; direct copy and ambient copy; ad placement and social availability; and when to step in and when to stay back in social media.

People are going to get sick of Socialganda, just as much as they got sick of dopey ads slapped together with steaming buckets of dreck. Sick of being followed by brands. Sick of having their personal exchanges intermixed with brands who they needed for 15 minutes but never took the hint that the party was over.

Advertising – the kind built for today’s technological conditions – will become a far more appealing option than attention-fraying social engagement.

(Just because I Liked your brand on Facebook because I needed or wanted your product today, doesn’t mean I truly want to be your friend for the next twenty years. When I Liked you, I was responding to what was a convenient ad, and not because I longed to “engage you in conversation”.)

As far as the problem of where social media fits into agencies, #12 give us a hint: it will be folded into their operations. It’s just that agency-client relationships will have to be tighter than before. Meaning: agencies will have to understand their clients better than they ever have.

The agency-client relationship will have to be so coal-to-diamond tight, in fact, that they’ll be able to tell their clients they have bad breath and the clients will be on their knees thanking them. That’s the revolution agencies need to make happen.

That’s a turn off to die-hards.

It’s a turn-on for those who can’t wait for the future by plunging into it today.

Creating the future is more accurate than predicting it.