Tuesday, October 2, 2007

the power of the innocuous moment

Life can really be divided into two categories: the monumental and the innocuous.

Let me explain:

The moments of our lives are either ones that we will stamp as worth remembering, stories we'll share with other people, or times that will be photographed and put on our mantelpieces. They may range from your first kiss to a job promotion to the birth of your children. They are the glorious events that will forever go down in history as having a certain depth of value and meaning.

The other parts of our lives can be categorized as innocuous moments. That is, the insignificant, everyday points of time that make up the majority of our lives, but which, in hindsight, are utterly forgettable. I put a band-aid on a paper cut. I picked a pen from my desk drawer. I shaved.

Here's the interesting part. Despite the fact that we would all love to experience the thrills (or even intense lows) of the monumental moments of life, it is the innocuous moments of life that truly unite us. Who hasn't almost slipped on a patch of ice, (or on a slippery floor, or inside the shower) but caught themselves and then looked around to see if anyone was watching? Those "innocuous" moments connect us on a deeper level than the major life events.

For example, many people have had a wedding. If you tell someone you got married, they are excited for you. Perhaps it brings back memories of their own wedding. But it is the fact that you stood in the mirror retying your bow-tie over and over again that connects the two of you because that's human. It's the moment of fallibility. The moment of imperfection that creates the shared experience, not the event itself.

I was thinking about this idea with regards to advertising. I think advertising has an inverse relationship with life's "memorable vs. innocuous" moments. Simply put, the more "monumental" life's actual moments are represented/recreated through advertising, the less memorable it is in the consumers' eye. AND, the more "innocuous" the life moment, the greater the memorability when put into advertising.

I will offer these two car commercials. In the one, the landscape is sweeping, the road dramatically winding, the footage downright breathtaking. The boredom overwhelming. In the other, VW has literally filmed a series of life's forgettable moments and created an impactful, memorable advertisement.



The idea is that we are, as a society, joined by these small moments of truth. Moments we don't think about at the time, but carry such emotional importance when we see them or hear them replayed by somebody else. It is the notion that we are not alone, that we all have to go through waiting for a bus, slipping through a closing door at the last second by "making ourselves super thin", or getting back the wrong change. It is by sharing the innocuous moments that we develop a sense of truth, compassion, and unity. Know what I mean?

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the thoughts and opinions expressed below are entirely my own, and are not necessarily shared by my friends, family, or employer. (though they very well might be...)