(FYI: I have recently watched a succession of western films that were staged in the twilight of the wild west: UNFORGIVEN, THE SHOOTIST and THE WILD BUNCH)
Pretending that things will continue to be as they have been in living memory is very tempting for obvious reasons. It makes an already difficult thing, surviving, much more bearable. contemplating your own obsolescence is very hard. nobody wants to feel like yesterday’s news.
Recently i finally got around to watching the legendary Sam Peckinpah’s legendary film THE WILD BUNCH. And i couldn’t but be struck by the parallel’s between their story and that of the advertising industry.
Both once ruled a lawless terrains solely by their wits and energy. both were purely the products of their time. No wild west, no gunslinging outlaws. No mass market TV, no advertising industry.
And both cultures really fancied themselves and actively created their own legends. Buffalo Bill Cody had a lot in common with Buffalo Bill Bernbach. It took ego to be a gunslinger too. And both Bills actively cultivated their own legends.
In the gunslingers’ case, power came from the lawlessness of their environment. civilization spelt doom for outlaws. In the case of advertising it was our ability to do something very specialized: TV advertising. And the erosion of that audience automatically means that the role of advertising as a creative force in the culture will lessen more and more.
At the very end of The Wild Bunch, the old-timer you least expected to survive this splatter-fest says invites a former nemesis to team up with him for future hijinks. He says “It ain’t like it used to be, but it’ll do!”. And then he bursts out laughing. That’s the end of the movie. Kind of how i feel about advertising.