We have a new approach for the Account Planning School of the Web this time.
The splendid Grant McCracken has kindly agreed to be a visiting professor. I've asked him because:
1. He's smart and interesting.
2. I thought he'd set the kind of problem that would never occur to me (and he has)
3. He's been on Oprah.
4. You're probably getting bored of me by now (or at least have started to work out what I like, so this'll keep you on your toes)
5. I thought it'd be easier for me.
Grant posted his original thoughts on the assignment here (He even included a suggested reading list). Siince then we've been lazily exchanging emails to clarify the parameters of the task.
So here's the task as I understand it (Grant - chime in if I've missed anything).
The task is "building a lifestyle." By "lifestyle" I mean the characteristic choices from media and material culture that a group of consumers uses to define itself and the world. I cast the net wide to include: the Rat Pack, Preps (in the 1980s), Sloan Street Rangers, Geeks, Chaps (see the website www.thechap.net), Mods, Rockers, Skinheads, Hippies, the New Georgians, and so on. You get the idea. (See the bibliography below for supporting documents and other suggestions.)
The Rat pack life style includes characteristic choices in how to conduct oneself in public (fist fights OK), a style of language (lots of beatnik talk), highly characteristic dress (styling suits with thin labels and ties), a defining way of thinking about and treating women, a very particular view of maleness, a very particular view of the world (self advertising mixed with deep solidarity, splashy, public, brawling) and so on. (How particular was this lifestyle versus other lifestyles of the postwar period? Try to imagine Cary Grant as a Rat Pack member, or any of the Rat pack guys as Cary Grant.)
I want APSW students to design a lifestyle from the ground up, specifying favorite music, films, novels, style of dress, home furnishing, style of speech and so on. Make it cohere in some ways. Make it inconsisent in other. Build in some contradictions. It is the latter two, as much as the first, that make a lifestyle live.
That's all a quote from Grant's post. Does that make sense? That's what you have to do. You have to construct an imaginary lifestyle segment. Give it a name. Imagine what brands they listen to. What movies they watch. What books they read. What condiments they favour. Whatever. Grant originally wanted to add some geographic criteria but I persuaded him that was too onerous. We are agreed though that you can't just create some youth or teen lifestyle. That's too easy. This has got to be a proper grown-up lifestyle choice, not a youth fad.
Is that all clear?
I have to say, I think this is a fantastic task. It's something I'd never have thought of. I think Grant will give you really thoughtful critiques, it'll stretch your brains mightily and - if you ever want to be a futurist - it'll be great practise. They seem to spend their whole lifes making up fake lifestyles.
The specific requirements.
1. You have to give your lifestyle a pithy, catchy name (the kind of thing you could imagine journalists ripping off.)
2. You have to write a 20 word capsule summary of your imaginary lifestyle.
3. You have 1,000 more words to describe the whole lifestyle and the array of choices your lifestylees make. (You are allowed, nay, encouraged, to write less.)
4. You may use pictures - but your document can't be bigger than 2MB. It must be a Word or Powerpoint file.
5. Email your answers to me, not Grant, I'm going to compile them all for him. (russell at russelldavies.com.)
6. The deadline is midnight (GMT) Feb 28th.
How does that sound? Exciting? I think so. I'm hugely grateful to Grant but I must confess to some nervousness, I want y'all to show him how great you are. Please, do me proud. And spend some time with Grant's blog. It'll be worth it.
That is all.