I recently walked by my beloved city spot of Bryant Park in search of one crucial question...
To my chagrin, the question, incidentally expressed via billboard, had been replaced by new ads for the Bryant Park Tourneau store. I was too late!
It was devastating.
I couldn't capture for posterity the quandary posed by this ad, and even today, there's not a trace of its existence on the World Wide Web!
The store’s billboard, had once upon a halcyon time, presented a man posing in a tuxedo with a very very slick watch and a very very pleased look on his face that would not quite communicate overt happiness, for that would downplay the gravity of the situation, but rather a display of subtle self-satisfaction...
Our billboard’s crucial question: “The dress code is tux... what’s the watch?”
I was touched.
I’d have only added a little more context for the model who appeared deeply devoted to his portrayal of a man on top of his dress code in the form of the following words.
Now, kindly imagine a voice-over actor who narrates movie trailers in a very deep and concerned voice, accompanied by intermittent dramatic pauses, to provide the dynamic audio of this text:
“My God, I’m so appropriately attired... Really really sensitive to occasion! I’ve covered all my wardrobe bases. Can you say the same? ...And by the way, I’m so sexy that it’s crazy! Are you? If not, try buying a watch. Tourneau... That’s the way to go. Tourneau...”
Yes, male models have to be “really really ridiculously good-looking…” And they know it.
But I look at marketing as a way to spread a message, at minimum for the good of the company’s customer base, if not society at large.
An opportunity to share something important in a creative and engaging manner.
Now, it may be a daunting task to look at marketing in this light, and all the more so when you’re selling high-end watches to the world, trying to out-compete the likes of Macy’s and JC Penney, while attracting the Cartiers and Chanels to be your featured products.
However, in my view, the real burden of responsibility does not exactly fall on Tourneau. It falls on us, the consumer, who creates the demand and looks upon an ad as enticing or not.
Tourneau sells us excellent watches at a premium for a luxury market. Yet, to be bombarded with images that instill desire to be important and admired has a serious side effect.
It creates a culture. It stems from a culture. And it reinforces a culture. A culture wherein values like humility, honesty, care, and so on, get drowned out by a predominating vanity. And one can feel this culture of vanity any time he or she sets foot at an upscale Manhattan party.
This is happening all over the world, Manhattan is just really really ridiculously good at creating the culture and has a plethora of such parties!
So much insecurity posing as self-assurance. So much trying to find the right lines and look important and suave. So little actual self-assurance and ability to connect with others in a meaningful way.
When we spend our time and money on pondering the question of what watch to wear with the dress code of tux, we lose something.
Nothing is free. It’s not that we can’t wear expensive watches or be happy to look good. But is that the culture we want to intentionally create?
Imagine you can only have one core value to live for. Consider how difficult it is to live for even one value, through and through, in utmost integrity, and how many competing values contradict us at each turn.
What if you were to turn this contemplation of values from intellectual exercise into something you live and breathe? What will the quintessential core value be for you? And how will you pursue it?
If you strive to live by this value, you won’t have to worry about the ads on the street and you can wear whatever watch you like.
Utterly preoccupied with a higher question, all else will be secondary...
The rest will gradually fall into place, pursued according to necessity. And even if not, you’ll be surprised at the resultant fulfillment in spite of needs not yet met.
A New York possessed of the higher questions in life would be all the more thrilling a place to live than it already is, as would any such place, marking a truly halcyon time.