“My name is Mary, and I’ve just discovered the Internet, but I know it is the future” said the gray haired woman on a recent Rogers Communications television advertisement.
As an age contempory of “Mary”‘s I wanted to scream and throw a cellphone at the screen… but luckily my cellphone service is Bell.
But let’s think about the premise of this advertisement. Unless “Mary” has been living under a rock for the past couple of decades, she has likely been using computers for most if not all of her working life. If, like me, she is a veteran of the punch card, DOS and early word-processing programs, she likely can run rings around some younger people in understanding her computer and getting it to do what she needs.
I know that there was once a time when I thought of computers as being “the future”. That was in the 1960’s when I was an elementary school student and we had an opportunity to learn some simple programming using computer punch cards, prior to the silicon chip, or later in university when, as a theatre student I got to play around with some of the earlier Moog synthesizers and made some early experiments in computer-generated video art with a Sony portapak.
I’m an artsey, not a computer whiz kid but computers have come into mainstream aspects of my life since the 1980’s. I learned my first wordprocessing program on a Commodore 64 and in 1985 I was hired in an office job that required me to create a simple database for a YWCA branch in a new program called Q & A. I taught myself DOS, in order to write the batch files needed to sort the data, and became the office “computer expert” by being one step ahead of the rest of the staff in computer knowledge.
In the 1990’s it was easy for those of us that had used older wordprocessing programs like Easy Script or Wordstar to learn html as the codes for centering, emboldening, tables, etc. were exactly like those we had learn to format text for print output. I took to website design like a duck to water, creating sites for volunteer organizations, family, and work projects for my various arts and non-profit employers. Mail lists and e-newsletter creation have been a part of the arts marketing strategy in all of my organizations for about 12 years.
These days I’m an avid user of social media, a blogger, and coordinate a cutting edge arts series in virtual reality. In my various management positions I have trained many entry staff members to use computer software on the job. I can attest to the fact that being able to text friends or Twitter a photo does not mean that the employee will be able to generate mail merges, use accounting software, has the basics of desktop publishing, can navigate a spreadsheet, or can print a simple mailing label.
Obviously, the Rogers ad struck a very sour note with me but in all seriousness, the advertisement is seriously out-of-step with reality and does a real disservice to the many working men and women with up to date job skills but who struggle with the type of age prejudice evident in the Rogers advertisement. On what basis did Rogers think that a late 50’s woman would be credible as someone “just discovering the internet”? Would they make the same supposition about a visible minority member and not expect a backlash?
I hope that all of the women my age let Rogers know what they think about their recent media campaign. For a company that has had some very clever advertising, this one is just dumb.