The advancement of technology is great, except for when it isn’t

Having recently taken a week-long cruise vacation, it’s apparent that since the last time I was away at sea, a lot has changed, but not all for the better.

Gone are the days where you couldn’t get Wi-Fi once on the water (“I’ll be inaccessible for a week” just seems so late 2000’s). Royal Caribbean offers a Wi-Fi package that works across their entire ship (one of the largest ships available).

Gone are the days where you have to scan a wall of photos (with your eyes!), hoping to find any pictures they have taken of you throughout your vacation. Every photographer scans your “room key” (or “Sea Pass”) which gets associated to you instantly. Dining during “formal night” and hoping to get a picture of yourself in your best attire – no need to bring your camera (or even phone), they will find you, take a photo or multiple photos of you and you’ll have an instant view by simply scanning your pass into their photo booth.

They ask that you only purchase the photos directly and not snap any pictures of the ones they’ve taken, but not everyone abides by that as you can see in the picture to the right:


This was taken for me while I zip-lined down, over the beach of Labadee, Haiti, swinging 500 feet above the beaches, going 40-50 MPH across more than 2,600 feet of wire.

But what about when the technology that is supposed to speed up your fun, goes awry?   Can you avoid getting frustrated while on vacation when you have no control over “how things work?”

This same zip-line excursion (which was great fun) also caused unneeded stress and feelings of technological confusion, uncertainty and feelings of “is it me?” The same location you leave to zip-line from offered lockers where you could place your phone, glasses or the book-bag you used to carry whatever you felt necessary off of the ship. Didn’t bring cash or change – well that doesn’t matter anymore, they simply scan your Sea Pass and then place a wrist-band on you with a scannable code.

Locker directions are “simple” – find an unused locker, place your objects inside and “simply” swipe your wrist, turn the lock and you’re done.  I did that – multiple times and could never get the cubby to lock. Multiple people (that didn’t work there) came by to help me out and explain what I needed to do – and tried to do it for me to no avail. Everyone suggested “getting a new wrist band” – which I did, three times. Finally the person working there came by, used his master switch and got it to work. But each time I tried it on my own, I couldn’t help but feel like I was out of touch and that it was something I just wasn’t getting. That is until I saw multiple people going through the same issue multiple times. My frustration level increased each time it didn’t instantaneously work. Having a key that I could physically hold/wrap around my wrist would have been ideal, but likely felt dated. What is the happy medium of speeding up people’s fun without losing the control over how everything works?

Not to humble-brag but this ship has a considerable amount of hot-tubs – with the Jacuzzi needing to be “turned on” after 15 minutes. How do you turn it on? You no longer get out of the hot-tub to push a button, you “simply” wave your hand over the sensor built into the tub and it turns back on. But what happens when the sensor doesn’t sense you and everyone is watching you, waiting for you to “turn it on”.  Again, this sensor didn’t always work for me, making me think I was doing something wrong and not getting it. But again, seeing people go through the same issue (each with their own fix: “move your hand slow,” “swipe your hand quickly but just once”) made me feel better but equally frustrated. Would a simple button someone pushes have alleviated all of this? Yes. Would a button feel more dated than a “scanner” – probably, but it would have worked the first time. Instead, as the days went by, you were less and less likely to be the person who turns on the hot-tub to avoid the stares and looks of dismay.

The Sea-Pass was a great advancement but anytime you wanted to purchase something, like a drink, you had to have it on you so it could be scanned which led to signing a receipt. I’ve heard other newer ships have even done away with this – you wear a wrist band that’s scanned, tied to your room/credit card and you don’t even have to sign anything moving forward. Frustration levels will only get higher when someone is trying to drink by the pool and the “scanner” no longer works.

This all reminds me of how technology has advanced in the world of digital marketing. I can be pin-pointed down to my geographic location with fairly precise accuracy. I can be reached on my smartphone while I pass a store that uses “beacons” (a post for another time) to alert me to their latest offerings and sales. I can be targeted on my desktop based on my searches, the content I consume and the blogs and videos I interact with. But what happens when the cell tower “goes down” or there’s a glitch in the technology itself and I’m no longer targeted at the “right time”, on the “right device” with the “right messaging”.

I believe that’s why, as the world continues to “advance” (insert your own definition of what “advance” means) we still need to rely and be comfortable in more traditional approaches to both life and advertising. Essentially a “full-service” person working at a “full-service” agency, like ConvergeDirect.

Dov Calderon
VP, Director of Interactive

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