They allow people to espouse their opinions and take sides with lightning speed. A topic can go around the world twice on the Twittersphere in the time it takes to locate a Starbucks, order and receive a Frappe Mochachino latte. Politically, the numbers in the major parties are close and each feels it is an issue away from having either a majority or being relegated to the minority party.
So as we speed along the tracks to the 2012 presidential election expect parties, interest groups and concerned citizens alike to be critically focused on the advertising and marketing practices of companies.
Back to the child with the pink toes. Psychiatrists, sociologists, activist groups, concerned citizens and zoologists (okay, I made the last one up) have all weighed in as to whether it is innocent fun with mom or gender-bending behavior modification.
I'm not qualified to arbitrate. I do know that as our country continues to become more polarized around issues, advertisers creating future campaigns will need to navigate roads that are narrower, with deeper ditches on either side, and the decisions they make at each intersection more crucial. And to end -- continuing the metaphor -- it matters what brand of GPS you are using.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New York Council.