PERSPECTIVE: Ads for the youth sector are almost always mortifying

’Waheyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...dude!’ screamed the type, tilted at an angle across the page in the Times. It was, of course, an ad for a ’butt-kicking’ Saxo 1.6I VTR with two years’ free insurance. The art direction was even more naff: young guys ’riding’ the cars mid-air, like skateboards.

’Waheyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...dude!’ screamed the type, tilted at an angle

across the page in the Times. It was, of course, an ad for a

’butt-kicking’ Saxo 1.6I VTR with two years’ free insurance. The art

direction was even more naff: young guys ’riding’ the cars mid-air, like

skateboards.



I hardly need to tell you on election day that the three main parties,

as well as most of the advertisers in this country, appear to spend

their lives obsessing about how to tap into the youth market and almost

always get their token efforts horribly, embarrassingly wrong.



If you haven’t guessed yet, the aforementioned ad is for a little

Citroen hatchback. And it’s excruciating in the way that Prince Charles

going to all those pop concerts with Di used to be, or the Royal Bank of

Scotland ad that used ’street-talk’ was. ’Yo. Current account.’



However, a brand or individual does not need to make a right tit of

itself/themselves in order to prove how out of touch it is/they are.

John Major can be interviewed by Ulrika Jonsson on the Dennis Pennis

show all he likes, but he’ll still come across as your least offensive

uncle. ’Why should young people vote?’ Ulrika asked. ’Because it’s your

country’ was the gist of an earnest reply that absolutely proves my

point. Worthy, but old. By now he expects to have to name all the Spice

Girls and has learned them off by heart, along with Patsy Kensit’s

husbands and how to pronounce Gullit.



As our quiz (page 34) proves, some of us are so out of touch with

teenagers that we can appear to be wankers. One of our respondents, when

asked ’How many teenagers are there in the UK?’, replied: ’First, you’ll

have to define your terms better. Do you mean 13- to 19-year-olds?’ But

it’s OK to be out of touch. As a recent ’punter’ raged, better to grow

old gracefully than be the oldest swinger in town.



That’s what happens to all those brands/people who set themselves up to

target ’yoof’ when they’re not capable. Is that insulting? Surely it’s

better to tell the emperor he’s not wearing any clothes. The stark truth

about reaching youth if you’re a grown-up is that if the message doesn’t

make you feel uncomfortable or unsure of yourself then you’ve got it

wrong.



If you’re a fortysomething adman and you produce work you and your

fortysomething client don’t find too objectionable, then forget it,

you’ve already lost.



The ads that have really worked over the past few years have had that

genuine edge: the original Sega (in contrast to naff Nintendo), Nike (in

contrast to Planet Reebok), Tango (in contrast to Sunkist) and Pot

Noodles.



Or even more radical: brands become cool through word of mouth and not

advertising because, as British fashion proves repeatedly, the young

street scene here has a mysterious, magical life of its own.



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