Baby Boomers might own and control the media, but attempts to reach
Generation X will continue to be ignored until, Jack Rosevear says,
their media preferences are acknowledged
Every young generation believes that it is misunderstood by its parents’
generation. For my generation, Generation X, this has become a self-
evident truth. Think about it: how many brands really know how to talk
to a young audience?
Why is this? Because advertising and the media are owned and controlled
by the Baby Boomers. And aimed at Baby Boomers. They are currently
around 35 to 52 years in age, whereas my generation are between 16 and
34 years old. While the two generations are inextricably linked, their
views of the world are very different.
The Pill liberated the Baby Boom generation; we grew up with Aids. They
grew up with Harold Macmillan’s expansion economy; we face ‘downsizing’,
‘restructuring’ and ‘streamlining’ after the excesses of the 80s. This
has made Generation X live a great deal of its life in fear. We’re also
very cynical. And this is the fault of Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers saw the first man walk on the moon; Generation X saw Pepsi
advertise in space. Why did the same generation who vehemently opposed
the Vietnam war suddenly approve of war in the Gulf? Think about
Thunderbirds. In the 60s, they were just a cute and clunky puppet show
aimed at entertaining kids for half of Children’s Hour. In the 90s,
Thunderbirds has become a multi-media marketing phenomenon.
The generation that grew up innocently enjoying Thunderbirds then
merchandised it to their own children. It seems as if Baby Boomers can
and will market anything to anyone, and change their principles
accordingly. Is it any wonder we are cynical?
Star Trek illustrates the mood of the 60s: it is a programme about hope,
looking forward and new discoveries. No-one in Star Trek needed money,
there was sexual and racial equality: evidently, there was a bright and
better future. Contrast this with the X Files - surely the most
influential series of the 90s - which is dark and brooding. The X Files
is all about fear of the unknown and cynicism for the past. The X Files
begins with the messages: ‘Trust no-one’, ‘deny everything’ or ‘the
truth is out there’; quite a difference from ‘to boldly go where no man
has gone before’.
Baby Boomers created commercial television and they own and control the
media, but they have abused their power and Generation X has become
hardened to their messages.
The Beatles received medals from the Queen, had singles in the top-five
places in the charts, and the media happily reported their huge success
without seeking scandal or bias. Michael Jackson is the biggest selling
artist of all time, and Thriller the biggest selling album. Yet he’s
made of plastic, lives with a chimpanzee called Bubbles, is obsessed by
Elizabeth Taylor and has a very unhealthy regard for children. Funny how
so much can change in a generation.
After all this, why should Generation X trust the media? We understand
the biases that are at work, why should we believe what Baby Boomers
tell us? Since we have been surrounded by media all our lives, very
little of it becomes part of lives. Media is just a commodity, and
advertising something to be avoided. We have grown up with remote-
conrols, we have grown up with video recorders and we have grown up
learning to ignore ads.
This has not been a problem up to now, Baby Boomers have learned to
accept the trade-off between editorial and advertising. They know that
if you want to see programmes or read articles, then you have to
tolerate the ads. Generation X doesn’t want to trade-off, and we don’t
have to tolerate it.
There are solutions. Instead of intruding on your audience, of forcing
it into the trade-off, you can be invited into our lives. Remember that
we have seen hundreds of thousands of ads in our lives, so we know great
creative when we see it. Tango, Levi’s and Nike have found the perfect
formula for advertising to Generation X: these brands don’t try to
appear young or cool, they define what is cool. They don’t attempt to
hold a mirror up to the young - to show that they understand; rather,
they hold up a window on to the world of the brand.
The other way round the trade-off is to editorialise your advertising
and be just as creative with your media as your execution. Miller
Pilsner created Miller Time, which is the perfect mix of creative idea
and media idea. Creating an ad that people would deliberately tune in to
watch? Ridiculous! It did and it worked.
Apple Tango’s ‘seduction’ proposition made it a natural candidate for
page 3 of the Daily Star. Apple Tango appears chained to a bed in the
current Loaded pin-up poster. Orange Tango was the basis for an April
Fool spoof story in the Daily Mirror. These were not examples of
sponsored editorial or advertorials, they were marriages between youth
brand and media brand. Creative idea and media idea.
None of these ideas would have worked without some Baby Boomers
realising how different Generation X is. As the Animals sang in the 60s:
‘Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.’
Jack Rosevear, 22, is a media strategist at Michaelides and Bednash.
This extract is taken from his winning paper presented at the 1996 IPA