’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
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
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
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.