The folly of youth.

The folly of youth.

January 31st, 2011 // 7:42 pm @ // One Comment

Hello there. Yes, it’s that time again. “What time, andy?” you may well ask and I may well say, “Late. That’s what time.”. Yes, it’s the late thatandywhiteblog again. Not ‘late’ as in ‘dead’ of course, ( although you may have your own opinions on that ), ‘late’ as in “Oh no, it’s time I  wrote another blog post, it’s been ages since the last one.” late.

Anyway, enough of all that, we’ve established that I’ve been a tad slow off the mark with the blog lately and I can only apologise. I’ve been a bit busy that’s all. However, in the midst of this busy period and while waiting for copy to be read and approved and all that, I’ve been doing a spot of tweeting and some reading of the tweets of others.  While doing this, I read one of Dave Trott’s little tweets which led me to a great post by a blogger known as ‘The Ad Contrarian’. I particularly loved the post as it neatly parallels and slots in with a post I wrote a while back, entitled ‘The old ones‘. In that post I was having a slight moan about the way ad agencies seem to be obsessed with youth, possibly to their detriment. What I was talking about though was that Creative Departments today seem to be populated exclusively by callow youths, barely able to grow the essential facial accoutrements of the professional 21st Century ‘creative’. Obviously they have no problem with the asymmetric hairstyle but the heavily stylised beard or soul patch can be a source of almost unbearable angst. I also pondered the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, a few of us slightly*  ( *much ) older creatives might have the occasional opinion worth hearing.

Well it seems that the Creative Department isn’t the only place where youth is considered the be all and end all – and possibly not the only place where that assumption is completely mistaken. The ad contrarian writes rather beautifully, ( you can read his stuff here ), about how Marketing Departments continually aim absolutely everything squarely at the youth market without necessarily stopping to think if they’re doing the right thing. He points out that this phenomenon has its roots in the 1960s, a time when advertising was beginning to be viewed as a science, an art and generally a very exciting thing indeed. ( Have a look at ‘MadMen‘ on the telly. It looks like advertising was bloody great then. And drinking. And smoking. And sexual promiscuity. Oh for a time machine eh? ).

However, in the 1960s there was a solid reason to aim products and advertising at youth. There were bloody gazillions of them. It was the decade of the ‘baby boomers’, a time when there was a sudden explosion of kids just turning 18 and earning their own money to spend on stuff of their choosing. It was a huge market so it made perfect sense to start selling to that huge market, with huge advertising designed and written with them in mind. The problem now though is that Ad agencies are still doing just that, when that time has passed and that market no longer has anything like the spending power it used to have. In fact, as The Ad Contrarian explains, over 75% of the wealth in this country is in the banks and the pockets of over 50s. So why all the focus on youth? Naturally, advertising to the youth market means making funky, exciting ( potentially award winning ) ads. Scouring youtube, twitter, facebook and the like for the latest virals and capturing all the excitement therein to steal, sorry, take inspiration from and create the hottest ad campaign ever.  You can see the attraction can’t you? But is it really working? Who’s buying what we’re selling?

Now, as a Manchester copywriter, I’m not for a moment suggesting that we all stop looking to the future and aim our ads at ladies and gentlemen in leisure slacks with expandable waistbands. Nor am I saying that we should start considering  campaigns that utilise the available space on the side of a Stannah Stairlift or walk in bath. No, what I’m trying to convey is that Yoof isn’t necessarily where it’s all at. Man. There’s a massive market out there of the over forties, a socio-economic group I’m right in the middle of, and we’re not just sitting at home watching re-runs of Inspector Morse and adjusting our dentures either. We’re going out to the cinema, to galleries, to restaurants, to gigs. We’re calling each other on our iPhones, we’re buying all the cds, dvds, clothes, trainers, boots and questionable hats that we couldn’t necessarily afford in our teens. We’re doing, ( and buying ) all kinds of stuff. Ok, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re in one of the ‘creative’ professions and are perhaps more likely to be spending money on the kind of things I’ve just listed but the simple fact is that there are millions of people in their forties and fifties with the kind of spending power that Marketing Departments should be salivating over. Yet an inordinate amount of energy ( and budget ) seems to be going on a market that simply doesn’t warrant that kind of concentration anymore.

Once again, of course, this leads me back to my original thoughts on the subject. If we need to advertise to people in their forties and fifties then who’s best placed to understand what those people want? A creative department made up exclusively of awesome twenty somethings or one that contains a few people who live and breathe that market? You may call me biased, ( Not all at once. Jeeeeeesus ), there’s every possibilty that I am but, while I firmly believe that the advertising business constantly needs new blood to stay creative, stay exciting, there’s still a place for us old gits.

We’ve been there, seen it, done it and bought the Tshirt. The important thing is though that we’ll buy another. And probably an expensive pair of jeans to go with it.

2 people like this post.

Category : Advertising &Blog &humour &Uncategorized

One Comment → “The folly of youth.”

  1. jacqueline steel

    12 years ago

    I concur.

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