We were introduced to this episode of Frontline the other night in class about corporate America’s interest in marketing to teenagers. It was a fascinating study in market research, because teen money is spent on what is deemed “cool” and what is deemed “cool” is made “uncool” by virtue of it being marketed. If marketing is able to find cool it kills it by marketing it. An elusive game of cat ensues.
It was jarring to see how ruthless the marketing mentality is towards teenagers. One of them said that they are like Africa in the colonial periods of Western history—a land to be divided, conquered and totally exploited. What is most fascinating is how teens are constantly resistant to marketing strategies in an effort to assert their identity as being independent from the status quo. Nevertheless, they usually are on the loosing side of a very intense battle, and the strategy is very simple: affirm the attitude that thinks “everyone sucks except for us” and you will really represent that if you buy such and such. In true ironic fashion, the veneer of individualistic independence produces a heard mentality of undue proportions.
The profile of MTV was especially interesting. Much of their success came in the 1990s which generated huge profits off of inexpensive programming. It was a teen marketer’s dream in that the entire format was a constant advertisement for “youth culture” that was all but irresistible. It was not until the forces of cool discovered that it was a farce to make money and MTV found itself floundering in the early 2000s.
Every school and parent should show this to their kids, if not then for their own benefit.