June 19, 2009

Time to Facebook the music

The other half's siblings have flown over the pond to stay with us a few weeks. They're the younger ones--hovering around the 20 mark--and are extremely polite and kind and funny and have been pretty diligent about picking up after themselves and keeping my new house livable, despite 3 of them to the small extra room. All in all, it's a great visit.

Still, I don't, you know, get them.

They get up at noon. They watch TV a lot of the day. They have supper at 3:30. They eat a whole lot of red meat and drink a ton of soft drink. They listen to music that stumps me. The girls giggle about celebrities and gossip I've never heard about, while the boys talk football and use expressions that contain words I understand but meanings that go right over my head.

A lot of the differences are cultural, but a lot more are getting lost down the giant cavern of a generation gap. Just when I think I get how they think, just when I think I can predict what they'd like, they surprise me in ways that make me tsk internally and try hard not to shake my head. Then I realize I'm the oldest in the room. The mother-to-be. To them, I must be (and how it hurts to say it) old.

Yet I work for an agency that's trying to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. An agency whose average employee age is probably somewhere right around my own.

What are we thinking?

Facebook and My Space and BeBo--and all those other social sites that grow and die in miniature lifetimes--engage this younger generation on a level that's almost impenetrable. Yet here we are, desperately making advertising applications, attempting to gather friends and fans for brands. We're like the old trying to be cool. It must be like listening to your father say "dude" or your mother attempt to fizzle her nizzle.

We're painfully embarrassing.

Yet we grease ourselves and our clients into skinny jeans and hang around social sites like our wrinkles and varicose veins don't show.

One of the first things you learn in advertising is to know your audience. To understand their needs and voice those needs in such a way as to attract your audience's attention. So although may know zilch about trends or fashion or new music or social sites, its our job to learn what prompts young people to buy their first car, open a bank account, choose one soft drink over another, pick this cell-phone company over that, buy eco-friendly, recycle.

It's our job to position the benefits in ways that attract our audience. It certainly isn't our job to pretend we're 21 again.

And the more we attempt to bring our brands to a painfully fake positioning, the less credible those brands are going to be.

And then we're really in trouble.


  1. What I find wryly comical is that these Gen Y kids (yes, I generalize) are exactly like the Baby Boomers would have been if they were brought up today instead of the '60s. Idealistic in word, not so much in practice; I wonder how long *their* extended adolescence is going to last...

    I just started Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny," and one of the things that leapt out at me last night after reading your post was how it touches on the concept of creative destruction, and the benefits of it. He's talking about industry, politics and government, but the same principle applies on a micro level to the creative industry in all its many facets.

    Honestly, I think you're pretty safe experimenting with Facebook: Isn't the fastest-growing cohort women aged 35 to 55? That's a pretty nice audience that spends a lot of dough. MySpace just laid off something like 30% of their workforce, so you have my permission not to worry about them for the time being :)

  2. Facebook advertises so pointedly to me it's scary. It seemed to know I was pregnant before my parents even did. It creeps me out... I don't know how well--or how long--their advertising will work.

    These Gen Yers (or are they Gen Zers now?) have me totally stumped. I've never seen such lethargic people in my life. I've got 15 years and a bulging belly on them, and I have more energy to get through a day. Oh well--every generation complains about the ones that come later!

  3. Teenie been AFK for a while...wonder if she popped. Hope all is well Teenie.

  4. Hee hee, jeaves! Nope--still got a few months to go. Took a few days off to give the in-laws a tour and haven't checked online since I left work last week. Will post something new (and hopefully semi-interesting) this week!

  5. Whew...even though you are Canadian and get a whole year off maternity, blogs are set to 1 week off for birthing. 2 weeks off if you let us name the wee one.

    I use a couple of your links to jump because im too lazy to set to favorites it seems.

    Even worse, at home I usually have to get to yours from a comment from Geo's site, but you haven't commented for a while, and googling teenie blog set my Net Nanny off on a drinking binge to recover. I think my comp actually texted my wife as it's ironic how she walks by at that precise moment. "Honestly honey, shes a copywriter for an agency, not a cheerleader. Its for research?

    She bought it once, so I better bookmark you at home.

  6. Ha, same thinking over here! Hope you enjoyed the time away from the computer.

    And jeaves is right that our policies for you are quite a bit stricter than the Canadian ones :)