Kids Aren’t Us

I am a marketing mummy, wrapped in endless, dirty swathes of useless knowledge. Hundreds of misplaced messages bang on my already muddled head every day, burying my attention in layer after layer of irrelevance. And if I had mind mail, I’d telepathically forward 95 percent of it to my 12-year-old son—because he’s the target audience.

I don’t want to know who Carson Daly is, and I sure don’t give a damn what he thinks. But the data is crammed into my cranium. I cringe every time I see the word “girls” spelled “grrls,” but I can’t avoid it.

My Internet bookmarks are being taken over by Green Day sites and Napster, put there by my pre-teen. More often than not, these unwanted visitors crash my underpowered computer.

As for the creators, planners and buyers of the next spot I see that stars a sneering kid with a haircut that points in all directions, I promise you this: a prolonged and tormented death.

This isn’t just clutter. This is the advertising equivalent of being smothered with a pillow.

Advertising’s subservience to youth, always epidemic, is now virulent. Advertisers aren’t just missing opportunities to reach post-puberty humans by their obsession with our offspring, they’re creating a vast army of malcontents.

Adult consumers, irritated and inundated with entreaties and information on subjects they have no interest in, are fighting back: They tune out everything.

We keep hearing about all this wonderful new technology that allows pinpoint targeting. Commercial messages aimed at my very own psychographic profile will be shot right into my brain. My television will talk to me personally.

So where is it?

Where is all this measurable, accountable, one-to-one communication? I’m a middle-aged man for whom Almost Famous was a cherished memory, not ancient history. Why, then, are all the messages I receive for people who aren’t even old enough to have unwanted body hair?

Veronis Suhler says that by 2004, the average American will consume 10.7 hours of media a day, including two forms of media simultaneously. Clearly, there’s no time to tinker with the tech. Somebody has to start using this technology, instead of just talking about it at ad industry seminars. Otherwise, everybody over 24 is going to stop buying anything but headache remedies—which we’ll impulse-purchase at the supermarket—because no headache spot will be able to break through the ubiquitous clamor of MTV.

Even the kids are tuning out. Again, there are endless warnings about how smart kids are about marketing, but does anybody really do anything about it?

Not if my little punk rocker is any indication. He doesn’t read banner ads and ignores commercial messages of any kind.

If advertisers don’t start practicing what they preach, they’ll be media spending in a void. Everyone they hope to reach will be mummified. Or too busy downloading the latest Green Day song to pay the slightest attention.