Advertising to Youth
In the ever expanding world of consumerism and advertising, companies are constantly looking for new ways to sell their products to youth by making their commercials and campaigns more memorable than the competition; thus having to reinvent themselves. The youth generation has become the prime target because they have more spending power than ever before; because of more disposabel income, and increased avenues at their disposal in which to spend their money. Therefore companies spend an enormous amount of money on advertisement to ensure popularity and early brand loyalty.
In the last decade, these superbrands are looking towards new and outrageous ways to capture young audiences, although these campaigns are appealing, how effective are they? This essay is meant to demonstrate how companies are reinventing themselves, whether their efforts are effective, and what possible implications these actions may have on youth during their teenage years, when they may be the most impressionable. As mentioned earlier, youth are incredibly important to the international market, in “The Advertising Age”, Jeff Jensen mentions that in todays youth market “Selling out is not only accepted, it’s considered hip” (Klein, pg. 5) Corporate sponsorships have become a regular occurrence, as a conglomerates advertise during large sport events, concerts and or even host entire contests . This provides for a perfect channel of penetration to a large amount of youth as they are usually key observers of these types of events. An example of this would be the how McDonald’s was a sponser of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Throughout the two week duration of the games, McDonald’s sponsorship was seen everywhere, which was ironic considering that most food offered at McDonald’s is high in fat and cholesterol.Regardless of the facts, the company promoted themselves as a product of healthy active living by having athletes endorse their products. An earlier campaign featured pop icon Justin Timberlake collaborating with the Golden Arches, and creating the slogan and jingle “Im Lovin It”, which later furthered his own music career. The use of music to attract attention to a product has become a new advertising trend among numerous companies because it allows the organization to appear in tune with youth culture by using familiar songs, or artists to identify with the brand.A revolutionary effort made by automobile manufacturers such as Audi, Ford, Honda, and BMW has changed brand image by creating brand loyalty among “a whole new generation” and “chasing young buyers. ” (Halliday, 16) In the case of Audi, they sponsored David Bowie’s concert, and asked fans to collaborate two of his hit songs for their next campaign; the winner would win a brand new Audi TT coupe. “The target for the contest [was] skewe[ed] to 20-something consumers, younger than Audi’s traditional audience in their late 30s to early 50s” (Halliday, 16) As for BMW, their angle for targeting youth aged 15-30 years old was similarly clever.They sponsored young go-cart drivers by providing them with scholarships to race for BMW Formula USA professionally, not only helping build the winners careers, but have their new target audience identify with the drivers and therefore, the brand. In the past, luxury vehicles such as BMW and Audi were mostly marketed towards baby boomers, but marketers are starting to realize the market value of advertising to youth approaching an age when they start deciding what car they should identify with. This creates brand loyalty at an early age, that will hopefully generate sales for the companies later on.The above are all examples of how to secure brand loyalty among youth at an early age. Although the campaigns are ingenious marketing strategies, the repercussions may be serious. In the case of McDonald’s, there are some serious ethical issues centered around the fact that a restaurant that sells junk food is promoting itself as an alternative to a healthy lifestyle. Although they do offer “healthier” choices on their menu, their campaign during the Olympics featured the slogan “you don’t have to be an athlete to eat like one” featuring athletes like Patrick Chan eating a burger.These types of commercials tend to be misleading to young viewers to believe that athletes actually eat fast food. Even viewers that are aware McDonald’s is not a healthy choice might be more likely to purchase from the restaurant because of the constant advertising, and incentives such as official Olympic paraphernalia. The effect of the campaign was very successful, as McDonald’s generated a sales profit of 4. 8 percent worldwide higher than last February, with a predicted increased of 4 percent. In retrospect, luxury automobile makers advertising to youth may be a seemingly harmless alternative to gaining future customers.But on closer inspection, the problem may lie deeper. By luxury models creating brand loyalty so early one, it gives the impression that any person can own an Audi or BMW, when in fact that is not the case. Many people will never be able to afford this type of vehicle, but by instilling a desire so early on, may cause some to live beyond their means, meaning going into debt to own an Audi, and have a false sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, a teen may desire these cars, and dedicate themselves to working hard so that one day they be able to afford one.There is no way to tell whether this will have a positive or negative effect of the consumer, as the campaign is only a start to the reinvention of two brands that have for many decades been deemed as appropriate for middle-aged adults. During the era of Old Hollywood, product placement was a small part of the movie making business, as corporate products were secondary to the script and story line. In today’s conglomerate controlled society, advertisement becomes the main form of funding for a motion picture, thus in some cases controlling the whole integrity of the film.On television, certain shows are created around the product itself, and cleverly manipulated through repetition to instigate desire in the product. The prominence of this type of product placement is clearly visible in television and movie programming that is targeted at youth. An example is “America’s Next Top Model,” the corporate sponsor of the show is Cover Girl Cosmetics. The whole show is built around using the products, advertising them in the photo shoot campaigns, and again repeating the brand at the end during the elimination ceremony.The brand describes itself as youthful and fresh, the perfect brand for young girls. The models in the reality show all strive to win $100,000 contract with Cover Girl. Needless to say, this has been an incredibly well executed advertising campaign, and it is endorsed by supermodel Tyra Banks, and is viewed by millions of young girls around the world. Last year Cover Girl’s revenue was US 79. 03 billion dollars. Even if only a smart per cent of young women buy the cosmetics because of the show, it is still a fantastic investment in advertising for the company.Many movies are following in the same trend by shamelessly centering their scripts around product placement, in some cases making it the focus of the entire movie. One extreme example in the satire comedy “Talladega Nights” starring Will Farrel. The film focuses around the advertisement of Nascar, Wonderbread, Old Spice, Perrier, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Applebees to name a few. The viewer is so overwhelmed by the amount of corporate sponsors, that they may fail to recognize that there is no true story line.This movie is meant for a young audience as it is filled with outrageously inappropriate and immature humor that ironically identifies the fact that the movie is filled with product placement. This is a brilliant way to advertise numerous products because the movie does not deny the fact, which makes it almost acceptable to the audience because of the recognition of the fact. Shortly after the movie aired, Wonderbread started a new savvy campaign of their own, introducing a new whole wheat version of their bread that catered to children.There is no doubt that Wonderbread became the face of “Talladega Nights” and thus unforgettable. In the fight for youth audiences, companies are now spending millions of dollars on market research in the mission of finding out what is “trendy” and “cool. ” In her article Niomi Klein identifies a different approach to researching the youth generation. “Cool Hunters: The legal stalkers of youth culture” (Klein, pg. 72) are used to investigate teenagers by large corporations into order to stay current within their advertising and products. Armed with their change agents and cool hunters, the superbrands become the perennial teenage followers, trailing the scent of cool wherever it led” (Klein, pg. 73) that brings reinvention to a whole new level. These marketers usually focus towards the ghettos of large cities, where subcultures start because of lack of money; these youth are forced to use their creativity to standout and build a self image against the status quo. Corporations such as Nike recognize trends in these communities, and use it towards the advent of a new campaign and line of clothing or shoes.The irony is that this trend is catered to suburban youth fabricated to look like the youth from the ghettos because “very often the most exciting outfits are from the poorest people. ” (Klein, pg. 73) Wherever there is a new trend emerging, the superbrands will find some way to materialize it for their own profit. This creates a problem of originality as “no space has been left unbranded. ” (Klein, 73) Youth may find it difficult to create an outstanding and alternative image for themselves that does not represent mass consumerism.There is also some ethical problems with this marketing trend as this could be seen as a new form of pirating ideas, and the compromising of privacy of the youth targeted in the ghettos. The trend of hip hop influence has spread to other companies such as Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger and even Levi’s as they use celebrity endorsements like 50 Cent, Puff Daddy and Jay-Z to further sell their reinvented brand images. In another effort to stand out and make a commercial unforgettable, some companies are going to extreme measures to create edgier content that abandons the use of musical inspired content, and uses shocking images in its place.One such company is Airwalk shoes which used body dismemberment and overflowing toilets as humor to create an “uncensored voice of the counterculture. ” (Jensen, pg. 31) This campaign came into light after the success of dirty humor movies such as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Monty Python”. The first commercial hows an Airwalk consumer being chased by an angry motorist; and ends up losses some limbs in the process. After the ordeal is over, the loyal customer finds one of his dismemebered legs in order to get his Airwalk shoe back.The second commercial titled “Titanic” illustrated a young man sitting on the toilet which starts to overflow, and he does everything to keep his Airwalk shoes from getting wet. The approach of the outrageous was aimed to be more “viral”, by using the shocking images to gain more media placement among ESPN, MTV, and Much Music. The spokesperson for Airwalk was quoted saying “It won’t be enough to just carpet-bomb consumers with your brand name [… ] a brand better be compelling enough that consumers covet it. ” (Jensen, pg. 1) The campaign was aimed towards a niche target audience of teenaged skateboarders that would appreciate the dirty humor, as they were thought to be as fearless and out-going as were the new 4 million dollar advertisements. Although they probably appealed to many young people, it most likely offended other viewers with the gut-wrenching content. This interesting approach could either work in favor of the company or against it; but by using such explicit humor may prove to be very limiting, as it may only appeal to a small audience, not generating as many sales.In the end, the campaign proved to be too extreme for MTV which asked the company to tone down the dismemberment approach. After reviewing just a few modes of advertisement towards youth, the question of how this effects them during their reflective years, leading into adulthood. In a review of cognitive studies done on youth ages 11-16 years old “had still not acquired an understanding of persuasive intent on a par with adult levels” (Nairn & Fine, pg. 449-450) Thus these children were not able to identify clearly that companies were advertising to them in order to sell a product.This makes it very dangerous because teenagers may start forming habits of consumption before they are able to identify them completely leading to the onset of the mass consumerism attitude. Children around the aged of 12 “do not show the expected increase in resistance to advertising” (Nairn & Fine, pg. 450), making them an easy target for brand loyalty and preference for corporations. Consequently, a child shown a movie clip introducing a brand would be more likely to choose that brand after seeing it; this was concluded by a study done by Auty and Lewis in the Psychology of Marketing.In light of this information, the ethical issues surrounding advertising to children and youth should be taken under great consideration. By possibly limiting the amount of commercials during youth programming would have a positive effect of limiting the effects of mass consumer culture. But in contrast, much of the programming aired for youth is sponsored by large corporations, and if commercials are cut down, so is the funding. Not only may advertising effect the future consumer practices of youth, but it also may effect their morals and values.Seeing crude material such as the Airwalk commercials may have some influence in their tolerance for such humor, and may make it acceptable in their eyes. Images of sexually explicit content may also have the same repercussions towards behavior as well as self image. In shows like “America’s Next Top Model”, the girls are portrayed as perfect because they are thin; youth may aspire to such ideals which may cause a negative self image towards themselves and others. Advertising is a powerful tool for many corporations, and they will constantly looking for new and exciting ways to capture the attention of youth.There numerous methods that make advertising almost inescapable. Every area of the environment becomes a commodity as advertising can be found on the floors and ceilings of buses, internet sites, and even in washrooms stalls. But what the youth of today have is more information at their disposal that they can use to combat large corporations, and be able to identify what these companies are doing. They can use this information to generate their own income by using sites like YouTube, or use what they know against the corporations to ban advertising to young children.