March 2000
s m u g
target audience
by Leslie Harpold


Sucker Punch

Adamant cries of "we are not a target market" from generations X, Y, and those precious kids who are teens now and have yet to find a name, we have your number. That's basically what the rash of low fi dot com ads are saying. The text and sub texts become increasingly irrelevant, the product or logo shot is all that matters. Companies are seen as being so dehumanized that a little gentle self mocking is needed to breathe life back into the consumer to vendor relationship. The companies, products and services haven't changed; what changed is you, (welcome to your season of economic power) and the executives that speak to you now.

You voted with your feet and when you sent a clear message that you wanted to be advertised to less than you wanted to be entertained, the line started to blur between the two. Once ads got so glitzy they became nearly indiscernible from other forms of entertainment, they stopped getting noticed. Now, walking down the hallowed halls of Madison Avenue (which I hope you all know for the most part is no longer on Madison Avenue because they were too smart to pay that much rent) there is one hero, one diety they all pray to for divine inspiration, the only other cultural icon that seemingly cut through the clutter and appealed not only to the kids but to the money holding job holders: Beck.

While housewives consult their wrists to ask themselves in tight situations "WWJD?" it's not uncommon to walk into a 10 dollar sandwich shop between one and two pm in lower Manhattan and see fresh faced, manicured, Dolce and Gabbana clad men and women sporting their Stella Pace Power Beads that spell out WWBD? [What would Beck do?]. Knowing full well the answer is "Beck didn't ask for this job."

Face it, ads for products that make fun of themselves, their context of presentation and their message are hip to the fact that you have already been assimilated but don't want anyone to know. although you chide and mock, the truth is you wouldn't get the joke it with such depth and alacrity if you weren't a target market. It's a testament to their previous efforts, proving that while you were bitching and moaning advertisers have been successful in a game where brand awareness is all that matters. You do not have to like the ads, but simply be cognizant of them, then the battle is over before the first punch line gets thrown.

Experts argue where this form of anti-advertising began. Some credit the original Volkswagen ads while I tend to fall on the Joe Isuzu-as-Genesis side. Brought to it's boiling head by Miller Lite with it's "Dick" campaign, these ads were a long series of misses with an occasional hit. Every product wants to present itself as the cool un-selfconscious uncle you never had. C|Net's multi valent stabs at tv ads were at least insecure enough to include a message of the product's value each time, perhaps the reason for the campaign's frequent changes in direction. Etrade shows you how it wasted money in the Superbowl (look how good times are! We've got cash to burn!) and of course the self proclaimed "worst ad" in the Superbowl, Lifeminders, who heck, just ran out of ideas and threw up any old thing, even though they knew the world would be watching. As if to say, when accidentally caught on camera in a custom made, hand beaded Vera Wang gown "What? This old thing?!"

Like Beck in his light blue wedding tux everyone wants to be the odd man out, asking for cookies as a reward for the slightest hint of irony or self parody. Sincerity be damned, it's time to show you our inner wackadoo, that is providing the word 'wackadoo' tests well as being "funny and irreverent" in the tri-phasic focus groups run in Peoria, Framingham, San Diego and Stone Mountain. This new wave of ads is uninspired and masturbatory and so prevalent I need not call them all by name. This attitude of "you have to spend it somewhere" lacks the elusive dignity afforded consumers in years past - where whether or not we spent our money was not assumed, that for consumers to part with their hard earned dollars wasn't a given at the outset. While everyone was busy saying they weren't a target market, collecting Speed Racer lunch boxes and vintage Pez heads, advertisers got our number. Turns out it was in the book the whole time.

While you plan to protest and swear up and down that really soon you'll stop listening to advertisers and devote your life to rock and roll, just remember where this started in the first place.

Editor's Note:
This anti consumerism message is brought to you by Nike, and


in the junk drawer:

smoking jacketbarcode
and such
and such

·feature· ·net worth· ·ac/dc· ·smoking jacket· ·field recordings· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·decomposing· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and  such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·archive·


copyright © 1996 - 2000 fearless media