From watching the Frontline video of the merchants of cool, I found that there are a few key points which raise my awareness to teenagers. Firstly, the teenager population were becoming larger and larger. There were 32 million teenagers in North America in 2001. The team population even beat their baby boomer parents’ population. 150 billion dollars could be spent by those teenagers. They have gotten more money from their parents. They become rich and could spend more on many products, which was a good opportunity for many businesses who want to produce teenagers’ favourite products.
MTV, Madison Avenue, dream makers of Hollywood also targeted their products to those teenagers. Communications Professor of University of Illinois Robert McChesney described the teenager team just like Africa. It was the most studied generation in history. Teen Marketing Executive Robert Stone also described if people do not go deeply into teenagers’ culture, they would not understand teenagers’ behaviors and their topics. Secondly, target marketing researchers tried to figure out what teenagers’ habits are in order to understand and recognize what teenagers feel themselves and what they think.
An example of who these cool-hunters are was found at the company Look-Look. Dee Dee Gordon, one of the founders, worked with a team of correspondents who are former “cool kids” themselves and acted as “culture spies that penetrated the regions of the teen landscape. ” These correspondents were trained to find cool people who “lead the pack”. These trendsetters were hard to find, but once they were identified, they were interviewed, photographed, and added to the Look-Look website to analyze these head-of-time characters. The website identified common themes and gives viewers an idea of what is “in”.
Access to this “Rosetta Stone of Teen Culture” was sold to companies for $20,000 of subscription fees. The ironic change: once cool was found, Look-Look posted it, companies imitated the trend, and the regular consumer bought it. However, there was a paradox that it was no longer cool when people had found those cool trends. Researchers found that teenagers thought the coolest thing was they felt cool by themselves. In the early 1990s, researchers interviewed with some teenagers and found that those teenagers had watched much advertising which ran overload.
They also found that those teenagers were somehow syndical about those traditional approaches to advertising. After these researchers recognized and understood what those teenagers wanted, Sprite Company launched a new advertising with cool, which grabbed teenagers’ attentions to this brand, and those teenagers thought Sprite Company know what they wanted. Sprite successfully cloaked teenagers in genuine and cool. Another cool representative is hip-hop. Director of Youth Brand Pina Sciarra said that hip-hop became a sort of vehicle of land for marketing researchers to involve into teenagers’ culture.
One way for marketing researchers to do is to develop relationship with artists. After finding those responses from teenagers, many marketing researchers tried to become a part of teenager team in order to understand and recognize what their targeting subjects wanted. Another example is cornerstone. It hired teenagers to log into the chatting room by letting kids “as just another fan of their clients” post a topic or reply. Cornerstone also recruited incoming freshmen through teenagers’ parties and gave promotional materials to teens in order to pass out to peers at their parties.
Cornerstone helped bright network DJ and hip-hop artists smuggled their feedbacks into the world of teens. They could understand and recognize how teens think and how teens behave in their own ways by viewing those teen’s messages. Teen Marketing Executive Robert Stone said the campaigns among businesses did not work anymore. Business people need to deeply involve in teen’s culture to find what teens really want, which worked for grabbing teen’s interests. Sprite now was the fastest growing soft drinking in the world. An example of “a marriage between corporation and culture” is the Sprite. om event. A party was held with hip-hop’s hottest artists performing for a paid audience.
Pina Sciarra said that Sprite now became a hip-hop icon. Moreover, people began to think that the used culture was just an expression or consumption of product. Does the used culture originally come from teen’s themselves or commercial advertisement? Is the boundary been completely raised? There were five true merchants of cool: Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Universal Vivendi, and AOL/Time Warner which were responsible for selling nearly all the youth culture.
Robert McChesney described that these companies together own 90% of all music in the US, all film studios, all major TV networks, TV stations, and every commercial cable channel. The teen market just likes Africa colony. Companies were using films, music, CDs, internet, clothing, amusement parks, and sports teams as weapon to make money off this colony. One of the media network s of Viacom which was MTV won $1 billion last year alone. The cable channel went into Youth Empire. But the basic business model remained the same.
Robert McChesney described that MTV was just a commercial cable channel. It could post advertise video for each commercial company such as Hollywood. This strategy kept MTV having cheap and easy contents. Taking MTV daily program direct facts, there were some familiar situation. The Sprite. com party was mentioned in this video just now. Sprite paid a kid 50 dollar a pop to fill up to be cool in order to attract more young consumers. However, the constant marketing show violated the first rule of cool. MTV knew the lesson a few years ago when its rating slipped.
MTV President of programming Brain Graden said there was a perception of MTV that it began losing young consumers, and it became less cool and less creative than before. Then MTV realized that cool was teen’s birth right. It had to change with those teen’s interests. MTV stayed cool by getting closer to its audience. They spent time and money on research to learn what teens really wanted or desired, which contributed to their more creative, funky reputation which in turn brought higher ratings for the programming channel.
MTV Exec VP of Programming and News Dave Sirulnick said they need to get closer to the young audience to figure out what the teen team want or don’t want in teen’s culture. MTV’s famous show, “Total Request Live,” gives teens the power to watch the music videos they want to see by voting. TRL was rated the top ten show by those young audience. Dave Sirulnick explained that it attracted more teenagers when it got closer to the teenager team. The media network first time gave over the control of the show to audience. It provided shows which teens favored. This trend made teens form a bond with the company.
To keep this bond stay strong, marketing researchers also conducted some researches to track where team culture was moving. Vice President of Brand Strategy and Planning for MTV Todd Cunningham generated the idea of “feverish addiction to research and understand young people”. MTV let interviewers see about their technic. Todd Cunningham and his colleagues conducted a survey which called ethnographic studies. In the survey, MTV market researchers visited typical fans in their homes by knowing the natural habits of those teens. Todd Cunningham and his colleagues wanted to know what teens really wanted by interviewing a eenager boy.
In the boy’s room, they shut the door and talk about issues that are important and personal, such as dating, their parents, stress, and all of the “things on the hearts and minds of teenagers”. Todd Cunningham described that these interviews are videotaped, analyzed, edited and then shown at department meetings with music. This survey also raised a question: Did MTV spend valuable time and money just to understand and recognize lifestyle of teens? “When the tape is reviewed, what image of the teenage male emerges? ” The critics answered, ”the mook. Mook is a character who is obnoxious, loud, crude, and always in your face.
These mook could be found anywhere on MTV all the time. The mook can be found in South Park, the Man Show. Taking one example, a mook tried to dive in a dirty sewerage. Howard Stern was also called the king of mook. He was the most popular mook on MTV of Viacom. They were in an Internet Kuso culture. Media Critic Robert McChesney said MTV just let the mook perform for a few minutes. People cannot identify their identities in very short time. Professional wrestling and their “pop” reaction were something unexpected or shock.
It was very popular among teenage boys. This program won a lot of money from those teenager boys. It broadcasts 15 hours a week on five different networks, and it was seen by 15 million people. Bran Graden said it was the hottest program among young people especially for teenage boys. Another example was Midriff. MTV machine had spilt out the second character. The midriff was not true-to -life as the mook. It was a little different from mook. Teenage girls were “consumed by appearance” and new female empowerment. The Mook was crude, but the Midriff represented sexy.
An example is Britney Spears. She hit the scene as a virginal girl and later her “pop” reaction shocked everybody. Her body was her great assets. She was sexy in her show to please boys. This sexy show in her MV didn’t only please the teen boys, but more importantly proved to the teenage girls that “your body is your only asset”. Every year Thousands of girls pay over $4000 to get a chance to be discovered by modeling or talent agencies. Taking an example of Jessica Biel, she was selected as a teenage girl to play a role of minister daughter in the drama of Seven Heaven in the WB channel.
The WB channel was tired of competing with the same sex-driven shows, so they tried a new approach: family friendly shows that would “keep it clean. ” Co-Presidents of Marketing, WB Network Bob Bibb described that they needed to broadcast family drama which was different from sex show to let all the America family watched TV together. Their target was to put out shows that families could watch together, like 7th Heaven. But the family scene may not beat the sex scene in the end.
Then, WB made a course change by the third season and the show, “Dawson’s Creek. The show was about sex-obsessed high school teenagers. On the episode of the show, a fourteen year old boy began sex affair with his teacher. Who would top Dawson’s? The answer was MTV. MTV broadcasted amped-up the efforts of other companies to create sexier shows, so MTV’s “Undressed” and movies like “Cruel Intentions” promoted unprecedented sexual sophistication to grab teen’s attentions. In Cruel Intentions show, two step siblings had sex scene. Movie Producer Neal Moritz said he would not make movies that rebels made. The similar movies would not attract more attentions from audiences.
Cruel Intentions which was an unprecedented sexual show did bring a lot of profits for them. Neal Moritz said teens wanted to see more exciting and bloody scene rather than see PG-13 movies. Even though, teens favored sex topic. Pres. Of Entertainment. WB Network Susanne Daniels said teens favored to talk about sex. They were interested in watching sex scenes. Teens were confronted in advertising or TV show of sex. Makers of teen TV believed they were only reflecting the real world, but was this true? Who was mirroring whom? 13-year-old Barbra was showing wild as some other teens in front of the camera.
Teens being videotaped appear to sell back to MTV what MTV shows them. It seemed a constant feedback loop. Real life and TV life began to blur each other. Was there any way to escape the feedback loop, maybe? Groups like Insane Clown Posse and other artists of “rap metal” haven’t been processed. The bands and their followers “have been spurned by the mainstream, and like it. ” Downtown Detroit on Halloween night, many teen boys acted freely to show people they could behave what they want to express from their inner hearts. The middle finger represented those teenage boys’ unique character.
They strived to be extremely crude and rebellious so “that they become indigestible”. These young people challenged the world to “market this. And they did”. If teens rebel, it will be packaged and sold right back to them. Limp Bizkit is an example of marketing the rebellion. The rage rock band’s become very welcomed since people knew the wood stock 1999. Co-Chairman, interscope Record Jimmy Iovine described they found controversy to package the band. They could not stop the trend. New York Times music critic Ann Powers commented that the band could not do what they just want because they had no great demographic authority.
However, people did not care the authority permission. Limp Bizkit became successful because of “one part authentic rage, two parts marketing, a sprinkle of cash, and Woodstock ’99”. Add a little TRL, and they’ve made it. The Cool-Hunt ends here with teen rebellion itself becoming another product. Would Limp Bizkit have made it on their own? No one will ever know. Is there “anywhere the commercial machine won’t go? Is it possible for teens to create a culture of their own? Do they ever have anything cool that was themselve? “
Courtney from Study Moose
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