Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My So-Called Last Year In The 18-34 Demo

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
My So-Called Last Year In The 18-34 Demo
By Cory Treffiletti
source: Mediapost Publications Newsletter

This year is big. This is my very last year in the hallowed demographic of 18-34. Being an 18- to 34-year-old male in America has been good for me, but I guess it's time to move on and make room for someone else.

I came upon this realization over the weekend while I was partaking in some MTV, and I realized that it's very, very possible I'm no longer the target audience for their shows! I don't find the "Road Rules Challenge" (or whatever it's called) to be very interesting, nor am I totally engrossed in finding the "Next White Rapper" (The guy from 3rd Bass was good back in the day, but I don't need to hear from him anymore). No; I am no longer the core of the desirable audience for today's impulse-minded commercialism, which got me to thinking and reminiscing slightly about what happened to Gen-X.

It's sort of humorous to know that Gen Xers are now aging into their middle 30s and early 40s. The Wikipedia refers to Gen-X as people born between 1963 and 1978, though they also refer to people born from 1961-1981. Either way, I fall squarely in the middle of those ranges, so it's safe for me to consider myself Gen X and to write about my experience.

Gen X used to be hip. We were the generation without a goal. We were sometimes referred to as "slackers" -- but the entire dot-com bubble of the 90s was a direct result of our desire and ambition to build really cool stuff! We were the generation of piercing and tattoos becoming popular, basically because we had nothing better to do. We were supposed to have a lack of optimism and enthusiasm for the future - however, we were the ones who embraced the Internet and have transformed the world into the future that it is today. We embraced grunge, and of course we created (either directly or indirectly) Nirvana and Pearl Jam, which by itself should be the mark of a highly motivated and deeply creative generation.

Well, it's now 2007 and the generation who rages together ages together. We are now older, in managerial positions -- but still creating companies aimed at driving forward the growth and adoption of technology and knowledge. Of course, we also embrace terms like "viral marketing" and "social networking," all of which are slightly ambiguous terms used to explain the daily occurrences of life in an online environment where things are out of our control, and yet we still want to take credit for them. We try to harness the power of the consumer and use it for the "greater good,"which basically means we pawned off the creative responsibility for 50% of what we do and called it "user-generated content." We even convinced Time magazine to give "You" the award for Person of the Year in 2006, primarily because we couldn't figure out if there was anyone who stood out and did something more important than the rest of us. No; our enthusiasm for the future is actually quite strong, because we keep finding ways to make our jobs fun and create new opportunities for us to sell ourselves to the world at large.

We find old things and tweak them so they are new again. We routinely shake things up with new technology and try to make ourselves obsolete. It's the model of "planned obsolescence" created by Henry Ford and replicated through the auto industry. This theory requires that you create a new version of your product every year, so that the old version is no longer new and you need to buy the new one, even if you don't really need it! It works for clothes, for cars, for computers and for all sorts of technology. Are you really happy with your DVD collection? Wouldn't you be happier with BluRay?

As I age into the next demo, I join the rest of Generation X as it matures and comes into power in the world. Gen X will run for office and get into the White House someday. Gen X is probably already in the Senate, and I know Gen X is all over Silicon Valley.

It's funny to think that in 10 to 15 years, it's possible that 40-50% of the people on the floor of the House of Representatives might secretly have a tribal tattoo on their arms or the small of their backs. These people created the world we live in today, they created the Internet, or at least they created the need for the widespread consumption and commercialization of the Internet, so why can't they be running the rest of the world, too?

Of course, now my mind drifts off into space and I recollect the famous words of one Lloyd Dobler, from the movie "Say Anything": "A career? I've thought about this quite a bit, sir, and I would have to say, considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career..." and so on and so on.

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