Market-teen

As good artists, graphic designers tend to focus on the aesthetic aspects of their design.  They study concepts like alignment, color, consistency, constancy, figure-ground relationships, legibility, and other important components of the Gestalt principles of perception.  However, graphic designers need to remember the usual main purpose of their artwork and designs.  This general purpose of graphic designer’s art is usually to advertise.  Advertising is defined as the act of persuading an audience to do something; something like purchasing a product or service, changing their beliefs or even perceiving someone or some company in a certain way.  Therefore, advertising is not just fun cool designs, but most importantly the ability to persuade an audience.  However, how far can advertising go?  Where does the line between caring about customers and caring about sales is drawn?  Is one more important than the other?  Is advertising purely focused on sales potentially harmful to customers?  This is what Frontline’s episode on “The Merchants of Cool” seems to explore.

Reaching Teens and Reaching Others

A company’s main purpose is clearly to have enough sales to support it.  The same seems true for small companies, as well as the top companies, like the media giants such as Viacom, Disney, Vivendi, News Corporation, Universal and AOL Time Warner.  Perhaps this is why these big companies target the most profitable market, which seems to be the teen market.  The fact that teenagers have excess money to spend, and they influence their parents’ spending decisions, make teenagers a very profitable market.  These and other companies have even been using different tactics and venues to reach teens that they don’t use to reach other target audiences.  These big companies go to great extent to reach their audiences.  They actively study teenagers, they question them through focus groups and they even go as far as spending one-on-one time with ordinary teenagers in their homes to gather information about them.  The value of the teenagers’ opinions and preferences is so high, that they even let those same teenagers control what they are fed through different media outlets.  No other target audience receives such undivided attention.

An early MTV station ID

Image via Wikipedia

MTV and Their Revolutionary Advertising Ideas

The name of the television network MTV, stand for Music Television, and it was first launched in 1981 for the main purpose of promoting music and music videos.  In reality, the network should have been called ATV, for Advertising Television.  Advertising was the main purpose of MTV.  Sure, they advertise music artists and music videos, but they secretly advertise a variety of other products 24/7.  They advertise sponsoring products like soft drinks, clothing, and movies mostly created by the MTV parent company, Viacom.  As a result, the company is using this network to advertise the company itself and all the products and services the company sells.  It is pure advertising genius.

Advertising and Audiences

Getting this close to audiences can be very profitable for these big companies, however it can be very harmful to the teenagers in America.  While the advertising companies get closer and closer to their target audiences, they gain valuable insight into their worlds.  They learn how to relate and how to attract and persuade the audience to do pretty much anything they want them to do.  This situation is obviously very lucrative for these businesses, but what about the audience?  The audience, such as teenagers, are left with no privacy, no sense of their own.  Teenagers become so persuadable that they do not even notice that they are being influenced and persuaded, and they do not notice how this is happening.  This can pose a serious problem when teenage girls are persuaded to act more mature than they are, to dress sexually and provocatively, and ultimately become targets of sexual harassment, abuse and molestation.  Teenage boys are influenced to act immaturely and engage in activities that are harmful to their physical well being by shows such as “Jackass”.

Conclusion

Personally, I think that advertisement, such as the one used by these big companies mentioned above, are sadly very effective.  I believe that if these same companies would use their influence on teenagers in a good way, we could educate teenagers about what is right and what is wrong, instead of poisoning their brains with these wrong ideas of what being “cool” means.  Advertisements such as those by “Above the Influence” still use trendy elements in their ads, but they are presenting an idea that is constructive to the society in trying to keep teenagers out of drugs (Abovetheinfluence.com).  In this case, all the research about teenagers and what they find “cool” or “trendy” can help influence teenagers to stay out of drugs.

The video of the Frontline episode regarding “The Merchants of Cool”, definitely expand on my belief of what is wrong with society today.  How can we expect the future leaders of the world to be good ones, if all we are teaching and feeding them is ideas that smoking is “cool”, having lots of sex is “cool”, and doing drugs is “cool”.  However, as hypocritical as it may sound, we are consumers, and even though I do not agree with the impact of these advertising techniques on teenagers and their development, I don’t think that it would impact what kind of products I chose to purchase.  I do believe however, that when the time comes I will teach my children not to fall for those advertisements and not to think that those things are “cool” just because the commercial or MTV said so.  They should form their own opinions of what is right and wrong through the teaching of their parents, school and religion, and not through the media.

Frontline: The Merchants of Cool [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/

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