Generation sell-out

by Rob Horning

13 October 2005


Now this is truly sad—not sad in the Kashmir-earthquake, thousands-and-thousands-dead sense, admittedly, but sad nonetheless. Today’s WSJ advertising story, called “Trying to Connect to Generation Y” (a title that should already be making you nauseous), describes how marketing companies recruit teenagers to answer questions about brands and submit photos of themselves and their friends (what the ad biz calls “youth-culture lifestyle images”) so that they can in turn sell them to companies to use in their marketing materials that are aimed at youth. How pathetic a teenager would you have to be to participate in this racket? I thought, but then I thought again about how these kids actually watch MTV without vomiting over how they are portrayed and perceive The Real World to be entertainment as opposed to some new fiendish kind of torture, and actually aspire to participate in that sick distortion of our culture. Perhaps for them, that is what American culture is all about: looking hot and being semi-famous because of how eager you are to sell out. The channel’s noxious reality programming has paved the way for this crisis, wherein teenagers are marketing themselves to themselves for the benefit of companies eager to exploit them, tragically sticking themselves with the soul-stealing metaconsciousness of having to act as though they were in an ad before they can even see the ad that they are already in.

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