Generation X: Advertisers Finally See a Youthful Advantage

Article excerpt

THEY'VE BEEN identified, misunderstood, endlessly dissected and discussed in the media.

They've also been largely ignored by fashion advertisers.

Who are they?

The teens and college students who make up Generation X - the marketers' name for the 64 million people born between 1961 and 1981.

In the ad community, the X-er has grown up in the shadow of the ubiquitous baby boomer, but X-ers are now second only to retirees in disposable income, according to Nicholas Hahn, president of Cotton Inc.

They spend an estimated $14.2 billion a year on apparel, he says, and since they haven't yet developed brand loyalty, they are prime for the picking.

Some advertisers are starting to pay attention, but now the question is: What works?

Agencies are discovering that while X-ers recoil from advertising attempts at being hip, they do respond to social issues, dark or self-effacing humor and classic, no-frills brands that advertise directly to them.

"We almost lost this market by not targeting it 20 years ago, and we've been working hard to recapture it," Hahn says. "This generation, the 18- to-25-year-old consumer, drives this industry, from the designer to the pocketbook. It's important to talk to that group and endear ourselves to them," Hahn said.

To accomplish this, Cotton Inc. is putting a significant portion of its estimated $30 million advertising budget into a series of promotional ventures over the next year, pegged the "Be Real Generation."

Included are socially aware advertisements in magazines such as Details - the generation's bible - fashion shows and appearances by designers with a young point of view.

Cotton Inc.'s campaign will continue to call attention to issues of the day, from the environment to AIDS awareness.

Details is one of the sources advertisers use to monitor this market; other barometers include MTV, Mademoiselle and Sassy, and music magazines such as Rolling Stone or Spin. …