SOMEWHAT belatedly, advertisers are beginning to wonder what
makes the so-called Generation X tick, and how to sell to this
amorphous group of 18- to 29-year-olds.
They're finding part of the answer in MTV, a defining
embodiment of the "twentysomething" consumer.
"MTV is the medium to communicate with this age group," said
Rod Leung, advertising manager for the clothing manufacturer
Unionbay. "Everything is influenced by music, and it's all
visual-oriented . . . it's the new signature of the generation."
Even print ads, such as those that Unionbay produces, are
influenced by music videos, Leung said, and the key to marketing
the clothes is to show how they fit into this generation's search
Like Unionbay, many marketers have begun stepping up their
search for ways to understand and talk to "Generation X," which
includes 45 million people with $125 billion in annual spending
power, Newsday reported recently.
The previously invisible group has grabbed the attention of the
media and advertisers in recent months, and researchers said they
expect ads targeting this group to flood the market by the end of
Marketers and researchers say "Generation X" is a different
breed of consumers from the generation before. Having grown up on
television and computers, they are more media-savvy and visually
oriented, and they have often experienced more of life - sexually,
socially, politically - than their parents at that age.
Lon LaFlamme, president and chief executive officer of
EvansGroup, said targeting people in their 20s involves two things:
rapid-fire, graphically intensive images, combined with words that
get right to the point.
"These people are the driving force behind the decency of the
'90s, the return to ethics," LaFlamme said. "They know enough that
they can cut through the baloney real quick . . . and they're
quicker on the uptake than previous generations."
The EvansGroup used these philosophies in developing a "Fashion
Forward" campaign for Jay Jacobs' 50th anniversary in 1990. The ads
ran on MTV and were styled after that station's format.
To most advertising executives, MTV is the easiest and most
comprehensive source for uncovering what appeals to
twentysomethings. They look to the station's high-tech video and
animation and its hip-hop style and attitude to create ads that
look and sound like what they think the generation wants.
But Karen Ritchie, McCann-Erickson senior vice president who is
writing a book about marketing to people under 30, said too many
ads rely on the same techniques, mainly quick cuts and "loud,
annoying music." Young consumers can also relate to low-keyed
messages and straight-forward images, she said.
"I don't think it's true that `Generation X' has a shorter
attention span than anyone else," Ritchie said, adding that
manufacturers mistakenly think all ads aimed at this group have to
be like Nike, which is considered a leader in under-30 marketing.
Today's 18- to 29-year-olds grew up in a different world from
their parents, often in single-parent or two-income families, and
had to form attachments outside the family, said Dan Petek, a
Washington State University professor. …