Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing Up Online

“Growing up online” explores the lives of today’s teens – the first generation to grow up completely dependent on the internet. While my generation was growing up, the internet was still evolving. While my friends and I are rather internet savvy, today’s teens surpass us in their knowledge of the web and dependency on its features.

Teens today spend hours on the internet, glued to their keyboard. Marketers are aware of their growing addiction and have constructed ways to personalize advertising on the web to appeal on the individual level. Cookies in one’s computer records the sites you visit. From those, advertisers know what you are or may also be interested in. MySpace is one of the more popular social networking sites. With it, users can create an entirely personal account, deciding what their name will be, what their photos look like, which features they wish to add, and who their friends are. In addition, marketers have enmeshed advertising banners and logos on the MySpace page. Some are for all users to view, while others are personalized to that individual. By seeing items that they desire, teens are roped in even more into their online lifestyle. Advergaming is a technique that advertises through video games. Throughout time teens have always been the target audience of advertisers. They are fully submerged in pop culture and entertainment and drive “the next big thing.” This is why marketers spend so much time trying to see how they can capture their attention when they are spending so much time getting lost in the World Wide Web.

The report in “Growing up Online” did not surprise me. The teens featured in this video remind me of myself when I was their age. Web 2.0 features had not caught on yet, but I clearly remember spending hours, much to my parent’s dismay, on different websites and AOL Instant Messenger. Parents do not understand this addiction because they did not grow up this way. They worry that their children are diving too deep into the world of the Internet and not protecting themselves against its dangers. One interesting point made in “Growing up Online” was that teens are not in fact the victims of online predators, but are participants. When surveyed, an overwhelming majority of teens were aware of who to stay away from when online. When teens participate in activities that put them in a position of risk, it is often because they consciously chose it. The internet is no longer a new and scary place. Those who grow up using it may be addicted to their computer; however, they know it so well that they know their boundaries as well.

Although I have never used MySpace, my friends in college and I all actively use Facebook, another equally as addicting social networking site. I agree with the teens when they say that they use MySpace to create a personal online life that is entirely for them. They do not want their parents to intrude, not because they are engaging in questionable actions, but because it is invading their personal space. Teens especially need an outlet. I remember being an awkward 14 or 15 year old, and it’s a period where you constantly question yourself, your identity, and who your friends truly are. While “Growing up Online” featured some of the downsides of creating MySpace accounts, it should be noted that many introverts have found solace by being able to express themselves online when they cannot in high school.

I do worry that the increased use of the internet will lead to society losing touch with key interpersonal skills. The important thing to remember is that as more and more generations grow up using the internet, there will be more regulations and parents will become more informed. When my generation has children, we will already know the ins and outs of the internet and how to teach our children to use it wisely. Even though the internet is becoming an increasingly significant part of teens’ everyday lives, I do not believe it is a trend that will continue into their future. It is easy for teens to become completely absorbed in the internet and obsess over its many features because they have minimal responsibilities. It is only natural that as teens mature their addiction will subside.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Losing Faith in the FCC

In his article, Dunbar describes how the FCC has become a heavily lobbied government institution. His theories of “The Spinning Door,” “Frequent Flyers,” and “Behind Closed Doors,” describe how FCC officials have handled their business in a questionable and unethical manner, becoming too close with the industry they are supposed to be regulating. “The Spinning Door” theory describes how FCC officials are often former industry executives, or vice versa. By employing officials who have their hands in both the industry and the government agency, it makes it impossible to properly perform independent investigations of the industries. “Frequent Flyers” describes how FCC members accept travel and entertainment money from the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Over the past eight years, the FCC has accepted almost $2.8 million from outside sources. The agency defends these gifts by saying it is important to educate regulators on important issues, and those regulators may have not been able to afford the trips otherwise. Doubts are still raised, however, that there is an improper, relaxed relationship between the FCC and the industry. Furthermore, FCC officials often conduct business meetings in secret, as described in the “Behind Closed Doors,” theory. It describes how these meetings, while legal under FCC regulations, are not recorded and minutes are not taken. The FCC states that they wish to conduct their meetings out of the public eye, while others are still skeptical.

Government officials have always, and will always, be lobbied by outside forces. However, at some point one needs to say enough is enough. It’s personally disappointing to hear how extreme these actions are. FCC members should act with integrity and uphold some moral practices, whether they are technical legal within FCC guidelines or not. Taking extravagant trips, holding private meetings, and hiring those involved in the industry make it virtually impossible to regulate the industries properly. It’s disheartening to know that our taxes are paying for corrupt agencies. At the end of the article, Powell states that sometimes the lobbying gets out of hand and has gone too far. If Powell has publicly acknowledged this, then he is aware that the conduct of the FCC with the industry is inappropriate and should come to an end. This article was written in 2003. Five years later, I am not sure that anything significant has happened to change the internal workings of the FCC. I agree with Powell, however, that the FCC “needs to do their work rather than hear pitches.” I can only hope that future FCC regulations will prevent these questionable practices.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Merchants of Cool

The methods of marketing, advertising, and branding have changed over time. The basic concept remains the same; promote your product to gain the most profits. However, the techniques and goals of the marketers on their target audiences have changed radically. The traditional way to market an item was to show its value and why it should be bought over its competitors. However, society has caught on to conventional marketing schemes, leaving the audiences disillusioned and the tactics no longer effective. Marketers now have to try to use psychological approaches to marketing to reach audiences on a subconscious level. These techniques have proven to be widely successful. However, marketers are not only shaping the brands, but an entire culture, making many wonder what the future will hold with the continuation of modern marketing.

Branding is the way marketers develop descriptive attributes to associate with their product. There are a number of modern techniques they can use to develop this idea of branding, or creating a culture around a product. Neuromarketing is a new form of marketing that studies the brain and why consumers make the choices they do, whether they are conscience of it or not. This form of marketing reaches the cognitive level to determine a consumer’s preference. Emotional branding is a branding technique that makes the consumers have an emotional attachment to the product. It is not just something they like, but something they love. Narrowcasting, cool hunting, and product placement are just a few other examples of ways in which marketers try to appeal to audiences. They try to discover what is “cool” and then feed it to the masses.

The goal of marketers is to know what the next “big thing” is, or what is “cool.” Teens are often the most sought after audience and also the most unpredictable. Therefore, marketers follow teen trends and use different marketing techniques to reach them. Cornerstone Marketing uses under the radar marketing to understand what teens think is cool. Their workers go to parties and subtly promote their product, or enter chat rooms to see what the new trends are. This kind of marketing is not overt so the teenagers aren’t aware that something is being sold to them. Another example was a strategy used by Sprite. Instead of using a traditional commercial segment to advertise their soda, Sprite partnered with MTV to host an MTV televised concert and party with Sprite products used. In this way, Sprite is seen as cool because the MTV audience sees fellow teens on television drinking it.

Television has developed cultural characters to appeal to younger age groups. Men are perceived as crude, rude, loud and aggressive. Shows such as the Tom Green Show, Jackass, and South Park perpetuate these stereotypes. Women are viewed as premature adults and are consumed by appearance. They are proud to reveal their midriff and flaunt their sexuality, even if they are too young to understand it. Fruit of the Loom often seeks models as young as 13 who embody sophistication. These images are often not representative of the teenagers. However, teens are trying to become these icons.

The consequences of these marketing tactics are a culture where TV and brand icons begin to blur with reality. Audiences are receptive of the images and are feeding them back by embodying them. They are becoming what the marketers were selling to them. Some teens and older audiences fight the images of marketers by influencing counter cultural movements, such as non traditional looks or music. Perhaps in time, more teens will catch on to these new marketing schemes and the counter cultural audience will grow. This will pose a new challenge to marketers, to have to reach the teens at a different level and appeal to them in different ways, and the cycle will be never ending.