I don’t know about you, but last weekend’s Super Bowl television broadcast seemed full of commercials I didn’t understand.
I realize that at 74, I’m not in the demographic target of most advertisers who plunked down close to $4 million for a 30-second ad during the game. So all I can deduce is that the ads must make sense to some other generation – the younger one – or else the big advertising spenders are wasting their money.
The only ad I really liked was for Dodge trucks that had the late Paul Harvey’s voice reflecting on the American Farmer. It was outstanding, in my view. On the other hand, the most tasteless was the ad for GoDaddy.com that featured a supermodel making out with a chubby computer nerd. TVBizwire had this to say about that ad: “The competition for the worst ad saw an easy winner.” Amen.
This disparity between us old people and the younger generation was never clearer when we view it using the Super Bowl telecast as a yardstick. Either the newer generations are nuts, or time has passed us by and left us in the dust. I suspect the latter.
Management gurus delight in pointing out generational differences and how a manager has to understand each generation and its values if he or she is to be successful. Good managers have to know how to inspire Baby Boomers, as well as members of Generations X and Y. Otherwise, their organizations are doomed.
The Super Bowl ads may be the best example of generational variances and put the whole issue into context – clearly, most ads take aim at the younger generations. But take heart – there’s some evidence that some big advertisers are rethinking their approaches, and targeting Boomers and the traditional generation – people like me (and maybe you). The big companies are figuring out it’s we retirees who have disposable income – not the youngsters who are trying to find work or who are raising a family and making house and car payments. That could mean broader-targeted ads that include us oldsters in the future.
The generation I belong to cherishes hard work before all else, and loyalty to an employer. Corporate greed has helped destroy those values – how can younger generations show loyalty to a firm when its sole purpose is to maximize profits at the expense of its employee ranks? Just look at what’s become of the paper industry around here. (I do acknowledge some other factors in this equation, but greed is a major one.)
In any event, young people and old people are different and anyone who doesn’t understand that will have trouble in relating to the other. As further evidence, I point to today’s technological marvels that consume young people’s lives, but leave the older generation trying to figure out how to turn them on.
I can remember when we laughed at the differences among people. We weren’t insulted by ethnic humor – and history shows we embraced it. Think of the wild popularity of such broadcast programs as “Amos ’n’ Andy” and “The Goldbergs” and more recently, “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” But you’re unlikely to see such programs today. It’s a different time and younger generations haven’t been exposed to the stuff we watched and listened to. We live in a world of political correctness, and some of that philosophy has sapped our sense of humor.
I’ve always thought human foibles and differences were funny, and we should accept and have a good time with them. I think it was theologian Thomas Aquinas who defined the species man as “a rational animal able to laugh.” That should tell you something, especially if you also subscribe to the notion that God made man in “His image and likeness.” I like to think that God has a sense of humor, and the best evidence of that he created us humans.
It’s also good to see that we’ve made necessary progress in placing women on an equal footing with men. We know work remains to fully achieve the goal of full equality, but consider that as recently as the early 1980s, many considered women inferior. I offer this tidbit as evidence:
I served as executor of my mother’s estate and I visited her attorney’s office after her funeral to begin work on the estate. At one point, the attorney – an old-fashioned character whose desk, credenza and surrounding floor area contained huge piles of folders and papers – said he’d get copies of a necessary document for me. I’ll never forget his words – “I’ll have the girl type them up.” He buzzed her and she came into his office. She was 63 years old. The “girl?” Thank heavens we’ve changed!
It’s still a work in progress for me to understand some of the stuff connected with the newer generations, but I try. I hope you’ll do the same.