In Business Week's "Girl Improved" column, young women on the advisory team of the New York-based firm 3iYing, which specializes in marketing to females ages 15 to 25, critique advertisements aimed at their own demographic. And in this week's column, they schooled me.
The current column's featured ad reads, "Nothing on this page will help you boost your self-esteem or help you find true love. It will, however, help you carry your stuff." The photo: a Jansport backpack. In my opinion, based on seven years of experience as a teenager, the ad was good. I thought, "Ha ha, that's a refreshing 'we don't think you're stupid' alternative to all the other ads -- no doubt in the same magazine -- that try to convince girls that a particular moisturizer will make their dreams come true."
Turns out I'm a clueless grown-up! The girls and women hated it. Why? "Companies talk about customer 'relationships,' but this ad uses moves you'd never pull in dating," they said. Here's how they heard the ad's message: "I'm not your shrink, I'm just your bag. Your self-esteem and boy issues aren't my problem, but I thought I'd bring them up just to push your buttons. Now buy me."
"Why," the young women ask, "would a girl want to build a relationship with a backpack company that treats her like a nightmare date?"
So given that "girl power" is "hot," I guess this column is a good thing. But of course, while part of me is like, "Yay, people are trying to figure out what girls really want!" the other part of me is like, "Right, so they'll buy more stuff!"