Don’t disturb the dinosaurs

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Finally, someone is in my corner, defending the recently legal drinkers in the work force…OK, so they called us “the young” and it’s Advertising Age, a print publication that is traditional media-centric and still trying to get the hang of this new-fangled internet ‘thang…but still. At last, some “authority” came out and admitted that “the young aren’t stupid.”

I was super excited when I first read this post, as I deal with pig-headed clients who refuse to listen to or accept my advice once they’ve met me and realized how old I am. I’ve also been told I don’t “look smart.” It was meant as a compliment, but who knows.

Anyway, my point is, Advertising Age, a somewhat stodgy and “the man” of old-school advertising, had to tell people we are a force to be reckoned with. My issue is not with the blog post, but with the fact that it warranted being written.

As the youngest member of the BU faculty, Jonathon Feit undoubtedly has dealt with much more ageism than I could ever encounter. I understand his frustrations with present day dinosaurs, and I applaud him for finding a way to make people sit up and listen, ‘cuz hey, I’m doing the same thing right here. What upsets me is where it ran.

I’m assuming Feit, or some editor somewhere, thought the only way to grab the ageists’ attention was to get it in “their” press. Good thinking, except you used the blog, not the print magazine, which is what the very people you’re targeting put more stock in. Strike one.

Now, as much as I enjoyed reading the post (which is my next problem with it, but we’ll get there), I’m not the one being convinced. To really convince the target demographic, I think an author in the same age bracket as the target would have been more effective. Strike two.

Unless, of course, Feit wanted to direct it towards the old dogs to disguise a simple self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back post. I know I liked it, but I’m the choir; does he really think he’s going to get these old dogs turning tricks? Strike three, you’re out.

Definitely read “The Young Aren’t Stupid-but They Are Changing Your World” if you already believe that. Chances are, if you’re here, you figured that out on your own. If not, check out some amazing young’uns I only sometimes dare to compare myself to, like Amanda Gravel and Dan Zarrella. They truly demonstrate just how, like, not stupid we totally aren’t.


  • Wait, we aren’t stupid? Like, OMG.

    Don’t people remember what it was like to be young and on their game? And can’t they see that we grow up so much faster today than generations past? I think this is a lesson for us, though. When we’re not “the young” anymore and we all run the show, we should remember what it was like to be doubted and pushed aside. I can only imagine what the next batch of kiddies will be like. Great post, Alison.

    Comment by Amanda Gravel — December 19, 2007 @ 11:35 am
  • Hey Alison, nice post. You hit this one right on the head and I agree with Amanda’s comment. Our generation has grown “faster” than any previous one. I believe that we are subjugated to much more in our youth in terms of media coverage (and the onset of globalization) than was ever expected by our elders. The internet has played a gigantic role in our everyday normal lives as opposed to another new convenience innovation as it may be viewed by those older than us. We have seen the ads and can be much more savvy with what is effective towards US (the target 20-somethings demographic). See you at lunch.

    Comment by Kenny Leenhouts — December 19, 2007 @ 12:27 pm
  • I think the difference with our generation is that we straddle the technological generation gap.

    Those older than us don’t (and maybe can’t) “get” many web 2.0 and social things online, not only are they new tricks for old dogs, but many of them have vested interests in protecting the status quo which is being threatened by disruptive new products.

    Those younger than us only get the new stuff. They grew up on myspace and AIM (we didn’t really, not like they did) and now they’re on facebook and wherever, they don’t even use email anymore…

    Our generation on the other hand knows both and we grok them on a native level. We can sell new stuff to old companies and we can sell old companies to new customers. Any individual or company that is resistant to our influence does so at their own risk. Its just natural selection.

    Comment by dan zarrella — December 30, 2007 @ 1:26 pm
  • Hi there, Alison -

    First and foremost: Congrats on your eloquence. God, I wish I’d had you in my class at B.U.—(per Facebook, you were there while I was teaching, from 2005-2006)—because I’d have given you a run for your money, and made you support your statements with more than vitriol.

    Which isn’t to say that vitriol isn’t important—it moves media mountains. (As I once explained to my students: anyone who says that media success is about objectivity is a fool. Opinions make the business run and keep consumers interested; without opinions, all we’d need is one radio station, one magazine, one television channel; there would be no “media,” but rather, “medium.”) I can imagine, however, that playing the Devil’s Advocate with you (no matter how much I agree, and I do) would have been a thrill.

    [Make sure B.U. knows what you're up to, by the way—especially since they can help get your name out there. If you want a contact in the PR department, let me know. (]

    Which begs an important question for you about the reason why my post on AD AGE carries its own weight: “Why did I—one who is PROFESSIONALLY tapped into new media (and old), only just now find your blog post, nearly six months after it was placed?”

    Though it smacks of arrogance, I’ll admit that I found your piece while Googling myself in a fit of curiosity to see which of my several articles showed up first. Yours was buried somewhere in the stack, toward the third page, I think.

    That’s unfortunate, because you’re a powerful writer.** Yet it also demonstrates why the AD AGE piece was, despite “preaching to the choir,” valuable (for me as well as the focal issue): AD AGE gets read, it generates publicity and buzz and attention, despite your assumption that “the print magazine…is what the very people you’re targeting put more stock in,” rather than the blog. And unless one is Emily Dickinson, isn’t the point of writing to have one’s words be read?

    [** Let me know if you want to write for my newsletter sometime. (]

    Before judge the psychegraphics of any readership, one would do well to inquire about the facts rather than assume based on media buzz and rumors. (I taught such factfinding as a cornerstone of my class, ironically.) It so happens—as I gleefully found out firsthand through comments, compliments, and criticisms—that the AD AGE blog is ready by executives in and around the media and advertising worlds who are far higher up the totem pole than I expected. Does the fact that they’re looking at a diversity blog indicate a pre-existing interest in the subject? Of course. But many of them DO have power in their persons, and so it doesn’t hurt to get the message out there.

    Whether those corporate effectors place stock in online media is actually a moot point now, don’t you think? Print media’s got some troubles these days, you know, and it’s not because digital journalism is full of crap.

    Rather, I’d submit that the opposite is the case: that droves of former print consumers are finding that increased online budgets are attracting better journalists to online (where there exists an obvious disregard for word count; case in point right here), thereby increasing the credibility of digital journalism?

    (We can thank Adam Penenberg for starting the trend. Cf. “Shattered Glass.”)

    I’m a print journalist—always have been, always will be. (See http://WWW.CITIZENCULTURE.COM for as much proof as I can readily provide.) But online offers significant benefits like—oh, I don’t know—the fact that it’s EVERYWHERE, around the world instantly, and findable almost forever? I love the “print experience”; and—as a matter of fact—my columns have been printed in AD AGE’s paper version several times. But have you seen those? Yet you can see ALL the digital ones with a click. Quite a convenient trick.

    All this, in my mind, leads to the curiously counterproductive assertion that “an author in the same age bracket as the arget would have been more effective. Strike two.”

    Strike? Maybe, if the piece didn’t work. But would you consider it a “strike” or a “ball” (or perhaps, a “foul”?) that you classed my writing for AD AGE as that of a freelance one-off, rather than a considered decision by a regular columnist? (Full disclosure: AD AGE and I parted ways at the end of February, for unrelated reasons.)

    My article wasn’t a case of editorial opportunism (though I did love the chance to “dialogue” with the B.U. professor who typed the gaffe, and he changed his tune forthwith). Rather, it was a considered decision on my part—and age discrimination was part of my “beat” for the blog series. The whole point was as if to say, “Hey! I’m 26 years old, and I’ve earned a featured AD AGE blog (plus the rest of my bio). Maybe I know what I’m talking about…”

    The notion that it takes someone older to have influence is to consign oneself to exactly the kind of discriminatory, irrational labeling that I railed against in the piece. I shudder to think how different the world would be if every ambitious young person stopped exerting his or her influence…and why would anyone assume that AD AGE’s readership—online, in print, or otherwise—is “old”? A glance at the paper OR the online version on any given day will prove beyond all doubt that that leading media newspaper (like most every other) is obsessed with youth. Which leads to the advertising industry being one of the youngest—demographically speaking—in the country.

    Which finally lands the Grand Slam I’ve been leading toward: “Does he [I] really think he’s [I’m] going to get these old dogs turning tricks?”

    You better believe it, sister.

    Change doesn’t happen overnight, but look: it’s 3:49 A.M. and I’m responding to your post from back in December. Some might call that influence—yours.

    When I—working with three Boston University students—started the world’s first all-inclusive weddings magazine, do you think we expected to change the government’s policy on GLBT marriage equality? (Yup.) Things take time, but dialogue is how it starts. GLBT media, for example, waited a long time to enter the mainstream; but columns like the ones I wrote for AD AGE led to others for MEDIAWEEK, and so on. As the topic moves stepwise in the public and industry consciousness, it eventually becomes common—and less antagonistic, which was the goal all along. Quickly, one helps, but stepwise nonetheless.

    Some independent creators believe that working with mainstream outlets constitutes “selling out.” I beg to differ: I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to succeed in promoting one’s uniqueness, or one’s unique contribution. After all, what venue is ever going to be PERFECT? I’d rather ask, “Is it EFFECTIVE?”

    The ideal, in my mind (and wearing my editor-publisher hat now), is a partnership wherein the venue gets excellent content worth promoting, and the author gets promoted; which in turn moves the author’s issues to the forefront, helps accumulate the resources by which the publication can carry on, and makes it evermore likely that the author will have another chance to make an impact. Stepwise.


    Appreciatively yours,

    Jonathon S. Feit, M.A.
    President & CEO,
    The Feit Family Ventures Corp.

    Chief Editor & Publisher,
    WITH THIS RING Magazine
    “EQUALITY MEDIA Newsletter”

    Comment by Jonathon Feit — May 6, 2008 @ 6:17 am

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