Parents in Advertising: A rant by Ben Mullen

​This morning on my way to work I was listening to Q102 like I do fairly often, and as usual they played their fair amount of commercials. Now most people these days can’t stand commercials, they’ll either turn the volume way down or just not listen or even turn the radio off completely. But I like commercials, and I’ll tell you why. I love when a commercial makes a mistake, whether it be grammatical or socially and/or politically incorrect.

​So there I was, comfortably driving in my little asian car, enjoying my energy drink, when a real humdinger graced my eardrums. I won’t say the name of the business that this commercial was representing (I don’t feel like being “that guy” right now) but I will tell you that it is a very popular ski resort in Pennsylvania. To set the scene for you, the person presenting the commercial was a woman, and by the sound of her voice I’d probably place her age around 35.

How do I place a persons age by just listening to their voice you say? I like to think it’s a natural talent, however it might have something to do with the fact that radio add people will use specific voices to reflect each age group so that their message gets across to the desired target audience. There is also the “advertising law of averages”, for instance, this woman had a younger sounding voice and was talking about her 3 kids. On average, a fairly young person these days with 2 or more children will be in the range of 30-35 years old.

The presentation is going well so far, “hip” background music, I can clearly understand the message she is putting forward and what she is suggesting to me. I know exactly what business she is promoting as well as the season in which I should most take advantage of what this business offers. So I buy into the story she’s telling for a bit, about how this ski resort is perfect for her family. She’s got three kids, one who ski’s, one who snowboards, and the last one I didn’t quite catch because I was so enthralled by what she said in reference to her second child.

She stated the following: “the slopes on (name of business) are perfect for my snowboarder, he says they are “gnarly”, whatever THAT means….”

“he says they are “gnarly”, whatever THAT means….”

Lets take a step back to where I mentioned “advertising law of averages”. You mean to tell me that the “average” parent, between ages 30-35, with three kids has no idea what the term “gnarly” means? As if she’s never heard it? I mean lets do a little math here…..

2013-35=1978…ok so this individual was born in the late 70’s.
1978 + 18= 1996….and she graduated highschool in the mid 90’s
And if we follow the “law of averages” we figure she went to college in the late 90’s (considering she’s gone on to a job where she can afford helping to support 3 kids and their vacationing habits).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “gnarly” has been in the American vocabulary for close to 40 years. Not that it is used in everyday life my a majority percentage of the population of our country, but to think that the “average” American who attended high school in the 1990’s has no idea what that word means? That seems a bit off to me. Its like suggesting my grandparents didn’t understand the word “groovy” while my Dad and his friends booked it up to Woodstock. In the 90’s I attended Elementary school in a quiet town in Pennsylvania, and even I know what “gnarly” means. It’s one of those words that was plastered all over kid/teen culture those days, what with the immense popularity of the skateboarding industry.

It seems to me, from this commercial, that the “advertising law of averages” is either suggesting that “gnarly” isn’t as big a hit in American English Vocabulary as I thought it was, or that the “parent who is ignorant of their child’s culture” model still holds true. I’m 100% positive that there are parent/child relationships that don’t work well together, but to suggest that parents are devoid of any know-how into the culture their child is growing up in, let alone using terminology that YOUR generation utilized, is a bit harsh. It may have rung true in the 40’s, but we have grown since then.

Am I being ridiculous about this? If I am please tell me, cause lord knows I hate to waste anybody’s time. But the portrayal not just of Dad’s, but of both parents in popular culture needs to evolve a little more. Baby Boomer parents are already in the middle of being outnumbered by Gen X parents. The number of parents who listen to the Beatles are now outnumbered by the parents who listen to Green Day. The world of parental relationships and interests is evolving, so why isn’t the media?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s trying. Every news anchor and entertainer has facebook pages and twitters and whatnot. But I’m not talking about the gear they have and the programs they utilize, I’m talking about the content. I’m talking about evolving your mindset and your output. Feel free to say what you wanna say, and do what you wanna do, I won’t knock you. But when you talk about a dominantly large group (there are parents on every inch of the earth) isn’t there a certain amount of respect that needs given?

-B.K. Mullen
Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast
Life Of Dad Blog
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