At the bottom of this page you can see my 28-year-old face peering pretentiously at you in moody black and white. Of course, in real life I am LITERALLY MADE OF GOLD.
Along with my peers, I have spent the last decade going about my life like some kind of unwitting Pied Piper, my every passing interest, cultural pursuit or online habit studied and harked at by a billion advertising and marketing rats desperate to sell things to me. Everyone wants me. I’m chased wherever I go. I am a shining beacon. I am important. I influence things. I am connected.
In fact, I am so connected, the Americans refer to me and my friends as Generation C, and that C actually stands for connected so we’re officially connected!
Which means, for example, if I were to buy a pair of trainers (which people in “my demographic” do ALL THE TIME. We even loot shops for them), then not only would I plod round the streets with, say, the three stripes of Adidas emblazoned on my feet like some kind of foot-level billboard, I might also take a picture of my new trainers on my smartphone (people in “my demographic” are ALWAYS ON OUR SMARTPHONES, you see. We even loot shops for them), which I might text to some friends.
Or put on Facebook.
Or tweet with the hashtag #myawesometrainers.
Or put on Instagram with some kind of retro filter and an artfully positioned pair of sunglasses in the background.
Or check myself in on Foursquare at the Adidas store.
Or film a short movie about my new trainers and put it on YouTube.
That way, loads of other connected people in Generation C will see and hear all about my new Adidas trainers and they will tell loads of other connected people in Generation C and before long we’ve altered the entire global marketing strategy for Adidas because we’re JUST SO DAMN IMPORTANT.
Now, I can maybe understand why Adidas wish to pursue me. They are, after all, a sports brand, and sports, professionally at least, tend to be the preserve of people on the lower end of the timeline. In fact, I turn 29 in a fortnight, which puts me perilously close to retirement age in many an Olympic event so even I am past my sporting prime.
So trainers are one thing, but what of the luxury brands Daniela mentioned last week in Ignore us at your peril, her warning to advertisers. Why in merry hell are they casting lusty glances at me?
In case they hadn’t noticed, we’re all screwed. Last month it was announced that over the past 12 years, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work for one year or more has risen a staggering 874 per cent. In 2000 there were a mere 6,260 of us out of work (the rest were, of course, making millions from dot com start-ups or forming bands that sounded like The Strokes). That number is now almost 61,000.
None of us can afford a house; that’s why loads of us are still clogging up your homes, painfully watching you spend our inheritance on glorious holidays we’ll never be able to go on.
Those of us who have managed to leave pay exorbitant rents to live near the place we actually want to live, spending our paycheques on overpriced travel and Sunday lunches in knobby gastropubs.
Nearby, block after block of “luxury apartments” are erected, marketed squarely at us (“Tweet from your fridge!”, “wi-fi enabled gym!” etc) despite being hilariously unaffordable to all but the most trust-funded of young folk.
And there it is, that word “luxury”. Once upon a time, it meant an expensive item we could treat ourselves to once in a while: a nice steak, a five-star hotel, that kind of thing – what Professor Jean-Noël Kapferer described as “items which provide extra pleasure by flattering all senses at once”. Only now, for us, it means unattainable, beyond reach, something for later in life.
And that, if you think about it, is the way it should be. As each decade passes, you get closer to “luxury zone”, like achievement levels in a video game.
There is no point filling my copy of GQ with Mercedes-Benz ads. The average person in the 30-34 category (squarely aimed at by said magazine) earns £23,900 per year. The cheapest Mercedes on the market, the A180, costs £20,125. My maths ain’t great, but that doesn’t appear to work. Which is precisely why anyone below the age of 45 driving around in a Merc looks like a twat.
I mind less when luxury fashion houses parade their latest looks for my benefit. “One day I might be able to afford it,” I think, as I rush to Topman to buy a cheap approximation. But do they really have to employ children to flog it to me?
Look at the Burberry advert at the top of this page. It looks like they’re playing grown-ups in their parents’ clothes. I once met Cara Delevingne at a party. She was very pleasant, a little hyperactive and dressed in a grungy T-shirt and skinny jeans, just like a 19-year-old should be. When I look at her in those Burberry adverts, I think, “I wonder how much she got paid?”.
But put Bryan Ferry and Stella Tennant in a Burberry ad and I think: “That looks classy, I’ll get saving.”
By all means stick Miles Kane in a John Varvatos ad, but have him gaze admiringly at an oh-so-dapper Paul Weller and I’ll see where you’re coming from.
It’s about believability, see. If they bothered to properly target the people who are buying their products, we’d all feel better. high50-ers would finally feel recognised and I’d feel less like a continual, penniless disappointment.
Besides, aspiration is about looking forward, in every sense. I want to see that, as more decades pass by, I can dress well, live better and afford more. I can’t see that from the faces of teenagers. Show me people with experience, people who’ve earned it. Among the six billion adverts I see every 15 minutes, it might just get you noticed.
And before long I’ll have told everyone in Generation C.