Friday, October 16, 2009

Talking the Talk (The language of your target audience)

Pepsi AMP's “Before You Score" iPhone app categorizes women into predictable, unimaginative stereotypes and gives guys pickup lines tailored to each "target". I'm really surprised by the apparent controversy and backlash (Via Mashable: Pepsi and AMP: We Apologize If Our App Was In Bad Taste). It's not shocking. In fact, it's very lame. The stereotypes themselves are cliche and pedestrian: Aspiring Actress, Artist, Bookworm, Goth, Nerd, etc. The girls in the cruddy illustrations — this may be the most revolting element — look like trannys. The copywriting is utterly stupid (the first pickup line for the "princess" type is "I'm so rich my driver has a driver". This is controversial? I wouldn't be surprised if the controversy is manufactured PR.

AMP Energy Website

This does however give me the opportunity to discuss something I've been thinking about, the widening gap between the language of consumers and that of marketers.

Coded language has always served the purpose of creating a differentiating identity that bonds insiders of a group as well as a membrane that keeps outsiders shut out. In general, verbal expression in contemporary culture has become increasingly loaded with color, profanity, shock and appall.

The language of advertising, which always presents a kind of theatricized reality, is constrained not only by federal law but the desire on the part of marketers to say nothing that could possibly offend anyone. The result is an unwillingness or an inability on the part of marketers to speak to their audience the way that members of their audience speak to one another. This becomes painfully apparent when a product or brand aspires to be edgy or is targeted at youth or urban markets. One of the reasons the ironically-sexist advertising for Axe deodorant has been so successful is that it "talks the talk" of its target audience. It talks about what their young male audience talks about — girls — and it does so in a way that makes you feel as if you're listening in on the banter of these kinds of guys. Most advertising, including that bullshit for Pepsi's AMP, doesn't tread anywhere near the reality or voice of their audience. It doesn't even dare to be as provocative as an episode of Entourage, Weeds or even Sex in the City.

See also (previous posts):

Axe Deoderant

Ironic Sexism

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