I’m confused. After shopping at Forever 21, I keep expecting to wake up with pristine eyebrows and collarbones so pointy, they could skewer the red peppers at the cliché Target barbecue advertised all summer long. Every time I have a Coke, rainbow colors are supposed to spill from the ceiling and funny happy people are supposed to appear. Needless to say, I was disappointed the other day when I had a soda at my desk and my room stayed quiet.
Ad styles, and the modern culture they reflect, are shifting back to a perky, sunshiny 1950’s–style; a time when suburbia was new enough to be excited about. Of course, that time coincided with the less-marketable beatniks and counterculture that everyone seems to forget. These groups systematically criticized and challenged the plain, tame lifestyle that all the magazines were saying was so desirable.
Today, I relate to those questioners. Where’s all this fun ads are talking about? Contrary to Reese’s Puffs’ wild beliefs, we all know suburbia is just moms who say no and kids who can’t drive. There’s no doubt that consumers want a part of ads’ fun world– who wouldn’t? But it’s clear that the real-world and the ad-world are misaligned, and a disconnect exists. Ads today are doing a great job illuminating the shortcomings of reality (and sparking consumers’ problem recognition), but are doing little to enhance it. It’s as if Urban Outfitters and PB Teen are sending out invitations to this awesome party they’re having and won’t stop talking about it in school, but we can’t RSVP.
There’s a real profit to be made from filling this gap. Businesses have usually started where an atmosphere already exists, but there is a huge opportunity for businesses that seek to create an atmosphere of their own. People are already plenty hungry for an experience, thanks to being inundated with ads. When considering ways to achieve this, The Sugar Bowl from Marc Brown’s Arthur comes to mind; as does Rocket Power’s Shore Shack, The Montague Bookmill, and Rao’s Coffee. Inspiration exists and the customers are there– we just need the entrepreneurs to make it happen.