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ROB STONE, Teen Marketing Executive: If you don't understand and recognize what they're thinking, what they're feeling, you're going to lose. ANNOUNCER: But what does this relentless focus on the teenager do to the culture? FOCUS GROUP LEADER: OK, so I'm going to take attendance here. Anywhere they rest their eyes, they'll be exposed to a marketing message.
MARK CRISPIN-MILLER, Communications Professor, NYU: They're going to do whatever they think works the fastest and with the most people, which means that they will drag standards down. A typical American teenager will process over 3,000 discrete advertisements in a single day, and 10 million by the time they're 18.
Merchants of Cool Program #1911 Original Airdate: February 27, 2001 Produced by Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin Directed by Barak Goodman Written by Rachel Dretzin Correspondent and Consulting Producer Douglas Rushkoff ANNOUNCER: They want to be cool. ANNOUNCER: MTV, Madison Avenue and the dream makers of Hollywood have targeted our teenagers. of Illinois: They look at the teen market as part of this massive empire that they're colonizing. ANNOUNCER: They are the most studied generation in history. ANNOUNCER: Tonight, author and media critic Douglass Rushkoff takes a journey through the complex world of buying and selling cool. For today's teens, a walk in the street may as well be a stroll through the mall.
NEAL MORITZ, Movie Producer: Teenagers have a lot of disposable income. And you know, we're more than happy to make product that they want to go spend money on. It's the world in which our teenagers are growing up, a world made of marketing.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: They're culture spies, who penetrate the regions of the teen landscape where corporations aren't welcome. This is a kid who's very forward in their thinking, who looks outside their own backyard for inspiration, who is a leader within their own group. So what this correspondent does is they go out and they, like, find and identify these trend-setting kids. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: And that's the paradox of cool hunting: It kills what it finds.
GRANT HILL: [Sprite commercial] -because it's the only drink with that cool, crisp, refreshing taste that satisfies even my manliest thirst. And you're smarter than everyone else." So it put them in a position to feel like we understood them, so that they were feeding back to us, "You know, Sprite understands me.
PINA SCIARRA: There was really no one in the market at the time that was saying, "Discount it all. Sprite is one"- you know, "It's really one of us." DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: It worked for a while.
GRANT HILL: [Sprite commercial] Hi, I'm Grant Hill, professional basketball player for the Detroit Pistons.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Then they launched this ad campaign aimed at teens, which pokes fun at marketing itself.
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FOCUS GROUP LEADER: You know, it's all going to be sort of, like, what you guys think. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: OK, so they're no more responsive than most teenagers, but that's not going to stop this market researcher because the information he's looking for is worth an awful lot of money.