February 06, 2014
Art, Demographics, And The Super Bowl
An article about Bruno Mars, the halftime performer at the Super Bowl, that appeared in The New York Times arts section last Friday is indicative of the role that demographic analysis is playing in our lives.
The piece had some information about Mr. Mars as an artist, but dealt substantially with demographics, and the way business decisions (disguised as artistic decisions) are made.
The obsession with demographics that started in the advertising business, spread to the entertainment business, and has infected politics is not a good thing or a healthy thing.
One of the problems that the emphasis on demographics creates is that it tends to divide people. When you are trying to reach baby boomers or millennials, for example, you tend to look for "tells" -- the things that make them different. And when you create messages that emphasize differences, you tend to exaggerate them and make them badges of uniqueness.
Contemporary political campaigns and political discourse are an example of this trend gone completely mad. People of good will, who may agree on a lot of important matters of public concern, are driven apart by "wedge issues."
This also exists in the world of marketing. There is a whole industry of researchers, consultants and marketing geniuses making a living off convincing us that every generation is different and unique. They are not. It has been my observation that there is just as much diversity within generations as there is between generations.
Sure, people of similar ages are going to have similar age-related sign posts and behaviors -- not because of their particular generation, but because of their stage in life and their environment.
Most young people are going to like Miley Cyrus because young people are idiots. Middle-aged people are going to like golf because middle-aged people are boring. Old people are going to watch more tv because old people have lost interest in screwing.
It has nothing to do with what "generation" we've labeled them, it has to do with biology and psychology.
Every generation has its Miley Cyrus. Every generation has its golf. And every generation has its sex substitutes.
While Mars was a controversial choice for the halftime show, it has been widely acknowledged that he did a very good job on Sunday. His value as a performer has very little to do with demographics and a lot to do with talent.
Intelligent people of all generations recognize art and talent regardless of era. Dimwits of all ages think only their generation produces good stuff.