Merchants of Cool on February 27, 2001 Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Merchants of Cool

On February 27, 2001 the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) program Frontline aired The Merchants of Cool. The program examines the efforts of corporate America to exploit the teenage market. At the time of broadcast there were 32 million teenagers in the United States, the largest generation ever, spending 100 billion dollars annually on their own while their parents spent another 50 billion on them. This ability to impact the economy has made this generation the most studied in history. Robert Mc Chesney, media critic, has characterized the behavior of corporate America toward this youth market as analogous to the British Empire's takeover of Africa. I believe a valid comparison can be made between these two otherwise unconnected events.

Briefly, the earliest British colonies on the west coast of Africa were dedicated to creating wealth through the trade of slaves. Gold and ivory also attracted investors to the continent. However, African climate and disease, primarily malaria, inhibited this early colonization. Eventually advances in technology gave Europeans the means to colonize Africa. These advances occurred at a time of peculiarly intense competition between the European powers creating a rush for African territory. As a result the British presence on the continent increased substantially. This move to colonize Africa coincided with the arrival of the concept of social Darwinism. The British thought their superior weaponry and prowess in technology entitled them to colonize and exploit the resources of the continent. They believed it was their duty and right to impose their notion of civilization upon the Africans ("Africa: British Colonies").

Just as there was a scramble among European nations to reap the wealth of Africa, five major businesses, Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Universal Vivendi, and AOL/Time Warner, are each competing for a piece of the 150 billion dollars annually spent by teenagers. These companies own 90% of all music in the U.S., all film studios, all major TV networks, TV stations, and every commercial cable channel. Using films, music, CDs, Internet, clothing, amusement parks, and sports teams as weaponry, these companies manipulate the teenage mind for financial gain. This Frontline program notes marketing messages are literally everywhere. Teens are exposed to 3,000 ads a day and 10 million by the time they reach 18. Moreover, they are readily available since 75% have a TV in there room and one-third own a personal computer, spending at least two hours a day online. Competition for the teenage market drives brands to understand what teens feel and how teens think well enough to reach them with their message. In order to develop this market these companies employ market researchers to learn what is cool. However, cool is elusive. Once something becomes cool it becomes passe, cool keeps changing. To keep current, research companies use cool hunters to find the personalities and players in the teen social network who hold influence over their peers, the 20% of teens that the other 80% follow ("The Merchants of Cool").

In Africa the British used brute force and superior weapons to take the resources of the continent. In today's world understanding and manipulating the 20% of teens that lead the…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

"Africa: British Colonies -- History of British Colonial Rule in Africa, Precolonial Racial and Ethnic Relations in British Colonial Africa." Online Encyclopdi,. n.d. Web. 5 February 2013.

"The Merchants of Cool." Frontline. Writ. Rachel Dretzin. Dir. Barak Goodman. Public Broadcasting System, 27 February 2001. Web. 4 February 2013.

Uzgalis, William. "John Locke." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosopy. Edward N. Zalta, ed. Summer 2010. Web. 4 February 2013.

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