BrainTrust Query: Gen Y’s Moment of Truth
Commentary by Doug Stephens, President, Retail Prophet
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a
summary of a current article from the Retail Prophet Consulting blog.
poll from Harris Interactive suggests that 90 percent of adults ages 18-34
believe that the advertising they see is truthful (at least some of the time).
In contrast, only 81 percent of those 55 and over feel the same way. When asked
if advertising was truthful "all or most of the time," 24
percent of young adults agreed, compared to only 16 percent of those over the
age of 55.
So why the disparity? Is Gen Y simply gullible? I don’t think
so. In fact, I think exactly the opposite. I believe they’re really savvy.
you’re 55 and over, you grew up on a steady diet of false advertising. You’re
part of a generation that lived vicariously through Mike Wallace and the 60
Minutes news team as they busted into seedy businesses, probing endless
claims of false advertising and fraudulent business practices.
If that wasn’t enough, every major daily newspaper had its resident
pit bull consumer advocate. Each week we’d hear about another company
that had set out to scam an unwitting consumer, only to be outed after a significant
And it wasn’t just hysteria. There really was
a lot of false advertising, largely because there could be. Companies could
get away with it. The world was a big place where corporate executives could
hide in ivory towers, unconcerned about the angry mob outside.
It took a lot
to bring a brand down and no one knew this better than the brands themselves.
if you’re under the age of 35 you have a very different view. You’ve
grown up watching brands who dared to pull a fast one, publicly executed in
the court of the internet. You’ve seen YouTube videos posted within minutes
of a product failing to meet its claims, only to have thousands of viewers
chime in with lightening fast support.
You’ve seen big companies — really
big companies — fail. You
grew up with the understanding that you were your own 60 Minutes crew.
All you needed was a camcorder and a Facebook account and you could affect
For the generations before you, "free" was often a code
word for rip-off. You on the other hand have grown up downloading free stuff
that is really free and, moreover, actually does what it says it will do.
the way I see it, if all we do is look at this survey with a skeptical tilt
of the head and dismiss it, we miss the fact that something really cool might
be happening. It might be that a new generation of consumers is putting the
truth back in advertising right before our eyes. Let’s not discourage
Discussion Questions: How has the internet and social media changed perceptions
over the veracity of advertising claims? Is Generation Y justified in putting
a higher degree of trust in advertising than their older counterparts?