REALITY CHECK: Life: A long Madison Avenue stroll with a boom on either end

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

I entered this world on the tail end of the baby boom, the last of a generation of children spawned by parents who felt no house was happy unless filled to bursting with the pitter-patter of breaking dishes and screams of, “Moooom! Mike’s pickin’ on me again!!”

Being part of this “bulge” of humanity has always been a mixed blessing. On the downside, few of us ever got to experience the exclusive parental attention afforded sibling-free children. On the upside, for as long as I can remember, Madison Avenue advertising has been directed toward me, me, me! Or, rather, my generation.

This has led we baby boomers to believe the world revolves around us. And indeed, for the past 50 years or so, it has.

In my teens, every advertiser wanted to appear youthful and “groovy.” I was part of the Pepsi Generation, I taught the world to sing while drinking Coke, I ate Rice-a-Roni because it came from San Francisco, where all the gentle people wore flowers in their hair.

As I was dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood, advertisers followed right along. Now it seemed the world catered to young parents, like me, who were looking for ways to “have it all” — work, family, friends. When those rednecks in the Budweiser commercial kicked back after a day of hunting Bambi, popped a cold one and said, “Boys, it don’t get no better’n this!” I believed them.

Fast forward another decade or two. Madison Avenue now was concerned about my investment portfolio (which, in my case consisted of an envelope in my sock drawer with 11 bucks in it). But for just pennies a day — the price of a donut and a cup of coffee — I could get insurance that would guarantee my family a luxurious, high on the hog lifestyle once I died.

I bought the donut and coffee instead. Still, it was comforting to know advertisers were still chasing after my business.

But if I thought advertisers were targeting me up until then, Al Gore’s invention of the Internet showed me I hadn’t seen anything yet. Suddenly, if I bought a box of crackers online, every cracker manufacturer from here to Beijing knew about it and flooded my in-box with offers of better, crisper, more flavorful crackers.

I didn’t mind. I like crackers and I’m always looking for a deal. So when the advertising became even more intrusive, I was still mostly cool with it.

If I bought a new cell phone case on Amazon, all my Facebook ads for two weeks featured other cell phone cases. By electronically eyeballing my every keystroke, advertisers now knew everything about me; my birthday, my shoe size, my tastes in art, food, beer, women. For the first time in history, they knew exactly what to offer me.

A lot of folks consider this an invasion of privacy, but not me. I LIKED having my advertising tailored to my specific tastes.

For a while.

At this very moment, the “ad strip” going down the right side of my Facebook screen features offers for cell phones, electric hand dryers (I considered buying one a couple months back, and they will not forget this), Airsoft guns from Target, and four different opportunities to contact impossibly beautiful, yet somehow desperate and insanely amorous girls who are “into” older men. They mean me. I’m the “older man.”

I accept even this. What I’m having a hard time accepting is the advertisement that quietly insinuated itself into the bottom of my ad strip yesterday afternoon: adult … wait for it … diapers. That’s right. Diapers.

Suddenly, having advertising tailored the Internet’s perception of what I “need” no longer seems like such a great idea. What’s next? Denture cream? Heating pads? Bursitis cream? I don’t even know what bursitis IS, for crying out loud! Get off my screen!

If I wanted to be constantly reminded of how old I’m getting, I would have stayed married to my last wife!

Sigh. In just under 60 years, I’ve somehow gone from baby boom to geezer boom. On either end of the spectrum, diapers, apparently, figure prominently.

 

And speaking of advertising, here’s one targeted right at you: Mike Taylor’s book — the perfect last-minute Christmas present! — is available at Robbins Book List in downtown Greenville.

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