If advertising is meant to be aspirational, these ads [in men’s magazines] are presenting a pretty sad version of what American men can aspire to be. And advertisers aren’t selling this hyper-masculine ideal to just any man: They’re specifically targeting the younger, poorer, less-educated guys in the supermarket aisle. In the latest issue of the journal Sex Roles, a trio of psychologists at the University of Manitoba analyzed the advertising images in a slate of magazines targeted at men, from Fortune to Field and Stream. They counted up the ads that depict men as violent, calloused, tough, dangerous, and sexually aggressive—what the researchers call “hyper-masculine”—then indexed them with the magazine’s target demographics. Hyper-masculine images, the researchers found, are more likely to be sold to adolescents, who find higher “peer group support” for manly-man behaviors. They’re also sold to working-class men, who are “embedded in enduring social and economic structures in which they experience powerlessness and lack of access to resources” like political power, social respect, and wealth, and so turn to more widely accessible measures of masculine worth—like “physical strength and aggression.
Digiday came out with an interesting compilation of perspectives on millennials (aka Gen Y, born in from the ’80s to the 2000’s) who comprise the new crop of working professionals in ad agencies.
The ad exec’s perspective seems largely to be that millennials feel excessively entitled, are at times over-payed and are inclined to having big ideas but no mastery of a craft. Example: an agency executive talking about a millennial he hired and then let go (via WTF Millennials: Managing Agencies’ Newest Generation:
He didn’t know how to do anything. He could talk about stuff and criticize what agencies were doing but really added no value. At one point, I walked by his desk and saw Facebook on one monitor and Tweetdeck on another. I told him that he’s so good at social media that he’s totally unproductive. We let him go a few days later. In his mind, he nailed the task and moved on to help get the ad industry back on track. Sigh. The overconfidence, zero accountability and zero remorse is 100 percent millennial. They don’t get the concept of learning.
The millennial’s perspective seems to be one which struggles to reconcile with one too many contentions: old-school divisions of labor, integrating digital and traditional advertising, and harder, bigger questions like how to maintain (idealistic?) values of openness, honesty and social good, while working in an industry that isn’t exactly reputed for these things. They’re left unable (and perhaps unwilling) to master a craft because of a lack of the bigger picture, and at times a lack of mentorship to get there.
FJP: I thought about using Tumblr’s chat-post format to excerpt these pieces as a conversation between millennials and ad execs, but in my mind, the perspectives don’t really speak to each other. Though I don’t work in advertising, the conversation touches on adjacent industries just the same. The problem seems to be that many of us (millennials) view “learning” as a very intentional (and arguably selfish) affair. I’m certainly victim to the big ideas and not enough craft dilemma but it’s because I want to master a craft if I’m driven to on a personal level, and that drive entirely comes from having a clear vision of the big picture—confidence that my efforts today won’t lead to another future in which social good is at the bottom of the priority list, and profit is at the top. This attitude won’t work well in the average entry-level position, but it’s often our only entry point. I’ve been lucky enough to receive an education and professional mentors who encourage me to go long with my big ideas, which in turn makes me want to be accountable. Not an easy environment to create but much gratitude to those who’ve done it. —Jihii