Really. I do. Or at least, I have to stop reading Broadsheet every morning.
As usual, I can only begin by saying I don’t even know where to begin. I think I’m going to have to go with enumerating my issues here, in no particular order.
1) Considering I’m only four years older than the oldest of 3iYing’s “girls,” I don’t think I’m that out of touch with what appeals to young women. And yet, like Harris, I thought the JanSport ad in question was great. Perhaps that means I’m a grizzled old cynic, but the thing is, I was already a grizzled old cynic at 13–I would have loved it then, too.
2) Unfortunately, that wouldn’t have mattered much to JanSport, because I never bought my own backpack until I was halfway through college (at which point that ad definitely would have appealed to me). In high school, I let my parents shell out, because it was a boring necessity equal in cost to about four CDs they wouldn’t buy for me. I never gave a damn what brand my backpack was–because nobody else did either–so I just prayed that whatever showed up in a box from Land’s End or L.L. Bean at the start of the school year would be a dark color befitting my lovingly nurtured anti-cheerleader persona. As far as I can tell, that’s how pretty much everybody at my school–which was chock full of spoiled, highly brand-conscious kids from wealthy families, mind you–dealt with the backpack issue. Maybe kids today really are angling for a particular brand of bookbag, or paying for their own, but in my day, you mentioned your favorite color and crossed your fingers, then spent your energy needling your parents for fucking Cavariccis or some shit. Given that, and the fact that this ad seems to work best on grown-ups, the better move for JanSport might be to run this ad in, like, Redbook with the line “It won’t boost your daughter’s self-esteem or find her true love. But it will help her carry her stuff.” (And then mention it’s available in everything from Lindsay Lohan Lavender to How I Feel on the Inside Black.) But seriously, even if kids are asking for a particular brand of backpack, will any kid ever say, “Please, Mom, it has to be JanSport“? JanSport’s a fucking workhorse brand, period, and judging from their ad, they know it. Good for them. Shut up, 3iYing.
So there’s that.
3) You want us to love you — commit to you — but how do you treat us? You play on our fears and exaggerate our flaws. You belittle our problems and hold us to unrealistic ideals. You talk down to us and take our attention for granted.
Huh? I kinda thought that’s exactly what they weren’t doing, which is why I liked it so much. I thought the message was, I don’t know, humble and realistic? Did somebody slip crazy pills in my coffee? Huh?
4) Not to mention that thing you have for hanging around with underdressed supermodel chicks.
Double huh? Wait, raise that to a What the fuck? Sure, it’s a fair indictment of practically all advertisers, ever. But not JanSport as far as I can recall, and certainly not in this ad. Who are you talking to again?
5) “Us girls have…” GAH. Me has a personal interest in the conceit of equating crappy grammar with “young and hip.” It’s like reversing letters to mimic a child’s writing–not so much “cute” as “contrived.” And “stupid.”
6) We’re looking to form relationships with brands that respect our priorities and put in the extra effort to meet us halfway…. JanSport, why are trying to upset us? Boys and self-esteem are two top priorities for girls, so if you’re mocking these topics, you’re either cruel or just clueless. We don’t expect your bag to do miracles, but we do expect a little respect. We respond to care and compassion.
Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, seriously… are you fucking kidding me?
All right, first, one of the big headlines on 3iYing’s website is, “UNBELIEVABLE! GIRLS ACTUALLY HAVE BRAINS!” (We’ll ignore for now that that newsflash is rather less prominent than “3iYing delivers ultimate male fantasy: get rich and get girls.”) Okay, and you’re using those brains to… inform big corporations that girls are hypersensitive saps? Sorry to blow your minds, but us girls want a backpack that likes to talk about its feelings and watch figure skating! Get with the program! Great. Thank god someone is finally daring to tell advertisers what girls really want, ’cause there’s sure nowhere else in this culture they could have gotten that message. Like from the last hundred years of their own fucking ads.
Second, they’re mocking girls’ priorities? I must be one of those old-fashioned girls without a brain, because I read it as them mocking other advertisers who cynically prey upon girls’ “priorities,” which I thought was kinda refreshing and cool (if equally cynical in its own way). And all I really get out of 3iYing’s Bona Fide Female Advice is the message that girls have no critical thinking skills whatsoever, so addressing them as if they do will bankrupt you. Addressing them as if they’re equal parts fragile and frivolous, however, is demonstrating “respect…. care and compassion.” Geezer that I am, I don’t get it. But then, what do I know about respect? My backpack won’t even cuddle after sex.
7) Finally, they suggest as a better, more respectful tagline, “I owe my personality to you”? Oh, dear lord. With that, we return to the beginning–i.e., Where to fucking begin?