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  Rise of the ‘Creative’ Teen  
Posted 2006-02-10 by Tony Walsh
Last year, branding agency Energy BBDO conducted a survey of 3,322 teens in 13 countries around the world. The firm released findings today identifying 30% of teens surveyed as "Creatives" who shun outward appearances, and care little about brands. Energy BBDO says Creatives are "the most wired, most innovative and most influential teens worldwide."

Among the findings about this already-compartmentalized group:
  • 9% value looking good
  • 37% say they "like wearing brand logos," but 64% believe there is "too much advertising and marketing in the world"
  • 70% go on-line every day or almost every day
  • Creatives are less likely than others to feel positively about brands such as McDonalds, KFC and AOL
  • They are are "much more" likely than other teens to use IM, email, or a search engine every day
  • They are on the cutting edge of the content creation and personal media trend
  • In the USA, Creatives are outnumbered by Traditionals 23% to 41%
  • 70% said they would fight for a worthy cause
  • 72% said they think environmental responsibility is important
  • 67% said imagination is the most important thing to teach a child
  • 56% said there is no one right or wrong way to live
  • 15% valued feeling fulfilled in a job over a good income

I blame all of this on Rushmore, Napoleon Dynamite, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Ella Enchanted, MySpace, Digg, BitTorrent, LiveJournal, Flickr, video game mods, and machinima. In no particular order.

I just had a quick chat with Gatmog over this. We agree that "Creator" is a better label than "Creative" for these kids. Making something is easy. Making something good is something else.
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Comment posted by ptorrone
February 10, 2006 @ 5:22 pm
great post - a lot of the teens who i talk to are incredible media managers, i guess there is a "collector" gene many folks have but how and why they use media, store it, catalog it, create it and distribute it needs a whole other survey i bet.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 10, 2006 @ 7:12 pm
Teens won't talk to me. But I'll show them. I'll show them all!
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 11, 2006 @ 10:49 am
I would support this analysis from anecdotal evidence, but I wonder if these politically-correct kids who shun "brands such as McDonalds, KFC and AOL" are merely spending on Hot Pockets, Dominos Pizza, Ipods, Blizzard, Sony, Microsoft -- just *other* brands that are suited to the sedentary life in front of the computer : )

And what are these figures being compared to? The post-war 1950s when young people more readily grasped these major brands sweeping the culture due to the invention of television and the creation of a national roads and parks system? Could you argue that there is more micro-niching by the 1990s so that any set of cohorts asked about their brand favourites, creative or not, teen or not, are going to look like they are "shunning" brands?

Or think of the 1960s when all those concepts that seemed "creative" and "unique" like tie-dies or granny gowns or wire-rim glasses merely got branded and commodified themselves as the merchandised "alternative brand".

As for "said there is no one right or wrong way to live" -- gosh, I'm thinking these young people, insulated as they are from real life offline, are to become a formidable force with this rigid idea that itself will become a squalid new orthodoxy, making people who *do* think there is a "right or wrong way to live" based on their meat-world RL experience and their inherited cultures and religions, into some kind of pariahs or even criminals.

64 percent think there is "too much marketing and advertising in the world" and are...going to be working all that new social software and graphics and computer software to micro-niche market their own content creation which they'll um...want to advertise and market too much LOL.

So what are we to make of these figures? Either there will be an explosion of micro-brewed personal-media content or...these kids are going to have to go get a haircut and a job like everybody else ended up doing at that age eventually and...whoops, the brand preferences are going to change.
Comment posted by csven
February 11, 2006 @ 2:06 pm
The last one does seem to stick out:

"15% valued feeling fulfilled in a job over a good income"

Guess that means the Peace Corps will have to play second fiddle to... Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Chrysler, and other companies that pay well. Oh those pesky priorities.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 12, 2006 @ 11:07 am
These study results are fairly typical in the sense that we just don't have enough information to make a decent analysis. Not to say that we can't discuss the results, though :)

I agree with Prok's point about brand preferences--probably there are other brands that are preferred but weren't named in the summary results in order to support Energy BBDO's conclusions.

I wish a similar survey was done once a decade so we had a basis for comparison. The results don't suggest much more than the idealist and trend-setting qualities of youth are at play. This being said, I do think that the digital generation is churning out more content and reaching more peers than we've seen in human history. The closest comparison I can make is to the "Zine" culture of the 1990s -- today's blogs and MySpace-style sites are like a digital extension of this.
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 12, 2006 @ 12:00 pm
This being said, I do think that the digital generation is churning out more content and reaching more peers than we've seen in human history.

Tony, I'm hesitating to accept such a blanket, revolutionary statement although you may be right, especially with the "reaching more peers" part. In fact, any analysis would have to do for a corrective of the creation of "the teen" as a role in society, i.e. as a consumer remaining at home longer, requiring more education, and not going out to work or getting married earlier as in previous generations of human society.

I do think the taking and sending around of Kodak and Polaroid photographs, letter-writing, diary-keeping were the equivalent mass activities of past generation.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 12, 2006 @ 12:20 pm
Agreed that taking photos and writing were former examples of mass content creation of previous generations. Today it seems easier, cheaper, and faster to produce/appropriate/remix the same content--furthermore, today's distribution options give teens unprecendented socialization/connection opportunities. Of course I have no hard data to back any of this up...
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 12, 2006 @ 5:40 pm
I'd love for there to be anthropologists and sociologists really studying this seriously, looking at the people and what they actually do, not just getting breathless about the new social technology and 3-D capacities of such technology. Is there an upper limit to just how much socializing and content-creation you can do? What if it turns out that, fancy technology or no, you can really only socializing comfortable with 33 people or 100 people in the course of your life, even if one of them happens to be in, say, Kyrgyzstan, delivered to you by the Internet, so that you can all be hands-across-the-sea. What if, also, the awareness begins to dawn, that all these free social technologies like Yahoo Groups or the free Second Life just really do COST SOMEBODY something and they just can't keep offering it for free! It's like all the dot-com enthusiasms of the 90s -- only a different version, Dot.Com 2.0. It will also founder on the rocks of hard realities like cost -- labour, bandwidth, something! Who is going to keep paying for all these kids to hang out on the Internet forever socializing on Yahoo Messenger and not doing their homework? Not me. I'm going to be kicking them out to get jobs -- very soon! At the very least, they are going to be leveraging my income-earning capacity by helping me do the laundry and make dinner and take out the garbage, rather than to continue to enjoy their free social software and their free content creation.

Hey, the minute their free socializing and content-creation can actually pay the rent, I'm happy to sit down and put my feet up and read an old-fashioned print newspaper : )
Comment posted by Brace
February 13, 2006 @ 4:00 am
Interesting survey.

Kind of reminds me of my son.

What I notice a lot is that he communicates with his pals via his myspace page, other IM/messaging applications and his cell phone.

He's still extremely active socially - at least from the standpoint of his network of friends; they use the technology at hand to enhance and speed up communication between them when they can't hang out (you know, that homework thing!) and/or to report on some fun goings on that they all experienced together.

I'm not sure this relates to anything, but thats what popped into my head reading that survey :)
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 13, 2006 @ 9:46 am
What I find is that my son and his friends will be a) on Second Life b) on Skype and cell phones c) working Yahoo Messenger or AIM in the background (foreground?) of SL AND d) all in the same room together in RL. It's like triple socializing which has as its purpose, I guess, being able to have some back channelling within the group without including some of those in SL; back channeling within SL without including those in the RL group...I can't keep it straight. I think it feeds the ADD/lack of attention problem, is distracting, and I'm not sure what the value-add is, if any, as it undermines cooperation and focus.

The speed at which false, libelous, cruel information can whip through these networks, over pagers, into schools, is breath-taking, leaving the old slambook, passed hand to hand, in the dust.
Comment posted by csven
February 13, 2006 @ 9:02 pm
They'll be wanting a "Chili" next. Watch.
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