Representing the American Experience Through Advertising
When thinking of the “American Experience”, one thinks of the land of milk and honey, rags to riches, the melting pot—each one a metaphor representing the ideal experience in America. Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and it becomes apparent that this experience has become more personalized through the use of technology and the Internet, with a new metaphor for how people see themselves and others in America: the technological experience.
People now experience themselves and others through technology, and it was inevitable that this new “technological experience” would affect consumerism and, in result, advertising. With more people having individualized experiences through technology, the road to getting their business has widened by a large margin. Think about it: with the rapid rise of multiculturalism and technological advancement, America seemingly alters by the second, so why shouldn’t the advertising? When creating an ad that aims to appeal to everybody, however, the struggle is real. As experience becomes more personalized, it can be difficult narrowing one’s scope enough without losing a broader sense of who the target audience is. In light of this, certain digital platforms are ideal for broadening advertising horizons and providing inclusive content.
YouTube has quickly become the platform for those who want to be heard. According to a July 2017 Nielsen/YouTube study, “41% of monthly YouTube users in the U.S. are ethnically diverse”, with “64% watching more videos compared to a year ago,” and those numbers are huge. Creating content that appeals to a large audience of users (and potential consumers) is integral to one’s success, and representing the experience of a multicultural audience is a must. In the same Nielsen/YouTube study, “66% of Hispanic and 54% of black YouTube users believe storylines of YouTube videos reflecting their daily experience is important;” gone are the days of selling tooth-paste simply to whiten teeth—now, it’s important to sell the experience of the product, an experience that is both representative and inclusive of many cultures.
With the advent of YouTube, it is easier to tailor content towards a specific demographic, which is why it must be treated differently from traditional media. Essentially, it’s the difference between endorsement and experience. A Google/Ipsos study shows that, “Black millennials are more likely to feel a sense of personal connection to YouTube creators than traditional celebrities,” making it clear that the closer the ad hits home, the more impactful it will be. With YouTube, high production quality is not a necessity; when using regular people in a do-it-yourself fashion, the advertisement has the potential to be more honest and relatable to the intended audience, and will, in effect, cost less to produce. In essence, YouTube (and other similar formats) has made it easier and more affordable to reach a larger, more diverse audience, and now is the time to take advantage of the platform.
There is no one way to look at or understand the American Experience, but using a platform like YouTube can help bring a product closer to the multicultural ideal. This is not, therefore, an overhaul in thought or a change in advertising; it’s simply about adapting to the constantly shifting paradigm of the American Experience. The best companies in the world have made this shift, so why shouldn’t you?