Merchants of Cool

“Everything on MTV is a commercial, that is all that MTV is. Sometimes it’s an explicit advertisement paid for by a company to sell a product. Sometimes it’s going to be a video for a music company there to sell music. Sometimes it’s going to be the set that’s filled with trendy clothes and stuff there to sell a look that will include products on that set. Sometimes it will be a show about an upcoming movie paid for by the studio, though you don’t know, to hype a movie that’s coming out from Hollywood. But everything is an infomercial. There is no non-commercial part of MTV.”

They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools, and the malls, hot on the trail of the “next big thing” that will snare the attention of their prey–a market segment worth an estimated $150 billion a year. They are the merchants of cool: creators and sellers of popular culture who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic in America. But are they simply reflecting teen desires or have they begun to manufacture those desires in a bid to secure this lucrative market? And have they gone too far in their attempts to reach the hearts–and wallets–of America’s youth?

FRONTLINE correspondent Douglas Rushkoff examines the tactics, techniques, and cultural ramifications of these marketing moguls in “The Merchants of Cool.” Produced by Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin, the program talks with top marketers, media executives and cultural/media critics, and explores the symbiotic relationship between the media and today’s teens, as each looks to the other for their identity.

Teenagers are the hottest consumer demographic in America. At 33 million strong, they comprise the largest generation of teens America has ever seen–larger, even, than the much-ballyhooed Baby Boom generation. Last year, America’s teens spent $100 billion, while influencing their parents’ spending to the tune of another $50 billion. (Excerpt from main website)

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