For some reason, Internet Explorer had always seemed achingly un-cool to me. It has been sitting there alone and bereft of use on my desktop ever since I met sexy Google Chrome, with its sexy name and sexy spelling abilities. If Internet Explorer were a person, it would eat its lunch in the toilet whilst me and Google Chrome frenched behind the bike sheds. So in an attempt to regain some street cred, their advertising people have decided to let us know that they’ve ‘grown up’ by reminiscing about the good old days when little old us, the target market, were all… not grown up and stuff.
I like the self deprecating thing – their website contains the title ‘it’s good now, no really’ which is a great bit of intelligent advertising that shows they don’t take us for fools – but is playing on our heartstrings with the television ad full of nineties images really just a bit naff? Whereas the online campaign is witty and self aware, the advert is the equivalent of our boy eating lunch in the toilets brandishing his few new armpit hairs at you.
For those who haven’t seen it, the ‘Child of the 90s’ ad features a man with a very annoying and monotonous voice claims to be part of ‘Generation Y’, the horrible irony of which I’ll get on to later. Some pretty obvious nineties references (think Hungry Hungry Hippos and Tamagochis) are then played out in slow motion, which to be fair is the only way they were going to make someone spinning round their bum bag appear like a profound sign of the times. Call me cynical, but for starters I disagree with banal sentimentality. It wasn’t all a bed of roses and yo yos growing up, it was sitting in front of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air unable to open your eyes properly because of the fumes coming off the liberally applied nit lotion.
All of the references seem as obvious as space hoppers and platforms were to the 70s. Where are all the obscure little things only we would remember? Like the clog craze. I swear to God there was a clog renaissance circa 1996 and I would really like some back up on that one. Also those horrible things Extra made as a replacement to chewing gum, the small blue squares everyone used to pretend was acid at school.
I get the feeling though that we’re all a bit too young for looking back at our youth with a wistful sigh (we’re only in our twenties, after all) flashing light up trainers are probably still cutting edge somewhere in the world. I suppose this on surge of nostalgia is a reaction to being part of a generation that has experienced more technological change than any other, and maybe we’re a bit smug about that. In fact, I think the way we talk about floppy disks is a little disrespectful.
We are constantly reminiscing though, and maybe that’s because we have new forums to do so. Instead of just having a brief moment in your day remembering how good Nigel Thornberry was, you can now create a page called ‘YOU KNOW YOU’RE A NINETIES KID IF YOU JUST BLOODY LOVE NIGEL THORNBERRY’ and make him your cover picture and buy an ironic t-shirt with his face on and make a YouTube video of him dancing to Shakira. So perhaps if I hadn’t been exposed to so many nineties throwbacks on a daily basis, the advert itself wouldn’t have seemed so saccharine.
But people seem to be desperate to be a part of the nineties as if it was some golden time, somehow the cameras they used for most clips sent into You’ve Been Framed must have had an enchanting effect. People born in the mid to late nineties absolutely revel in being a ‘90s kid’ as if they were toddling around the Hacienda in their Pampers.
Arguably these are all symptoms living in a post-modern world where nothing is new, only recycled and insincere. Douglas Coupland’s seminal post-modern work ‘Generation X’ was written in 1991 about a trio living on the fringes of regular consumerist society, one of the chapter headings is ‘I am Not a Target Market’, obviously then it seemed appropriate – in the sick way only marketing men know how – to label us ‘Generation Y’.
Now I don’t really understand how Internet Explorer makes any money; it’s all just LEDs and electrons, I didn’t pay for the electrons, but somehow they do – so their attempt to make us drool and coo at the sight of a pile of pogs is ultimately for the end of financial gain, and there’s something about that which sits a little uneasily with me.