The Phenomenon: Demographic Targeting
The Bars: Nevada Smith’s, 119 Bar
I think this whole narrowcasting thing is turning us into creepy aliens. Recently I was reading Fortune magazine (for work, ok?) and all I could think about was that I was consuming something not targeted to my demographic. Well ok, my brain didn’t put it that way right off the bat, but as I flipped through the magazine I felt increasingly uncomfortable and bored, and it finally dawned on me that I was turned off because all the material was written for someone else. And it wasn’t just the articles that bugged me, either: it was the ads. Between Google ads, Amazon recommendations, targeted TV ads, and whatever else our marketing overlords have come up with, I now expect to be appropriately pandered to. I can no longer evaluate an entertainment without also evaluating the products it’s shilling. Have you ever watched a movie on Lifetime or Oxygen? Even if you’re enjoying the movie, all the Shout, Immodium, Lanacane and K-Y Jelly ads make it hard to lose yourself in the film. Or like when they accidentally play a commercial for those beds that morph into chairs for old people during The Daily Show? It’s jarring; it makes your brain feel out of phase.
Brand-identity-as-self-identity-consumer-culture-brainwashing issues aside, I think this training has made us all more sensitive to the minutiae of our physical environments. We quickly intuit what sort of person a particular space was intended for. And so bars have become these little self-selected micro-ghettos where each place appeals to a slightly different demographic, and you can really feel if you’re out of place, even a little bit. In fact, it’s even more apparent when the difference is small — if you walk into a bar filled with old Hasidic gentlemen, you say to yourself, “Neat! Old Hasidic guy bar!” But if you walk into, say, Nevada Smith’s (Third and 12th St) and you usually frequent 119 Bar (15th St. and Irving Place) you’re all “Sports on TV? Wait, is this Zeppelin being played sincerely!?” — even though the two bars are identical to say, my mom. It’s hard to say whether this precise compartmentalization of the nightlife is good or bad — it is nice to be able to avoid sports of all kinds. All I know for sure is that dudes who read Fortune magazine sure are interested in big, expensive pens. Which I’m sure is a completely uninteresting linguistic coincidence.