Have you guys ever watched the Disney Channel? Like seriously watched it. For hours. Because that shit is crazy. If you haven't watched it, and if you don't know any kids between the ages of 8 and 12, you probably aren't aware that there's a whole universe of celebrity going on right under our noses. Hundreds of "celebrities" with millions of fans. And they're generating a fucking ton of money. The tweens are in charge. We are their minions.
Heather Chaet at AdWeek looks into the massive world of tween culture and marketing:
The 20 million boys and girls in this country aged 8 to 12 (code name: Generation Z) are the new power players of consumerism. Calculations vary according to the assorted ways tweens are defined (some say they're 9 to 12, others 10 to 12), but one estimate has kids aged 8 to 12 spending $30 billion of their own money annually and influencing another $150 billion of their parents' spending.
It's little wonder that marketers are paying so much attention to them, devoting an estimated $17 billion a year to get in front of their shorter-than-a-tweet attention spans.
Okay, so first of all, who are these children getting $30 billion in allowance every year??? That is obviously bonkers. But second of all, that doesn't surprise me in the least. My partner has two daughters in exactly this age range—just a couple months shy of 9 and 11—which transformed me, within the past couple of years, into a quasi-stepmom and tween wrangler (mom question: what the fuck do kids DO ALL DAY in the summer???). At 27 I was having Big Gulps of hangover Sprite for breakfast; now, age 30, I'm worrying about how we're going to pay for summer camp. (It's not an unwelcome transition.) It means that I'm presented with this constant, direct line to the tween brain—fickle, funny, judgmental, spongey, curious, simultaneously unsure and overconfident. It also means that I watch A LOT of Disney Channel.
Basically every show is just a variation on the theme "a bunch of kids in a room." Then something zany happens*, everyone runs around screaming, somebody learns a lesson, and possibly there is a monkey. It's silly, and I don't particularly like it.** But it's also incredibly sophisticated and polished television. These are kids' sitcoms that look and feel like adult sitcoms. And they're super inclusive—they employ hundreds of young actors (that one girl on A.N.T. Farm is fucking awesome), they're groundbreakingly diverse, they're empowering kids (with a significant assist from modern gadgetry) to create pretty sophisticated art at a really young age. My girls make funny videos on their phones. They write songs, they draw, they read, they consume and create. And it's amazing.