Teenagers may be between 13 and 19, but adolescence is more of a state of mind.

As such, it can interest people starting at 8 years old and doesn’t end until adulthood somewhere in your twenties or thirties. Young people, who can enjoy a period of self-exploration and adult imitation un-bothered by the pursuit of rent and food money, have it made. Adolescence has the potential to be the most awesome period of your life, if you know how to wrangle it.

But what is adolescence?
Adolescence is when you have the time to explore interests, practice skills and discover who you are before formulating plans for your future.

Unfortunately, adolescents are perceived as an easy target by marketers of high-margin low-value goods. Adolescents also have tons of attention to disperse and a special kind of disposable income called “spending money”. This money, often provided by parents, is easy to harvest because a teenager’s knowledge is limited by the lack of “consumer education” in our current education system. In the past 15 years, marketing to teenagers, or adolescents has expanded to include young adult, especially young men. This means that someone, who is relatively affluent, can retain their favourite aspects of adolescence into blissful permadolescence.

Adolescence is when you have the time to explore interests, practice skills and discover who you are before formulating plans for your future.
Miss Eva Vavoom

In 2010, DIESEL captured adolescence with a rather brilliant campaign that tied adolescence to anti-intellectualism. Using the motto “BE STUPID” campaign, they told us Levi’s is for those boring adults who like tradition and quality, not for ballsy teenagers who can’t tell they are being thrown under the bus for shits and giggles. Heck it even hinted to the fact that if you spend YOUR adolescence religiously imitating other people’s lifestyle or pursuing other people’s goals, you’ll wind up feeling very short-changed. But it failed to tie the experimentation of adolescence with anything other than vandalism and recklessness. So is it brilliant or offensive? Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. Ads are like out-of-context quotes by famous people… Everybody will read into it what they want. Ads are education and DIESEL’s message is simply “Be Stupid”.

And that is a common message in advertising to young people

You have plenty of time !
You have plenty of attention !
You have plenty of money !
Why not spend it all on this !

The amount of precious adolescence you have access to decreases over time before other priorities or emergencies takeover that time.

James May tackled the emerging distinction of the ‘teenager’ as a separate class in the 60s in his guide to the 20th Century. You can get the entire series through on Amazon.


James May’s 20th Century ep05 Inventing the Teenag

What is adolescence to you?