|Photo by Tarek Chemaly (Portland, Oregon, 2004)|
Do note, I left the "people like me" vague so as for as many people to feel included...
So who I to begin with:
I was born in 1974, did not get married, have no kids, am well-educated, have side hobbies, with a career which is "uncommon" but quite lucrative, living in Lebanon but outside Beirut, whereas I do not do culinary wonders no one ever complained of my cooking, oh I have high spending power.
So let me describe a friend of mine:
Divorced with a child (ex and child living abroad), same age as me, owns a company, is currently in a long-term relationship, lives in Beirut, and with a lucrative career as well.
Both him and myself have specific living arrangements that include an elderly parent, and both are svelte and rather stylish even if we source our clothes through different stores.
Men my age I see in ads, are married, have two children (older girl, younger son), have dinner with their families around the dining room table (with the wife cooking naturally), wear bland clothes, and tend to have a beard with a small tummy.
All holiday packages are targeted towards families, in all brochures, internet websites, there are no "single" people. No one exploring a foreign country solo. Nope, all of them are couples, couples with children, or honeymooners. Are there any women of a certain age, with no partners or families? Be they divorced, unmarried, with established careers. No, none.
It is interesting how much the ad industry is geared towards the family concept, when the spending power is all over the place, or rather concentrated in segments often disregarded by them.
Single people, people not within nuclear family arrangements, people who fall into "psychodemographic" marketing definitions are all invisible (meaning: trips to Nepal could interest people who are into trecking, into exploration, into adventure, regardless of the old archaic age-gender-social class which used to be applied in marketing). Believe it or not, "tables for one" in restaurants or deliveries of single-meals are not that uncommon. Before you start telling me that society is built around family and monogamy, let me tell you that these concepts are only too new in the anthropological sense.
All those irritating "Merry Christmas from my family to you" which I keep seeing when the person in question most likely does not know you and certainly does not know your family, are not really good indicators of the state of reality.
Take this non-Lebanese anecdote which happened at a marketing conference in 2000 in Lebanon. The lecturer was explaining that a yoghourt company in Italy wanted to know if the Italian market was ready for a larger sized product. It did two studies one ended up with a "no" and the other with a "yes". He quizzed the audience as to why, bragging that he cracked the answer after a colossal budget. To me the answer was so intrinsic, I simply said "those who said yes were a sample which was composed of men - mostly single - who want a late night snack straight from the fridge". To which he replied, "you are a danger to the profession!".
When a few weeks back my close European friend came for a holiday in Lebanon, none of the activities we did was sourced through the classical family-oriented schemes advertised on the usual entertainment channels whose images I saw, even if money did end up being spent.
See? What am trying to say is that, the company that earned much of the spending during our buddy trip was one that never targeted me as a "middle aged man with children waiting for his wife to serve him dinner" - it was, believe it or not - my trusted taxi company (Angelo Taxi, I say the name due to their dependability) who always treated me as an individual (regardless of the usual parameters), and to whom I am a reliable client and who has money to spend. And when I did try to hire the services of a travel agency to do day trips in Lebanon with them, their first question was: "You wish to book a car and a guide to you and your family?"
No, not really.