In his essay “Scrutinizing the Cybersell: Teen-Targeted Web Sites as Text,” Darren Crovitz explores the potential for utilizing online advertising as a catalyst for discussion and analysis of the various rhetorical strategies employed by corporations. The essay addresses the overall rhetorical designs of the Slim Jim and Doritos Web sites, each directed at a teenage audience. For the moment, though, the focus will be on one characteristic of the Slim Jim site (at the time).
Crovitz notes that the “corporate co-opting of cultural language” in an attempt to align the product with its target audience (teenage boys) can “easily backfire” (51). That is, when old men in suits try to sound hip for the sake of selling a product, most kids see right through it. Teenagers turn out to be much more perceptive than the ad creators give them credit for. That natural inclination to see through the inauthentic and evaluate what is really going on in a multimodal media environment suggests that high school students, in addition to undergraduate and graduate students, could benefit intellectually from using some Web sites as a basis for analysis. Clearly, the foundation for evaluating the embedded cultural implications detected in these sites is already firmly in place among young people.
Engaging in such an exercise could prove invaluable to their development as adults as well. The more adept we become at identifying how we are being sold something, the less likely we are to fall victim to those who are looking to take advantage of us. Seeing through appearances to the underlying motives is a very useful life tool and merits cultivation.
The current Slim Jim site doesn’t seek to attract its audience through idiom as overtly, but instead features Spicy Town, a virtual destination where the user can cruise around and “rumble” with other characters. As you fight, you earn points which then unlock new moves so you can fight more effectively. Doesn’t really make me want a Slim Jim. It’s pretty boring in fact.