Generations of Baby Boomers

you are a baby, whatever generation you are. now give us your money.

In a year of Super Bowl ads that seemed to mark a shift from Baby Boomers toward Gen Xers and older Millennials, E*Trade’s resuscitator Morgan Stanley offered the return of the geriatric stock market dabbler as infantile consumer. The company’s ad, titled “Off the Grid,” featured two executive suits flying by helicopter to a remote location to bring back the infamous baby stock trader of the late 2000s and early 2010s. The baby scoffs at them until he learns that today’s online traders are making decisions based on memes. Into the helicopter and back to the future he goes, meeting up with fellow baby stock expect Benny as the beats to Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” kick in with a firm thump.

There is something feverish and desperate about the ad. It is marked right at the start by the loud, Apocalypse Now sound of the chopper blades. They get your attention immediately, like a Vietnam vet PTSD flashback. As the reunion tour-vibe intensifies, one starts to wonder: is this a last grab for baby boomer dollars (“People have their money just sitting around doing nothing,” one of the suits frets, and it is worth remembering how disproportionately Baby Boomers have held on to wealth into their dotage) or is this a kind of generational switcheroo, in which Morgan Stanley is calculating that Gen Xers and older millennials are nothing more than Baby Boomers-in-training (“they’re getting crushed by inflation,” the other suit ads, bringing us right in to Covid times).

It’s just one high-stakes effort to get our attention during the 2022 Super Bowl, but the ad nonetheless serves as a reminder of the lurking disdain the financial industry has for everyone, from Baby Boomers to their children and grandchildren. The ad spits up the acidic notion that while we may think our generation won’t be like the last one, that we can get off the grid, that we can be more grownup, the financial powers that be are nonetheless smugly convinced that they’ve got us all firmly clasped in the same economic and cultural diaper.

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