Anne, the recent college grad in need of a tech upgrade, has been a frequent visitor to our living room this month.
Anne (or more precisely the actress playing “Anne”) “just graduated,” according to the TV commercial promoting tech manufacturer Samsung and big-box retailer Best Buy. We see her, complete with cap, gown and diploma, whooping and hollering with her friends. Yet, all is not well. Anne needs a “technology makeover,” as the ad puts it. Over the ad’s running time of a minute, the friendly people at Best Buy set her up with a new laptop, smartphone, camera and a tablet, all made by Samsung, of course.
We close with a happy Anne whose new tech tools are helping her get ahead in the real world.
Call it Madison Avenue at its finest. Advertising gurus earn big bucks for succinctly and effectively presenting problems and happy endings in 60-second bursts designed to keep our eyes glued to the TV screen during times when we might otherwise dash off to the kitchen to grab a soft drink.
Yet, with each viewing of the commercial Anne’s plight has taken on a deeper meaning.
The commercial’s narrator tells us Anne “got a freelance gig.” Translation: She’s one of the thousands of recent college graduates having trouble finding full-time employment in their chosen field. Instead, “freelance gig” is another of saying she’s doing contract labor, most likely part-time, and without the benefits (health insurance, retirement plan, etc.) that would usually accompany a full-time job.
What’s worse, she’s apparently expected to buy her own technology if she wants to accomplish this “freelance gig” successfully. To pull off this transaction, she must spend “her graduation bounty.”
The real genius of this ad is that it recognizes Anne is not alone.
An Economic Policy Institute report released in April found, “The weak labor market has been, and continues to be, very tough on young workers: At 16.2 percent, the March 2013 unemployment rate of workers under age 25 was slightly over twice as high as the national average. Though the labor market is now headed in the right direction, it is improving very slowly, and the prospects for young high school and college graduates remain dim.”
Welcome to the new economy, recent graduates, better not waste that “graduation bounty” on a trip to the beach; it’ll more likely come in handy paying the rent or purchasing tools essential to doing your new freelance gig.
The Economic Policy Institute analysis also reported, “The Class of 2013 will be the fifth consecutive graduating class to enter the labor market during a period of profound weakness. The evidence suggests that because of their unlucky timing—in other words, through absolutely no fault of their own—this cohort is very likely to fare poorly for at least the next decade.”
The timing is hitting the Class of 2013 from every side. The nation was just feeling the Great Recession as they finished high school and entered college. While they’ve been working their way toward a degree, the labor market and earning power have not recovered as quickly as in more recent recessions. That’s a strain on them and their families.
“During the time they were in college, it is likely that many of their families faced real income declines due to job loss, hour reductions, or lack of wage growth. At the same time, higher education costs increased to make up for asset losses (at private universities) and funding cuts (at public universities),” note the report’s authors.
These college grads are leaving school with more debt, an average of $30,000 in student loans for a bachelor’s degree. “That number has doubled over the course of a recent graduate’s lifetime,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Even adjusting for inflation, the average debt burden was half that size 20 years ago.”
In fact, economists seem to agree that the only thing worse than being in the Class of 2013 is graduating in the Classes of 2014, 2015 or 2016.
The next 10 to 15 years look fairly bleak for Anne and her fellow Class of 2013 graduates.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EditorBobDavis