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Male in the USA


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The next chapter in Havas PR’s commitment to the study of the future of men.

Published in: News & Politics
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Male in the USA

  1. 1. JANUARY 2011
  2. 2. This white paper is the next chapter in Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s commitment to the study of the future of men. Since 2003, when Euro RSCG popularized the “metrosexual” concept, the agency has been at the forefront of the movement of marketing to men. Most recently, it produced a report called “Gender Shift,” which asks if women are the new men; organized a panel on men and women featuring David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire; and did analytical work on the American male voter for Campaign Money Watch. The force behind metrosexual mania, Marian Salzman, who also co-wrote the book The Future of Men: The Rise of the Übersexual and What He Means for Marketing Today, is now president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR.
  3. 3. REALITIES, ICONS AND MEMES For a lot of countries, it’s possible to create a reasonably accurate portrait of the average man. In Japan, for example, he has black hair, dark eyes and stands a shade below 5 feet 8 inches.1 Until the economic crisis upset the employment market, it was also pretty likely that he drove a white Toyota and spent not much time at home but a lot of time with his co-workers. Japan is an exceptionally homogeneous country, which makes it easy to talk of averages there. The situation is similar in Sweden, Italy, Spain and many other places. With the United States, it’s a different matter. America is the land of immigrants, the original melting pot of hopefuls and huddled masses drawn from every corner of the globe. Statistics say the average height of American men is around 5 feet 10 inches,2 but factors such as ethnic origin and income lead to huge variations. The same applies to other physical characteristics. It applies to some cultural characteristics, too. There’s a lot of diversity, from the stoic Nordic types of Minnesota to the laid-back Cajuns of Louisiana, from high-speed urban MALE IN U.S.A.: INTRODUCTION 3 INTRODUCTION “America is not like a blanket: one piece of unbroken cloth.... America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.” —Rev. Jesse Jackson
  4. 4. sophisticates to easygoing small- town guys. And the nation is quite divided along political party lines (red versus blue), faith lines and ideological lines. But even the most diverse American men share some common points that distinguish them from others. Most countries have patriotism, for instance, but American patriotism stands out. It is highly distinctive because, unlike most other major nations, the United States is a country created by its people rather than inherited from its history. American children grow up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school every day. American media creates a constant flow of movies, documentaries and discussion about the country’s history, its present and its future. Even far beyond its borders, people see the United States as the land of opportunity, the land of dreams, the land of new beginnings and constant renewal, where self-made men walk tall and even the little guys get a second chance. In a place where new people have been arriving since before the country was established, Americans don’t rely on hand-me-down tradition to tell them how to be. That would keep them tied too tightly to their individual roots. Rather, they rely on nationally shared rituals, stories and dreams, all told through the media and updated or even reinvented to fit the mood of the times. More than in any other country, men in the United States are the product of the interaction among three crucial factors: the flesh-and-blood raw material of the people with their genetic and cultural inheritances; the dreams and values of the nation expressed in movies, TV and other media images; and the arguments and debates that roll back and forth as Americans exercise the right to free speech that’s guaranteed by the First Amendment.3 To even begin to understand American men at the beginning of a new decade, we need to look not only at what the numbers tell us in terms of measured realities, but also at the male icons that express men’s values and aspirations— and at the memes, or “thought viruses,” that are animating American life. This white paper is therefore divided into sections about realities, icons and memes. 4 MALE IN U.S.A.: INTRODUCTION
  5. 5. MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES 5 REALITIES TRANSFORMATION NATION In many developed nations around the world, the people aren’t changing much. Mainly they’re gradually aging as the local equivalents of baby boomers get older. The populations of countries such as Italy, Germany and Japan are actually declining. Contrast that with the United States, which is now home to more than 310 million people and counting, and has a growth rate just shy of 1 percent a year.4 A child is born every seven seconds, someone dies every 13 seconds and a new immigrant enters the country every 31. That’s a net growth of one new American every 11 seconds. In the age range of 15 to 64 (66.9 percent of the population), the ratio of men to women is almost perfectly equal, but over age 65, men account for only 43 percent. Ethnically, the country is changing, and it’s struggling to find acceptable words to talk about its ethnicity. In four states (Texas, California, New Mexico and Hawaii), “whites” are in a minority to “ethnics,” including Hispanics. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi and New York will be next. Currently, about 33 percent of the U.S. population is non-white or Hispanic, but the Census Bureau projects that ethnic “minorities” will be the U.S. majority by 2050.5 The figures and the Census have become embroiled in an ideological controversy that is itself a trait of this changing nation. The Census Bureau is required by the U.S. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” —Abraham Lincoln
  6. 6. Constitution to count everyone living in the country, no matter his or her immigration or citizenship status.6 Exactly what should be counted is a matter of debate. Influential conservatives such as Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann called for a partial boycott of the 2010 Census on the grounds that the Constitution mandates only a head count.7 The 2010 Census achieved 72 percent mail-in response, unchanged from the previous Census in 2000.8 It’s not just the numbers that speak of a changing nation. Watch passersby in any city, or the cast of TV shows and movies, and you see the nation changing before your eyes. THE GREAT WEALTH ILLUSION For a long time, it seemed rising prosperity was raising the living standards of the many Americans who regard themselves as middle class.The big homes, big cars and abundant gadgets impressed visitors to the country. Even ordinary, average people apparently could afford hot tubs, SUVs, king-size beds and massive flat-screen TVs. Apparently the money was everywhere. In the last few difficult years, it has become clear that this was an illusion. It’s easy to understand how the illusion continued and, in fact, still persists. Over much of the past two decades, Americans’ spending increased consistently. In 1970, consumer spending accounted for 64.8 percent of GDP, rising to 65.2 percent in 1980, 66.7 percent in 1990 and 67.8 percent in 2000.9 But that consumer-spending growth wasn’t driven by growth in real income. Borrowing financed a substantial proportion of Americans’ consumer spending during the boom years. The subprime crisis that started in 2007, followed by the financial crisis of 2008 and the economic crisis of 2009, have made credit much harder to come by. They have made consumers leery of spending money they don’t have or might need. Now the economic crisis has widened the affluence gap that was previously bridged by credit. On one side of the gap are the relatively few Americans who can afford to spend plenty without borrowing, and on the other are the many who can’t afford to spend much at all without borrowing. The most recent figures (2008) show the top 1 percent 6 MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES
  7. 7. of American households took about a 20 percent share (down from 23.5 percent in 2007) of the nation’s incomes.10 In terms of individuals’ earnings, 2008 Census Bureau figures show 75.4 percent of income earners made less than $50,000 a year; 13.2 percent earned $50,000 to $75,000; 5.2 percent earned $75,000 to $100,000 and 6.2 percent earned over $100,000.11 Drilling down to gender level, in 2008, American men made median earnings of $45,556, compared with the median women’s earnings of $35,471, according to a Census Bureau report.12 In addition, 14 percent of working men earn more than $100,000 a year, compared with only about 6 percent of women13 (although women’s income is on an upward trajectory). The numbers clearly show that a lot of the serious spending money in the United States is in the hands of a relatively small proportion of Americans, and that it’s more likely to be in the name of men than women. In practice, this doesn’t mean that each pot of spending money belongs exclusively to men or to women. THE EARNING CURVE Although men average out making more money than women and owning more assets, the averages reflect the impact of the outliers—the struggling poor and the super-rich. In the middle, it’s been increasingly hard for the old-style American working man. Women used to be at a disadvantage, and all too often they still are. But over the past decade or so, in the data and in everyday life, women have been noticeably improving their prospects through education and hard work. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the number of females enrolling in college increased by 20 percent from 1967 to 2000, while the number of males decreased by 4 percent.14 And according to the American Council on Education, 57 percent of the bachelor’s degrees across the United States are awarded to women.15 MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES 7 “You’ braggin’ all about the things you can do/Every time you make a pitch/If you’re so smart/How come you ain’t rich?” —Louis Jordan, singer and songwriter
  8. 8. Add to that the increasing use of robots for heavy labor, the shift to information-based and service-based work, and the tendency for employers to downsize and offshore, and American working men have had the rug pulled out from under them. Across the bulk of the U.S. population, the economic position of men has weakened while that of women has improved. According to Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, the median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did in 1980.16 After years of shrinking opportunities, the recession has made it all even worse for the working man. Three-quarters of the job losses since 2007 have hit blue-collar workers, and two-thirds of all Americans who have lost jobs are blue-collar men.17 LOADED ZONES The uneven distribution of money in the United States translates into a few wealthy hot spots. Despite the title of the famous 1996 book The Millionaire Next Door, the percentage of wealth hot spots is surprisingly small. IRS figures show that of 3,142 counties in the United States, only 130 (about 4 percent) have average per capita 8 MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES
  9. 9. incomes above $35,000. Wealthy counties tend to be just outside big economic centers: Nineteen of the 25 richest are on the East Coast, and six are on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., most notably list-topping Loudoun County, Va. This doesn’t mean there isn’t serious wealth in California or Washington State. Rather, it reflects the fact that counties (like states) in the East are usually smaller and therefore have less of a spread of wealth.18 There are fewer non-wealthy people to lower the average in such counties. Even so, the picture is likely to change. Moneyed Americans are moving south to warmer weather and lower taxes. Florida and Texas are particular favorites. THE SILENT (BUT WEALTHY) MINORITY Throughout the country’s history, American men in the most aspirational power positions in politics, media and business have been virtually all white. Sports and music have provided more of an equal stance for icons. Recently, nonwhites have taken some mainstream limelight, especially with Barack Obama (and Tiger Woods before his downturn) capturing the nation’s imagination. Despite the ever-increasing numbers of non-whites in the overall population, the demographics of the aspirational elite are still more like the overall demographics of several decades ago, and images portrayed by the media often reflect that. The same applies to women. They still lag white men in aspirational image power, even though they comprise at least 50 percent of the population and have been making great strides in education, work and public life. MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES 9
  10. 10. In other words, the media are lagging the reality. Behind the public images of American men projected by the media, non-whites are packing increasing economic power. In particular, the spotlight has been on Hispanics because of their sheer numbers and visibility in everyday life. As well as growing in numbers and percentage of the population, Hispanic Americans have also been growing in wealth. Their spending power went from $212 billion a year in 1990 to $862 billion a year in 2007.19 The upward trajectory, however, was hit by the economic crisis, and it remains to be seen how that will affect the wealth track of Hispanics. Meanwhile, Asian Americans are emerging as a wealth force out of proportion with their numbers. Asians account for just 3.65 percent of households but 5.59 percent of the wealthiest fifth of households and an even more impressive 6.46 percent of the wealthiest 5 percent of households.20 Note that the term “Asian American” covers a broad range of ethnicities, from East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. In terms of national origin, that includes Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese21, plus other smaller ethnic groups. According to a UCLA study, Asians Americans have the highest median and mean household income compared with all racial groups. In terms of total net worth, however, they have lagged non-Hispanic whites.22 10 MALE IN U.S.A.: REALITIES
  11. 11. Pundits and commentators use the word “icon” at the drop of a hat, and with good reason. Historically, icons were images or painted pictures of holy figures that were venerated by the faithful. In historic times without pervasive media, icons were the only representations that ordinary people had of holy figures. The icons served as a focus of worship and they also put human features on divine figures. Religious icons were, and still are, objects of veneration. They expressed the norms, ideals and aspirations of their cultures. For common people in the illiterate centuries before the printing press, icons were a magical, inspirational link with divine powers. Today’s “icons” have a comparable role. Certainly the term is overused (especially “iconic”), but as the following pages show, today’s icons express a lot about what modern American men venerate and aspire to. AMERICAN IDOLS For almost a century, Hollywood has been creating icons and transporting them around the world. The core products are, of course, movies, but the essence of the movies is distilled in the still images used on posters and publicity materials. The poster-boy images communicate many layers of feeling and meaning in one brief glance. They are indeed icons, crafted with artistry and care, endlessly reproduced and displayed in public and private places. The box-office returns of movies reflect which icons are touching the hearts and souls of Americans, making movies an icon index of sorts. The changing faces of movie icons MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS 11 MALE ICONS “I am my ideal. But YOU are my idol.” —Eric Von Zipper, in Beach Blanket Bingo (played by Harvey Lembeck)
  12. 12. through the decades give strong indications as to which qualities of American manhood are in favor at any time. Through a circular, reflexive process, the movie icons both reflect the reality of American male values and influence them. Take this subjective list (above) of one male Hollywood star for each of the past eight decades, intended to represent the spirit of the times. It’s far from exhaustive (missing such big stars as John Wayne, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many others) but is rather meant to illustrate how male ideals and aspirations have changed through the decades. BEYOND TINSELTOWN Americans’ appetite for interesting male figures has long since outstripped the capacity of the movie industry to supply them. The media are constantly on the lookout for men with the power to attract consumers and hold their interest. Through the ’90s and into the early 2000s, there was a craze for celebrity CEOs such as Jack Welch of GE. That bubble has burst, along with the craze for stocks and investment. Then came the era of the metrosexuals (a word that Euro RSCG’s Marian Salzman and her trendspotting unit ushered in to the popular culture in 2003)—“straight urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides,” in the words of The New York Times.23 12 MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS Clark Gable Strong, romantic (Gone with the Wind) Clint Eastwood The avenging loner (Dirty Harry) Tom Hanks The all-American hero (Saving Private Ryan) James Stewart Dutiful, ordinary (It’s a Wonderful Life) Dustin Hoffman Naive, sexy (The Graduate) Harrison Ford The resourceful adventurer (Indiana Jones) Johnny Depp Versatile, ironic (Pirates of the Caribbean) 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Marlon Brando Moody, rebellious (The Wild One) ???
  13. 13. Today, the American men who are most widely featured in the media have a distinctive mix of strong personality, high intelligence and, increasingly, diverse ethnic backgrounds. They are men who have achieved a lot, who embrace principles and put them into practice—but they are also complex and not without flaws. Below is a list of today’s iconic men. Again, the list is subjective and could be two, three, 10 or even 20 times as long. Its purpose, though, is to look at what these icons represent for American men. Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple. Maverick genius of Silicon Valley who dropped out of college and started a world-beating business in a garage. After having been ousted from the company he co-founded, he returned to save it and take it to new heights. Sergey Brin, co-founder and leading light of Google. Smart young Ph.D. candidate who dropped out of his doctorate program to pursue a new business idea. Like the even younger Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Brin embodies a combination of idealism (“Don’t be evil”), intellectual prowess and business acumen. George Clooney, actor, director and liberal activist. Heartthrob handsome, intelligent, articulate humanitarian activist and a true-blue liberal in the tradition of showbiz liberals. Glenn Beck, conservative media personality. The Fox News stalwart has become the media magnet of the American right. His story of overcoming alcoholism and drug addiction and finding faith (Mormon)24 resonates deeply with sections of the American public, as do his outspoken Libertarian-conservative views. Barack Obama, president of the United States. The first black American in the Oval Office (although the TV show “24” paved the way with a black American president—David Palmer, played by Dennis Haysbert—through the middle of the 2000s). Nouriel Roubini, economist. Previously shunned as Dr. Doom, a gloomy-looking academic with a foreign accent who repeatedly warned Americans about the economic problems to come. Roubini went from media outcast to media darling when events proved his analysis horribly right. As with Steve Jobs in technology, Roubini won by sticking to his guns. Don Draper, lead character in TV’s throwback drama “Mad Men.” Draper was voted most influential man of 2009 in a poll by So how can a fictional character be included in the same list as Steve Jobs or President Obama? As the poll commented: “Most of us are just as likely to have a beer with Don Draper as with anybody else on this list.” MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS 13
  14. 14. DON DRAPER: MODERN MAN? “Mad Men” is no “Happy Days,” harking back to simpler, happier times, and Don Draper is no two-dimensional ’60s stereotype. “Mad Men” throws new light on today’s issues by tracing them back through the decades. The show might have scored its initial success with the quality of the acting, the stylish sets and the intriguing plot lines, but a lot of its cult status can be distilled to Draper’s fully rounded, complex character. Like Tony Soprano before him (and unlike most American TV characters), Draper is three- dimensional. Don Draper lives almost 50 years ago, but he’s a modern man in a period of transition, a complex figure for complex times when men are pulled in many directions by inherited values, new values, urgent desires and vague longings. The way the ad man looks and acts sometimes stands in sharp contrast to modern norms, but sometimes they’re remarkably close. He’s impeccably groomed in a way that virtually no American man is today, and he smokes and drinks too much, as few American men still do—at least not in public. He’s ambitious and successful in his work, but it comes at a cost. He’s trim without going near a gym, he’s masterful, manly and in control, but he’s also a depressive. He’s clear about what being a man involves, but he doesn’t like it. He’s principled, earnest and driven, but also deceitful, sexist and hedonistic. He aims high and falls low. Draper’s world is full of style and luxury cues that modern viewers can understand, even though they’re now history and will never return. The “Med Men” attitude toward women is history, too. Although modern women find Draper fascinating, most would not put up with him. More than 40 years of social progress have made women more powerful and less tolerant of casual sexism and buttoned-up, old-style male behavior. And the scope of Draper’s responsibility is a lot narrower than for modern American men. Thanks to the efforts of the media, activists and marketers, American men now know that every purchase decision they make has potentially wider implications for local employment, people in far-off places and the ecology of the planet.25 14 MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS “I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.” —Don Draper, on “Mad Men” (played by Jon Hamm)
  15. 15. In the 1960s, the Communists were the bad guys and the Americans were the good guys, and that was the sum of the ideological issues for most people. Since then, the so-called culture wars have opened up ideological divides in the United States and pitted Americans against each other. Modern American men are rarely neutral on ideology, and they’re not afraid to say it. BIG MOUTHS, STRONG VIEWS Throughout history, many icons of American manhood have been strong, silent, brooding types—men of few words and plenty of action. They were in tune with Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” But successful modern American men don’t keep their thoughts to themselves, and they don’t care much for moderation. In today’s sharp-elbowed media landscape, the microphones and cameras just aren’t interested in men who speak too softly. The imperative to be bold and loud has played itself out in the media networks, too. The brash, opinionated Fox TV has pulled in viewers with strident, partisan personalities, while CNN has seen viewers deserting its more measured, balanced approach in droves. Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has blustered his way to becoming an opinion leader with nationwide clout in conservative circles. Liberal loudmouth Michael Moore has applied his no-holds- barred activism to filmmaking, creating four of the 10 top- grossing documentaries of all time.26 Contrast that with President Obama. He has found his cool, reasoned approach leaves even his own supporters cold and doesn’t win over his foes. (And this just in: On the 2010 poll of most influential men, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert bookend the top 11; Obama dropped to No. 21 from No. 3 last year.27) The changing balance of media ownership and control has made big personalities, strong opinions and a loud voice much more MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS 15
  16. 16. important for men. TV, radio, film and print used to be in the hands of a few gatekeepers, who gave the breaks to guys with the right looks, contacts or chutzpah. It was an insiders’ game. Now anybody has a shot at getting noticed through the Internet. Social media encourages men to have an opinion and put it out there for the world in blogs, podcasts and videos. Good looks and impeccable grooming are optional extras. HOT WHEELS What is an American man if he doesn’t drive a serious car with a V-8 throbbing under the hood? Big cars have been a defining part of American-ness for many decades. Choreographed car chases are obligatory in action movies. “Detroit muscle” used to be shorthand for American industrial power and an expression of what American men wanted from their cars—and wanted their cars to say about them. American men have also always liked to push their cars to the limit: drag racing and NASCAR for speed lovers, demolition derbies for those who like naked aggression, and monster trucks for sheer muscle. On the road, the love of automotive muscle took the form of trucks and SUVs through the 1990s and into the 2000s, with the Hummer taking street-legal muscle about as far as it could go. Its military origins, exaggerated wide stance and road-dominating presence were an extreme expression of the American male aspiration to tame the wilderness with technology and sheer physical power. “Sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself,” said the advertising, paradoxically combining the nature-loving spirit of Thoreau with the muscle- bound swagger of Rambo. 16 MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car.” —Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm)
  17. 17. Then soaring fuel prices, a surge in climate concern and the economic crisis killed the Hummer, which is now out of production. At the same time, Toyota’s hybrid Prius went from being an indulgence for tree-hugging celebrities to a smart choice (at least until Toyota’s mass recall took some of the shine off it). It would be misleading to say American men have turned 180 degrees on the muscle-car tradition, though. Now they can get their fix of SUV ruggedness with intelligence and a conscience, thanks to a raft of new hybrids coming from most of the main brands, such as the Ford Escape. But for the ultimate in high-end brains and brawn, look to Tesla Motors with its sleek battery-electric vehicles. The Tesla Roadster accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds and is making headway in the American market. BANKERS AWAY! Some men have a difficult relationship with money, but not Americans. Money itself never goes out of style, only how they make it and what they do with it. That’s part of what makes the United States such a magnet for ambitious, go-getter men. Until 2007-08, American alpha males seeking wealth, power and prestige went into investment banking and finance. Those who made the big time could regard themselves as what author Michael Lewis called “BSDs,”28 men who flaunted their manly prowess with conspicuous earnings (massive bonuses), conspicuous consumption (massive co-ops and summer homes) and conspicuous philanthropy (massive plaques). MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS 17
  18. 18. In the harsh light of the Great Bust, a lot of financiers looked greedy and selfish. Some looked dumb, and a few, such as Bernie Madoff, turned out to be villains. Now finance is back to making big money, but financiers themselves are out of style. They’re no longer heroes or aspirational figures for American men. At a time of financial (and overall) insecurity, money still matters a lot, but so does doing the right thing and being respected. The sweet spot for American men now is figuring out how they can make a good living in ways that they can feel all-round proud of in the post-bust, newly mindful era. There’s also the added complication that women have made huge progress in the workplace, especially in jobs requiring study and qualifications. The upper echelons of finance were one area where high levels of testosterone were an advantage and old-style male behavior was not uncommon. So what’s next for American men who want to make money and be manly without becoming social pariahs? GEEK GODS Fortune magazine’s top corporations are mostly old-economy stalwarts: oil companies, banks and retailers.29 But the products, corporations and leaders that fire the imagination of American men these days are in technology—especially now that investment banking is in disgrace. Technology is the new frontier. Silicon Valley is the cradle of dreams, and technology is the language that all self- respecting American men must speak, whatever their BMI and political leanings. Whether they have an eye for Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt or XXX-rated celebrities, all American men lust after the latest gadgets. And they admire those who make them, and especially those who make money from them. 18 MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS
  19. 19. An added bonus is that technology is still a man’s world. Women have shown their mettle in most domains, but not as much in the technology business. It’s still an area in which men’s competitiveness, obsessiveness and love of gadgets give them the edge. It’s the frontier where they can range freely and do heroic deeds. And there are plenty of high-profile wealthy technopreneur role models for American men of all ages: genomics guru Craig Venter, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Linus Torvalds of Linux are just the tip of the iceberg. And don’t forget Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Evan Williams of Twitter, and Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai of Foursquare. Social media is to today’s millennial generation (people aged 18 to 25) what rock ’n’ roll was to baby boomers: a new and powerful mass cultural phenomenon that is defining and shaping attitudes, behaviors and generational self-perception. It has eclipsed politics, corporations and consumer power as the greatest agent of change, according to a summer 2010 survey by Euro RSCG Worldwide.30 So IT and social media have generated the first and second waves of technology icons. Now venture capitalists are looking to fund new technologies to take over outdated energy and transportation systems. Chances are that as with IT, the icons of these new technologies will be American men. Despite the advances made by women, power generation, cars, boats, trains and planes still tend to be guy things. MALE IN U.S.A.: MALE ICONS 19 “Don’t live to geek; geek to live.” —
  20. 20. A SECOND CHANCE For many Americans, the Great Bust was one of the most shocking experiences of their life, like being woken with icy water after a massive party and being presented with the bill. With layoffs, foreclosures and stern talk from the authorities, it has been a time for Americans to think hard about their values and behavior. To hear what American men are thinking now, Euro RSCG Worldwide surveyed 752 of them in late spring 2010.31 Bottom line: The “live for today” attitude is over. The economic shocks that started in 2007 have shown that there are no guarantees that tomorrow will be better than today, or even as good as today. The ever-climbing lines on the graph have stopped climbing. Nearly half of American men (49 percent) feel more anxious now and more worried about having enough for their retirement (50 percent). A large minority (40 percent) are worried about getting out of debt. It’s been time for some hard questions, and they have produced some worrying conclusions about where things are now and where they’re headed. More than 20 MALE IN U.S.A.: MEMES MEMES “When things are bad, we take comfort in the thought that they could always get worse. And when they are, we find hope in the thought that things are so bad they have to get better.” —Malcolm Forbes
  21. 21. two-thirds of American men (70 percent) think that in many ways, society is moving in the wrong direction. Almost as many (64 percent) think people aren’t willing to consider others’ point of view. Even more (75 percent) worry that society has become too shallow, intellectually lazy (75 percent) and physically lazy (83 percent). But retreating in despair is not the American way. There’s no doubting that the economy is still tough, that people have made mistakes and that changes are needed. The plus side of this is that in the land of new beginnings and second chances, this difficult situation has the potential to become a new beginning, too. Almost two-thirds of American men (63 percent) think the recession has had the beneficial effect of reminding people of what’s important in life. A big minority of 44 percent are actively trying to figure out what makes them happy. Some might even argue that this is a patriotic duty, to honor the famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” CHANGING IT UP Since 2007, it has seemed as if everything has been out of control: debt, spending, deficits, waistlines, prices, jobs, finance, government, morals. A lot of the chaos has been “out there,” but American men also have a sense of it being much closer to home. Weight is the most visible issue. Compared with the “Mad Men” era, today’s American men are an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier.32 In fact, 72 percent of American men are overweight, including 32 percent who are obese.33 Yet how many iconic American men are pear-shaped or apple-shaped? Physically, at least, the male icons in the media rarely reflect the country’s reality. Maybe instead it’s up to American men to change the way they are? The Euro RSCG survey shows that a massive 75 percent of American men now say they are making an effort to improve the way they live and 73 percent are making an effort to improve the person they are. This MALE IN U.S.A.: MEMES 21
  22. 22. includes paying more attention to home life. The notion that it is very important that a family eat at least one meal a day together is supported in principle by 72 percent of men. In the most affluent 10 percent of households, 80 percent of families are now eating at least four meals a week together, compared with 16 percent five years ago.34 HUMAN/NATURE Traditionally, American men have had an adversarial relationship with nature. Their forebears were pioneers in a big, wild country of extremes, and a big, wild country called for big, tough men. Out in nature, iconic manly American pursuits have involved hunting animals, shooting guns, felling trees, rounding up cattle and drilling for oil. Concern for the environment had (and still has) ideological associations with effete liberals and naive tree-huggers. Yet events such as Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster and lots of extreme weather have shifted perceptions and prompted even manly men to rethink their attitudes. The rising generations of men are less locked in to old attitudes and more tuned in to a bigger-picture understanding of the environment. With their endless inventiveness, American men are finding new ways to measure themselves against their wild country: backcountry hiking, mountain biking, rafting, canoeing, caving and free-climbing. KEEPING IT REAL Americans have lived a growing disconnect for some time now. Ratings-sensitive media present ever-more sanitized, plasticized, cosmetically enhanced, media-trained celebrities. Yet between these visions of ideal lives and media clones, Americans respond powerfully to authenticity. There’s a growing hunger for people, things and experiences that have the tang of “real” about them. 22 MALE IN U.S.A.: MEMES
  23. 23. Tony Soprano, the mixed-up mobster from unlovely New Jersey, became an American favorite precisely because he seemed so gritty and real. TV star David Letterman overcame blackmail by being straight and real about his sexual infidelities. “Keep it real” has become a new rallying cry across the nation. For American men, the search for authentic ways of being is a real and ongoing challenge in a world of media spin. A symbolic moment came in the 2008 presidential election. Out on the stump in Ohio, candidate Barack Obama faced questions from a man concerned about tax hikes. The Republican camp quickly dubbed the bald, burly, straight-talking working man “Joe the Plumber” and talked of him as an example of a real American man just trying to live the American dream. Yet in reality, it turned out his name wasn’t Joe, he wasn’t a plumber and he was more likely to get a tax rebate than a tax bill.35 LOOKING FOR LOVE To keep it real, you’ve got to know who you are and what you want, and more men than ever are trying to figure that out, especially with the renewed focus on individual achievement and satisfaction. In the generation of young adults in the United States, according to a brand-new study from Euro RSCG Worldwide of people aged 18 to 25, their big issue and objective is happiness—how to define it, how to gain it, how to keep it. When asked what happiness means to them, this is how young American men answered: • Love: 42 percent • Freedom: 24 percent • Friendship: 20 percent • Money: 12 percent • Power: 3 percent • Having children: 2 percent As the white paper concluded: “It appears that men and women are moving away from what have long been considered the coveted prizes at the end of the rat race—namely, money and power—in favor of love and friendship, which perhaps earlier generations took for granted.” MALE IN U.S.A.: MEMES 23 “Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!” —Christian in Moulin Rouge! (played by Ewan McGregor)
  24. 24. GAY IS OKAY Until recently, the United States and many Western nations regarded homosexuality as an aberration, a crime and even an abomination. Any man who was openly identified as being homosexual risked losing everything. Not surprisingly, through most of American history there are no prominent, influential men who identified themselves as homosexual. Change arguably started when the towering all-American heartthrob Rock Hudson publicly confirmed in 1985 that he was dying of AIDS. Gradually, Americans learned that the Rock, and many other apparently hunky icons, were actually gay. Since then, sexual orientation has continued to be a hot topic, inevitably being picked up as an issue in the culture wars. The issue of homosexuality in the military was accommodated with the 1993 compromise bill dubbed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There have been plans to repeal the bill and allow gay people to serve openly, but it hasn’t happened yet.36 Nevertheless, Americans are gradually coming to terms with gay issues. Among the general population, a majority of Americans (52 percent) now find gay and lesbian relationships morally acceptable, while a minority (43 percent) finds them morally wrong. The biggest increase is among American men. In May 2006, far fewer men than women found gay relationships morally acceptable (39 percent vs. 49 percent), but by May 2010 the gender skew had switched (53 percent of men vs. 51 percent of women).37 Despite all the furor and moral outrage still stirred by homosexuality, the signs clearly point to its becoming a non-issue in real American life. Even so, it’s far from being a routine part of the hyperreality of American media. The 2005 gay western Brokeback Mountain turns out to have been more of a one-off than a trendsetter. Gay men are still not a mainstream phenomenon in American media, and gay-themed storylines are unusual and often still stereotyped. 24 MALE IN U.S.A.: MEMES “Men in the United States [aged 18 to 25] were most likely to cling to gender stereotypes, with nearly six in 10 believing men should be masculine and women should be feminine.” —Euro RSCG Worldwide “Gender Shift” study
  25. 25. There can be no simple definitive angle on more than 150 million American males spread over a vast country. On the other hand, Americans love a challenge and love to wrangle things down to basic principles. So here is a checklist for understanding the mythical, elusive and possibly illusory male in America today. As with previous lists in this paper, and all lists, it’s subjective, selective and by no means authoritative. 1 Whomever and wherever, American men are Americans; they’re not European men in denial. 2 “Classic” for American men embraces a big, wild country heritage. 3 On the surface, American male icons lag the demographics, but mentally they’re more multicultural. 4 Success is important, and money is still a key indicator of success in a rainbow nation. 5 Technology is one of the crucial common denominators of American men. 6 Physical prowess and sport are areas in which American men can still express their manliness. 7 Keeping it real is an attractive principle but a challenge in a media-mirror world. 8 American men want to change and do better, but on their own terms, at their own pace. 9 American men need new aspirational models in tune with the needs of the age. 10 Doing well by doing the right thing in a smart way and getting recognized for it is the ultimate. MALE IN U.S.A.: CONCLUSION 25 CONCLUSION
  26. 26. 26 MALE IN U.S.A.: END NOTES AND PHOTO CREDITS END NOTES 1 man_height#cite_note-37 2 ealthcare/a/tallbutfat.htm 3 ata/constitution/amendment01/ 4 ications/the-world-factbook/geos/ us.html 5 sity-english/2008/August/20080 815140005xlrennef0.1078106. html 6 /pdf/ConstituentFAQ.pdf 7 3/31/us/31census.html 8 UKN1427444420100714 9 02/11/art2full.pdf, page 2 10 11 ww/cpstables/032009/perinc/new 01_001.htm s/acsbr08-3.pdf 13 m/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/ 10/06/AR2010100607229.html ?sid=ST2010101100168 14 play.asp?id=98 15 conomy/2010/09/03/the-real- lesson-of-labor-day/ 16 m/articles/2009/12/22/obama_a nd_the_invisible_workingman__9 9636.html 17 3/04/america-richest-counties- lifestyle-real-estate-wealthy- suburbs.html 18 releases/2007/minority_buying_p ower_report.html 19 ousehold_income_in_the_United _States 20 y/research/assets/AsianAmerican Wealth.pdf 21 y/research/assets/AsianAmerican Wealth.pdf 22 06/22/style/metrosexuals-come- out.html?scp=5&sq=metrosexual &st=cse 23 tent/program/about/ 24 m/study-highlights/ 25 genres/chart/?id=documentary.htm 26 ls/top_49_men/ 27 917 28 es/fortune/fortune500/2010/full_ list/index.html 29 nnials-and-social-media/ 30 m/study-highlights/ 31 healthcare/a/tallbutfat.htm 32 ps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=af YZWQDBI2Oo 33 -114565-U-S-luxury-spending- grows-wealthy-are-happy-survey 34 m/_news/2010/05/05/4433352- joe-the-plumber-elected-official 35 eference/timestopics/subjects/d/d ont_ask_dont_tell/index.html?sc p=6&sq=don%27t%20ask,%20 don%27t%20tell&st=cse 36 5764/Americans-Acceptance- Gay-Relations-Crosses- Threshold.aspx?utm_source=Ode +Newsletters&utm_campaign=b 8a61a5b6e-daily- rss&utm_medium=email PHOTO CREDITS Cover: paristempo Inside covers: Collage by paristempo Page 3: Sutherland Page 4: (clockwise from top right) emilio labrador; David Paul Ohmer; Wyatt’s Virtual Drifting; Rob Young Page 5: Page 6: (from top); joanna8555; AMagil; lcm1863; guano Page 7: Page 8: (from top) Jagendorf;deltaMike; khteWisconsin; miamism Page 9: (from top) (2); HaPe_Gera Page 10: (from top) John.Karakatsanis; ’El Photo Page 11: labrador Page 12: (clockwise from top left) delta one; cliff1066TM ;Siebbi; Juanedc; nicogenin; cliff1066TM ; garryknight; gesster Page 13: U.S.Army Page 14: (from top) SanFranAnnie; fimoculous Page 15: (from top) Correia; political Graveyard; paristempo Page 16: (from top) Teknorat; bibendum84; AGeekMom Page 17: (from top) randichiu (2); rednuht; schatz Page 18: (from left) David Hernandez; See-ming Lee; Robert Nyman Page 19: (from left); World Economic Forum Page 20: (from top); The U.S. Army Page 21: (from top) JessySutton (2); Magnus D Page 22: (from top) Vicster; vernalanemgmt; paristempo Page 23: (from top) typicalgenius; zak mc; Page 24: (from top) ming Lee;Tim Psych Page 25: timparkinson
  27. 27. This white paper is the fifth in a series of thought leadership pursuits by Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. In October 2009, Euro RSCG Worldwide commissioned a survey to map the trajectory of social life and social media usage in the United States, quizzing 1,228 Americans. A white paper looked at the macro developments in social media and drew conclusions and implications for marketers and their clients. Our company conducted an additional survey of 600 Americans about social media and health care. We presented our findings at an FDA hearing on promoting FDA-regulated medical products online and through social media. To get a copy of the white paper, please go to our Social Life and Social Media website. Shortly thereafter, seeking to better understand how teen girls spend, socialize and communicate, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR commissioned a survey of 100 teenage girls nationwide aged 13 to 18. A March 2010 white paper presented the proprietary study’s findings in the context of today’s communications and business worlds as they are increasingly dominated by social and other digital media. We used the information we gathered to launch The Sisterhood, an agency within an agency that is an insight group to help define the teenage female consumer’s ideas in fashion and beyond. To get a copy of the white paper, please go to The Sisterhood website. Euro RSCG Worldwide PR and Euro RSCG Life, the health-focused communications network of Euro RSCG Worldwide, commissioned the online “mood monitor” survey of 386 Americans in February 2010 that also led to a white paper. The survey showed that people’s interest in a raft of weighty matters had grown in the previous 12 to 18 months. And on many points, particularly related to money, Americans tended to net out far more pessimistic than optimistic on subjects such as quality of life, employment, real estate and schools. Euro RSCG commissioned a similar poll in the bellwether state of Connecticut. For a copy of the reports, please go to the White Papers page of the Euro RSCG PR website. In summer 2010, ERWW PR took part in a five-country study by Euro RSCG Social that looked at how millennials (people aged 18 to 25) are making themselves felt in the workplace, consumer markets and politics. The biggest bottom line in the survey: Young people across the world think the world needs changing, and they’re confident social media will give them the power to accomplish that change. To download the report based on the study, please go to our Social Life and Social Media website. A new report built on the same study, discussing differences between genders in that age group, launched this fall. And for this paper, we drew on the results of some of these proprietary studies and others, plus independent research and insights we gain through our global trendspotting network, connecting the dots between all of them. Through such research and analysis, we are addressing topics that are not only imperative to our clients and our own growth but are also driving news about the future. The studies are places to listen and learn. They’re propelling momentum for companies, brands and causes. They’re satisfying the new value exchange, where consumers want brands that listen, converse and enable them. Please join us in the conversation. Marian Salzman President Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America 200 Madison Avenue, 2nd floor New York, NY 10016 P: 212-367-6811 E: T: @mariansalzman