Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to Torture Your Teen, Totes Magotes

A word to the wise ... if you want to lose all cred with your teenager, try speaking to them with the latest and greatest adolescent slang. Talk about an eye-roll-apalooza!

If you want to really torture them, continue to do so.

I've been in marketing for ... oh ... "a lot" of years. (Nearly 30 at last count — holy senior citizen, Batman!) One of the most important things I've taught my various copywriters to focus on is speaking the target audience's (the customer's) language. Do this well and they'll buy your product, use your service, follow you anywhere. Do it not-so-well and the jig is up.

In fact, if you try and fail, you are worse off than if you never tried at all. People have built-in bullsh*t meters. They know when you're just an ad agency making a lame attempt to sound like an engineer or a teacher or a housewife.

And, guess who has the finest tuned bullsh*t meters of all? Teens!

That's why I have to assume that the target audience for a brilliant Sprint ad isn't really teenagers; it's their parents. You've probably seen it. James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell, two theatrical heavyweights, decked in tuxedos and serious as hell, recite "Lizzy and Kim's" call. 

ANNCR: Sprint honors Lizzy and Kim's call on our new network.

JEJ: Ryan is a total Hottie McHotterson.

MM: Obvi. He's amazeballs. He's like the hottest hottie that ever hottied.

JEJ: He's like a hottie times infinity plus another infinity. And his smile is totes adorbs.

MM: Totes Magotes. It's cray-cray adorbs.

JEJ: Totes Magotes.

ANNCR: In honor of the important things you do, save up to $100 on any new phone when you switch to Sprint.

Okay, there's an ad I wish I'd written. Or directed. Or served coffee at the craft services table between takes. I think the dialogue is hysterical.

My daughter? Not so much.

There isn't a single line, a single phrase, a single hottie, adorbs or totes (much less, magotes) in that script that would ever come out of my daughter's mouth. Or her friends'. Or their friends'.

In Sprint's defense, they didn't actually coin these colloquialisms. "Totes Magotes" (alternately spelled "Totes McGotes") came from the 2009 Paul Rudd movie I Love You, Man

Wait a minute ... 2009? That's like totes forever ago! Like forever times infinity plus infinity plus one! Totes! No wonder my daughter has moved on.

In this case, and much to the teens' collective chagrin, the ad and all its vocabulary vagaries have taken on a life of their own. Never was a concept so ripe for memes. Like this one, my personal (totes magotes) fave:

Next time you want to bug your teenager, wait until you're in some public place, preferably populated by other teenage types, and tell them that they're just "adorbs" and you really really love them ... "totes magotes."

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at


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