Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 516 – The Post War Generation’s POV on Today 

Find Brian Online:

Find Jamin Online:

Find Us Online: 


This Episode is Sponsored by:

The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the #1 ranked insights and analytics graduate degree in three formats: 

  • Full-time on campus 
  • Full-time online 
  • Part-time online

NEW FOR 2022: 

If you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their 3-course certificates: Insights Design or Insights Analysis. 

In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build toward your graduation.

If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSMU’s programs at: broad.msu.edu/marketing

HubUX is a research operation platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 

For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit hubux.com.


Jamin Brazil: Today is March 28th, 2022. Happy Monday. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. I’m Jamin Brazil, your host. Support for the Happy Market Research Podcast and the following message comes from Michigan State’s marketing research program and HubUX. Support for the Happy Market Research Podcast and the following message comes from Michigan State’s marketing research program and HubUX. The Michigan State University’s master of science in marketing research program delivers the number one ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats. Full-time on-campus, full-time online, and part-time online. New for 2022, if you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their three course certifications. Insights Design or Insights Analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build towards your graduation. If you’re looking to achieve your full potential, check out [INAUDIBLE sounds like: MSU’s] program at B-R-O-A-D- dot- M-S-U- dot- E-D-U- slash- marketing. Again, B-R-O-A-D- dot- M-S-U- dot- E-D-U- slash- marketing. HubUX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation- including video audition questions and surveys. For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit HubUX.com. Be warned, this episode has a few curse words. Actually, there’s two. I will- you’ll know when you hear them. You will find a cleaned version on our Web site, at HappyMR.com. This is Episode 516, and if you were born on March 28th, 1982, then according to Birthday Tunes, I Love Rock ‘n Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was the number one song on your birthday. Now, I was 10 years old when this song came out, and I can tell you, as a 10-year-old boy, Joan Jett symbolized sexuality and attitude. She sang about kicking ass, not putting up with anybody’s bullshit, and not giving a- and here’s a second curse word- fuck about what anyone thought about her sexual proclivities, and whether or not she was a switch hitter. Right from the start, this song, I Love Rock ‘n Roll, it drips with attitude. It has heavy drums that lead into kick-ass power chords that are in stereo with a “get off your ass and onto the dancefloor” hand clap. As the rhythm settles in, you get some badass riffs from the guitar, that introduce Joan Jett on the mic. Enjoy.



Jamin Brazil: So to you, birthday person, happy 30th birthday. To everybody else, let’s make today a kickass day. Now, let’s switch gears. We have a standout topic and guest on today’s show. He wrote the first ever TV commercial to air, that was published in the UK back in 1955. Our topic for today is titled The Postwar Generation’s Point of View on Today. We focus a lot on Gen Z. That is people that are 12 to 25 years old. And Gen Alpha, that’s under 12 years old. So why do I focus so much, and we focus so much on these generations? It’s because they, quite literally, are the future, not just of the social frameworks and culture, but also of our economy. Gen Z currently represents $7 trillion across 2.5 billion people. And according to research done by Bank of America, by 2025, their income will grow to 17 trillion. And by 2030, it will reach $33 trillion, representing 27% of the world’s income, and surpassing that of Millennials’ the following year. So very important. Brands must secure a place in Gen Zs’ hearts and minds if they are going to have a future. But today we’re looking at the Postwar Generation. That is people that are 77 to 94 years old, as of the airing of this episode. To offer some guidance on their biggest concerns for this up-and-coming generation. Here, we have some highlights from my recent interview with Brian Palmer, a 92-year-old Englishman, who wrote the first TV commercial to air in Europe, in 1955. After we cover the highlights, we’ll play the full 20-minute interview, which I just cannot encourage you enough to listen to it in its entirety. As always, I start the interview with the context of how his parents impacted his career. And surprisingly, the Postwar Generation, it’s no different than over 50% of the hundreds of people that I’ve interviewed, when I ask the question, “Tell me about your parents, what they did for a living, and how that impacted what you do today.” In fact, he says, just like most people, his parents had very little, in fact, no influence on his career. Which came about, and I quote, “by a happy collection of chances.” Mister Palmer’s father was in the Royal Air Force in both World Wars. In between, he was the director of a brewery in London, called Young’s Brewery. His mother worked in advertising until she married his father in 1927, but was a homemaker after that. Now, let’s talk about the first TV commercial to air in Europe. Today, we take for granted the importance of commercials on TV. As brands have shifted more and more of their advertising spends to the internet, TV still remains an important medium. According to Statistica, in fact, it’s 25% of ad budgets, they still go to TV. But TV used to be an up-and-coming medium. According to Mister Palmer, advertise- and I quote, here, “Advertising-supported TV was very much an unknown and controversial service in Britain when it launched in 1955, and could easily have failed.” It was mainly supported by FMCG manufacturers with US experience, such as Heinz, Unilever, General Foods, and Proctor & Gamble. In the 1950s, top marketing firms thought TV commercials would not become a major player. Now, your mind is probably blowing up right now, if you’re Gen Z, because you’re like, “Is TV- are TV- they’re right.” But there was 70 years where they were wrong, and it was a really important 70 years. If you were any brand, you had to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars to get airtime on television. Because television is where people spent their downtime, where they were entertained, where we connect as families. Now, that obviously has been totally disrupted with the advent of the internet, and the personalization of content that now is able to stream to us on demand. But it used to be the case that you were beholden to the schedule of a book called the TV Guide. That’s right. It’s a guide to the TV. That’s a thing that told you what was playing when, and you scheduled your life accordingly. I know, crazy. Consumer media consumption habits, they were already set before the TV became the mainstay of how people consumed- or spent their free time. And so, before TV, it was really two things. It was print and it was radio. It was hard to see how the television would ultimately dominate consumers’ attention. Again, a new medium coming in, very disruptive. And you had the existing architecture that was basically saying, “I don’t think this is going to work out.” So regarding the first-ever TV commercial to air, how that actually happened is very- back then, in 1955, is very different than how it would happen today. Today, it would become an auction. Because to be the very first of anything means that you subsequently secure your future in history. And certainly, that was the case back then. But instead of it becoming this auction, they actually, quite literally drew names from a hat, if you can imagine that. And this is where the TV commercial that Mister Palmer wrote was the name that was drawn out of the hat. And we’re going to play it in its minute-and-a-half entirety now.


TV Announcer: It’s- fresh. It’s fresh as ice. It’s Gibbs[AUDIO SKIPS]- the tingling, fresh- your gums your gums [INAUDIBLE] tingle you get when you brush with SR is much more than a- It’s a tingle of health. It tells you something very important, that you’re doing your gums- and [INAUDIBLE] them to resist infection. And, as this chart shows, gum infection- cause of more tooth losses than decay itself. The tingle in SR comes from sodium ricinoleate, a substance which both dental research and years of- have shown to [AUDIO SKIPS]- the gums. [INAUDIBLE] your gums will- your breath- [INAUDIBLE] brush with- the tingly toothpaste for teeth and gums. Gibbs SR.


Jamin Brazil: So what are the Postwar Generation’s two biggest concerns with Gen Z and Gen Alpha? Having done a lot of research with younger generations, I’m very much in agreement with Mister Palmer’s point of view that these generations are, and I quote, “Thoughtful and caring.” In fact, I believe that empathy is the calling card of Gen Z. It is one of the reasons that there is so much outrage for unfair treatment of minority groups. His first concern, however, is around this concept of rights versus duties. This is a hot topic, and I’m not looking for the “don’t tread on my rights” person to come to my house. I’m not trying to say this in a political framework. I’m talking about it more from an attitude. There is a lot that’s wrapped up in this cultural framework of rights versus duties. It’s the- a duty, as it’s defined by Webster, is a moral or legal obligation. It is, in fact, a responsibility. Mister Palmer says, and I quote, “My biggest concern is the replacement of duties by rights,” end quote. This is a point that I feel very strongly about. It manifests itself in every way that we live our lives. From how we treat PTO to how we spend our free time, and who we do it with, and how much self-sacrifice there is. There was a duty that existed with, or exists with previous generations, that simply doesn’t exist now. I’m not judging it as right or wrong, by the way. I’m just saying that it is factually different. Older generations, they were more likely to approach things like work with a “I’ve committed to doing X, Y, Zed, and I’m going to see it through no matter what.” Whereas younger generations are more likely to say, “Well, you know what? I’m not feeling good.” Now, I know COVID makes us super politicized, and this will probably be the last episode I ever do before you guys tar and feather me. But younger people have a different framework of “Well, I’ve earned my PTO, and that’s mine, and I’m going to take advantage of it. And the boss, and the business is structured accordingly. And it’s OK to operate in those confines.” I’m not saying that’s wrong, so don’t misunderstand. I’m just saying that they’re different mental frameworks. And it’s a slippery slope. Of course it’s our sick days, and of course we have the right to take them. I’ve taken them. I take them. And we see PTO abuses on both sides. I’m not trying to isolate the conversation around PTO. Let me reframe it a little bit with the words of John F. Kennedy, with his speech. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” This is not something that we hear from today’s leadership. Just think about that. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The framework is very much different now. It’s very much around “What do I get out of this?” It’s very I-centered, as opposed to giving. It’s very inward, versus outward. There’s a difference of that framework. I don’t think a politician would be elected in a modern context with a framework of duty. It just isn’t fun, isn’t sexy, and certainly isn’t easy. So this rights versus duties debate is more about an attitude that is difficult to quantify than a specific example. But if you have an example, I would love to hear from you. Just DM me on LinkedIn. Maybe this is a conversation we need to actually have, as opposed to more of a monologue, like what’s happening right now. The second concern, addiction to technology. Boom, there it is. Terrifying. Screentime numbers are staggering. And the impact on our mental state is clearly more negative than positive, in that framework. In an interview I recently did with a 19-year-old- excuse me- an 18-year-old boy, he stated that he recently deleted his TikTok. When I asked him, “Well, why did you do that? Because I really like it.” And I quote, said, “I couldn’t stop scrolling. The algorithm totally controlled me,” end quote. Mister Palmer, though, he wasn’t just talking about social media. What was truly insightful was Mister Palmer’s main concern around the control of electricity. Because electricity is the foundation of our modern society. What would happen if someone somehow turned it off? And this, you’ll hear in the actual interview. And I quote, “Our addiction to technology, which is itself dependent on and endless continuing supply of electricity, is a major concern,” end quote. He went on to talk about how we could be facing a modern dark age. Very scary stuff. Here’s the full interview with Mister Palmer. It’s worth your 20 minutes. I hope you enjoy it. You wrote the first TV commercial ever. Is that right.


Brian Palmer: The first TV commercial. Not ever, but the first to appear in England.


Jamin Brazil: In England. Sorry.


Brian Palmer: November the 22nd, 1955, which is a very long time ago.


Jamin Brazil: It was for a toothpaste brand, called Gibbs SR. I believe it was a competition, wasn’t it?


Brian Palmer: No, it was the Unilever brand of toothpaste. You’re thinking of how it got to me first. It was a lottery, rather than a competition. A number of companies had paid a premium to be on the first night. And they just put their names in a hat, literally. And I was lucky enough that the ad that I had written came out.


Jamin Brazil: That is so interesting. So it was quite literally a lottery.


Brian Palmer: It was literally a lottery, a stroke of luck. It was a very small earthquake at the time. There was no certainty at all that what was then called commercial TV would survive. It was to be allowed rather reluctantly by the English parliament a year or so before. And a lot of people were very against it. But mainly, American-based advertisers. I was working for an advertising agency, called Young & Rubicam- which is still around, I think- at the time. Which was really hot then, in England. And many of our clients were keen on it, and so was Young & Rubicam. And when I say the people were against it, even in advertising, my immediate boss, who was also a friend, the head of the creative department, said, “You want to specialize in TV, Brian? I think you’re mad. It will never be a major medium.” And so it was quite risky. But anyway, a lot of our clients, like General Foods and Heinz and Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, determined to support the new medium. And that’s how we came to be very much in evidence at the beginning.


Jamin Brazil: It’s interesting that you were so early from radio to TV, and print to TV. What did you think about the internet when it first became important in the ‘90s?


Brian Palmer: I thought what has subsequently proved to be true, but not in the way that I thought. I thought that it was not a mass medium, but an individual medium. It was capable of seeking out and speaking to people personally, rather than the way that broadcast television worked, spreading its message broadcast, literally. But I couldn’t see how that was going to happen. Because I didn’t, then, when it started, know about the tracking devices, and the power of the social media.


Jamin Brazil: Interesting how, in broadcast TV, brands have an opportunity to communicate one message to whomever might be walking by the television set. Whereas, in a digital framework, brands know exactly who’s viewing that ad, and have the ability to tailor that content directly to them, making it a much more powerful opportunity to connect.


Brian Palmer: Indeed.


Jamin Brazil: The other thing that’s interesting is- the context of digital is oftentimes active from the viewer, as opposed to passive, like television. Television, I sit back with a beer, and watch it. Whereas, in digital context, I’m interacting with it, and clicking on things. I’m reading content, what have you. Have you used any voice-based devices, like Alexa?


Brian Palmer: No. I sometimes use the Siri on my phone.


Jamin Brazil: That’s another interesting- I’m sure advertisers will ruin that platform, as well, at some point. See how that-


Brian Palmer: In my previous car, I had a voice connection. It was supposed to take me to places, to find me the routes to places, if I spoke to it. But it would make so many mistakes. I suppose my voice is not what it was attuned for, because it was a German car. [INAUDIBLE] my new car. Although I haven’t activated the system.


Jamin Brazil: You’ve experienced a lot, from a world war, to the demarketization of international travel through airplanes. You’ve seen the rise and fall of set-top TV, the transformation that has happened in our world through mobile devices, mobile-connected devices. As you think about this upcoming generation, Generation Z and Generation Alpha- these are kids that are under 12 years old- what are your two biggest concerns?


Brian Palmer: The main one is that we’ve become, all of us, much too dependent on electricity, basically. If you look around your house- and then imagine if you didn’t have electric oven, a microwave, a telephone, a television, a computer, possibly even an electric car. We’ve become, as a country, as a nation, as a world, completely dependent on various forms of electricity. And through that, ultra-dependent on internet connections through what are quite artificial things, like satellites- are themselves dependent on electricity to work. So if anybody wanted to bring the world to a stop, we are just completely dependent on electricity. And I think that is very dangerous for a society to become so dependent on something that is not necessarily permanent. That’s one. I think the other thing is that I don’t think we yet appreciate what the full effects of social media, and the internet, and games, and so on, are on Generation Alpha. And the way in which they see the world, and have helped to divide, rather than to unite, as the founders of the internet hoped. I guess [INAUDIBLE] people of very different opinions, which may not be useful, socially, to find and form groups around the world of a size that is sufficient to cause problems. Which, as I say, seems to tend to divide, rather than to unite. I don’t know. But for instance, in your own country, when I was a young man, it looked to me as though there was very little difference between the policies of the Republican party and the policies of the Democratic party. They were both sides of the same coin. And that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. And I don’t know whether social media [INAUDIBLE] had been a part of that effect. But I’m not about to interfere in politics.


Jamin Brazil: The internet- digital marketers know that “this versus that” is the favorite topic of the internet. Things that are controversial, or that will spark a conversation, that will create engagement, the algorithms love. And in a lot of ways, to your point, it becomes a conversation with yourself, as opposed to, really, a conversation for knowledge or truth. And we’ve seen that, of course, historically, with television. It’s very clear that different news outlets have points of view. And the difference is that, to your point- is the opportunity to socialize that point of view has been limited to a living room, as opposed to it being much more broad. And therefore feels much more validated, which is scary. In your notes, you had written- you had a concern around the replacement of duties by rights.


Brian Palmer: These are philosophical thoughts [INAUDIBLE], which I see very much around the world, around the rest of the world. You never see the word, duty, in a newspaper, but you see the word, rights, everywhere.


Jamin Brazil: And certainly, in previous generations, things were a lot more framed in duties versus rights. There’s this picture of my late great-grandfather, and they were very early in California. And he was 12 years old. He was driving a team of 16 horses from the mountains, the sierras in California. His family was responsible for part of the logging operation, where they floated logs down the river, San Joaquin River. And so every season, he would have to restock the supplies for the family. And at 12, was his first time, by himself, taking a two-day, one-night journey down to Fresno, without Google Maps.


Brian Palmer: Even as late as the 1960s, Kennedy was saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Which was trying to address that trend, I think.


Jamin Brazil: That’s interesting that it was cropping up, and then subsequently reframed in a political framework, and then followed. Do you have advice for the modern teenager?


Brian Palmer: Oh, my goodness. I think any advice I had would probably be way out of date. But I come from a generation that was brought up to believe that, if you worked a little harder, and thought a little deeper, and kept your nose clean, you would eventually succeed. And I don’t know if that’s true anymore.


Jamin Brazil: That’s interesting.


Brian Palmer: It was true, certainly, of advertising in my day, that you could start, as I did, in fact, as a messenger boy. Not even in the mailroom, an intern, even. And end up owning your own company. That you’ve sort of learned your trade, and were good at it. I don’t know if that’s still possible, or if the big corporations are too big.


Jamin Brazil: I think it is possible. I think one of the challenges is that you have this diversification of opportunity that exists for kids, or the next generation. Which just didn’t exist for, really, me, either. Certainly, I could’ve had a paper route, and I did, and I bussed tables. But now, it’s almost paralyzing, the amount of opportunities that people have to earn incomes, all of which are usually side incomes, as opposed to main incomes. Which is not- diversification creates the jack of all trade, as opposed to really-


Brian Palmer: That’s interesting. Two or three side hustles, as it were.


Jamin Brazil: Which keeps you kind of right at the break-even point on an income basis, as opposed to this tipping point of- as you articulated- eventually owning your own business. What gives you hope for future generations, that they will carry us to new places?


Brian Palmer: Well, the ones I know [INAUDIBLE] not many. Mostly my grand- I don’t have any great-grandchildren. Mostly my grandchildren and their friends. And they seem a pretty nice lot, and very caring and concerned. I don’t diss them at all. The ones I know are fine as people. I don’t know if we hit really hard times. Well, we’ve had fairly hard times, or we might hit a depression, or tremendous inflation. I don’t know how they’ll cope. But from what I see of them, I think I’m pretty hopeful for the future, actually.


Jamin Brazil: Awesome. Me, too. Last question. What is your personal motto?


Brian Palmer: Carpe diem. Seize the day. I haven’t got a huge number left, and I intend to enjoy them as much as I possibly can.


Jamin Brazil: Thank you for listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. I’m Jamin Brazil. Special thanks for Janet Standen [ph]. You, Janet, have been a huge support to me, personally, to the show, to the MRX community, the UX community, and the customer experience community. We all love you and appreciate you. And without you, this episode would not have been possible. Thank you for the introduction to Brian. If you would like to learn more about this show or our sponsors, please check out the show notes. You are always welcome to attend the MRX Pros virtual lunch. This is a group of UX, CX, and market researchers that meet every single week for 30 minutes, to do three things. Learn one new thing, make one new friend, and have some fun. Happy researching, and have a great week.