1.23.2007

Notes from the Bleeding Heart Liberal Capitalist Pig

Yesterday I had the energy to read about two blog posts, and I'm glad that one of them was from Meaghan at My Dog Harriet. I had the pleasure of meeting Meaghan at the BlogHer conference last summer. She’s smart, articulate, and cool, so it's not surprising that she wrote a very compelling essay in response to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article (a paper which has amazingly crappy archives - find it republished here instead) on marketing to children, that kept me reading even through my feverish haze.

This is less a retort (since I love so much of what she has to say) than my own take on the subject.

As an ad industry person myself (and Meghan's a sales and marketing pro herself), don’t think I’m about to give a pass to marketers. We judge each other most harshly, I assure you; you've never seen anything until you've watched a party filled with drunk advertising creatives rip apart every Super Bowl ad, overpriced second by second; or pull our hair out over the fact that there are people in the world who actually like that freaking Afflac duck. I can spot product placement in a reality show before most people have digested the opening credits and it makes me crazy. And I'm so skeptical of polluting my daughter's toy chest and mind with licensed characters, I was flamed on a message board during my pregnancy for asking why I couldn't just find diapers that didn't have TV characters on them.

So I admit we as a whole can be a shady and sometimes despicable bunch (See also: Bratz Dolls, cellulite creams, Armstrong Williams). But I'm not entirely sure the examples in the article make this one of those cases.

The crux of it is the notion that now automotive companies like Hummer and Honda are marketing to children with kid-friendly websites and cross-promotions . As Meaghan and I discussed in a subsequent email exchange, the fact is we’re probably appalled by the Hummer campaign less because they’re turning our 2 year olds into consumers (Wha-at? Kids want things? Why, when we were children we never asked for anything but rocks and twigs!) and more because we agree that Hummers offend us as a rule. After all, HotWheels and Matchbox have been cultivating car brand loyalty in the pre-driving set for years. But no one seems offended by that. We're just not conditioned to think of it in a nefarious way.

I can't help but allow my view of an advertiser to influence my view of their tactics. When Beaches or the Cayman Islands sponsors Sesame Street I think eh, kids on a beach. Not so bad. But when McDonald's runs a spot, I admit I judge the network a little more harshly for allowing the message through. Now what if it was instead an ad for healthy, delicious organic vegetables? Or the Peace Corps? Or an all-out effort to institutionalize National Make Your Mom Chocolate Chip Pancakes in Bed Day? Would we still judge the notion of advertising on PBS as harshly?

I wonder whether it's that we don't want our children to be consumers, or that we just want to dictate the kinds of consumers they can be.

For those of you who eschew all forms of marketing, own no television sets, manage your own food co-ops and spend your days teaching your children classic poetry and the magical tones of the pan flute, more power to you. Hope you create the perfect rash cream when that organic hemp layette you sew doesn’t work out too well.

But the vast majority of us, I believe, are reasonable people of moderation. We recognize that not all marketing is bad, not all products are evil, not every advertiser is out to steal our soul. It has its place in a functioning capitalist society and it behooves us to work with it--to figure out which messages are essential to challenge, and which are just little annoyance.

I admit, it bugs me to see easy knee-jerk reaction to a post like Meghan's along the lines of "the nerve of those evil, evil people at Honda!" When it comes down to it, is the notion of a safe, reasonably priced brand of family cars trying to get my toddler to like them over, say, a Toyota, the biggest of my concerns? Not so much.

Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of marketing outrage priorities:

1. Things that cause immediate physical harm to our children
Tobacco, drugs, violence, guns, war. Yes, war. I used to appreciate the post-punk kitch value of a pair of toddler-sized camos but now that people are actually dying again in them, I’m sticking with florals. The rest of the list: Primo importance. Anything else is a way distant second and a good way to keep the outrage in check over other media-related issues.

In other words, if you've got the time to write a letter to a marketer about something, consider it falling into this category.

By the way, I also think we should be incensed at the seafood industry for the lack of warning labels about mercury in fish. Guaranteed that it's going to affect more kids aversely over time than Hummers.

2. Things that, if not monitored, can cause long-term harm to our children
One of my biggest issues is companies like Coke (of whom I'm a dedicated consumer, by the way) placing vending machines around school halls because it’s the only way the school can fund their extra-curricular programs. It's product placement of the worst kind because it's totally under the radar. Fried fast food crap in the cafeteria – same deal.

It's the kind of marketing especially deserving of our attention because our children don’t even have a choice in the matter; where they do have a choice, they’re not in supervised environments where parents can help guide those decisions. But of course, it's among the hardest marketing tactics to be aware of, so accustomed are we to seeing these products in our daily lives.

Best solution? Get marketing out of our schools. Unfortunately, impossible now considering the lack of funding for most schools coupled with idiotic measures like NCLB.

3. Intolerance, hatred, racism, discrimination
These are the values that creep in a child's mind when you're least paying attention. Any evidence of it through marketing should be called out and shot to little bits. I still get crazy when I think about that ad for the Hook-Up on the N-Spot that I wrote about last year, an online game teaching tween girls to deceive and destroy one another for the sake of a guy.

Which brings me to...

4. Premature sexuality, a.k.a. self-esteem issues
The beauty industry, Laguna Beach, anorexic models, Barbies and their ilk, princesses as the end all be all--I do believe that a lot of these can be managed with parental involvement and the fostering of self-esteem at home. Let your kid (either sex will do) know that girls should be valued for more than their looks. It goes a long way.

Of course I do think we do need better role models than belly-baring pop stars and teens who spend more time in rehab than English class. But again, we as consumers and media gatekeepers have a lot of influence here. Don’t buy the Lindsay Lohan album for your kid, multiply that by millions of moms, and guess what – her next one will only be available in Germany.

4. Everything else
Not too long ago, a client of mine got hate mail from an angry viewer about a commercial featuring a jubilant if overweight mother running through a parade--the viewer was upset because the actress' boobs were big and shook while she ran and her 10 year old son commented on it.

File that one under People With too Much Time On Their Hands.

------

I know everyone has his or her own hotbutton issues when it comes to the media. No doubt my list is incomplete and could use some more thought and refining, and will conflict in some ways with your own. But I like the idea of moms taking the time to figure out their priorities, instead of simply shaking an angry fist at "marketers" every time the word appears next to the word "kids."

Besides, there's something to that whole united we stand thing.

If parents of the world somehow manage to put our minds and voices together towards the issues that really matter, I'd be excited to see the good that can come of it.

----
Edited to add: Somewhat anonymous reader ZMT makes the excellent point that what differentiates Hummers tactics from those of McDonald's, and thus makes them more infuriating, is that they're trying to manipulate children's preferences as a way of influencing their parents. My feeling: If your school-aged kids can influence your decision to buy a Hummer, you're more of a bonehead than the average Hummer driver, and that's saying something.

I believe it's more likely the company is trying to develop brand loyalty in children at an early age so that when they turn 16 they can ask for that Hummer "they've always wanted." Or...perhaps they simply want to make parents feel like it's a good family car--after all they care so goshdarn much about children. Just look at the fun word scramble on their kids' site!


54 Comments:

Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

YES YES YES YES YES

As I said in response to Meghan's post, we've got the power. Let's exert it. Just because advertisers want to connect with our kids doesn't mean that we don't retain our role as primary influencer - IF we step up, over and over and over again.

I love your list of priorities. Entirely spot-on.

1/23/07, 2:04 PM  
Blogger Emery Jo said...

couldn't agree more.

I keep coming back to the fact (which you stated so well) that it is my job to nurture and encourage my son's self-esteem and his consideration of others LONG BEFORE it is my job to control every little thing that he sees or hears.

By helping him know that all the crap out there that is aimed at his impressionable little mind will not satisfy or complete him, he will be able to filter through all that junk even when I'm not around to do it for him.

1/23/07, 2:06 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I completely agree with your list of priorities. And we parents are the ones who need to serve as the intermediary between our kids and advertisers. If we're there to talk to them about the purpose of advertising, and explain how marketing is used to influence them, then I think they will be better consumers, instead of blind sheep consumers.

I follow much of the same list of priorities. Cordy loves certain branded things, like Dora, but until they come out with a stripper Dora doll, or a Dora bazooka, I have no problem with letting her indulge in a character she loves. (even if I don't like Dora) And I try to shelter her now from commercials as much as possible, since I never know what commercials will be shown between programs, even on Nick Jr.

As for myself, I appreciate the work of advertisers. Like Meaghan mentioned, I'm a consumer who looks at ads with a lot of skepticism, but I am a person who loves new stuff, and I like learning about what's new out in the world. I just don't always believe it will do what they say it will.

1/23/07, 2:32 PM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

Well said.

I have always thought that in the end it's got to be the families that control the market. If you don't like your little girl owning Bratz dolls, and soaking in whatever f---ed-up messages they project, then don't buy her a Bratz doll.

1/23/07, 2:41 PM  
Blogger kfk said...

Wow, very compelling and oh so correct.

The part of Meghan's post I honed in on was the parental responsibility of teaching, and displaying for that matter, self-control to your child. It is not necessarily the ads we, as parents, should be targeting, but our reactions and our children's reactions to them.

1/23/07, 2:47 PM  
Blogger J said...

I resent public television having to whore itself out to ads at all, whether they're on kids tv or adult tv. If it were properly funded, this wouldn't be an issue. It didn't use to be one.

I resent soda machines in our schools. California is working on phasing them out, but I doubt that they've phased in money to replace the lost revenues.

I resent advertising geared at toddlers and young children because they do not yet have the ability to think critically about it, to decide whether it is a decent product that will behave as they think it will.

I don't have much problem with advertising to children who are old enough to understand you when you explain that products are crap, or are bad for them, etc. Because that is a good learning tool to help them be informed consumers as adults.

I resent McDonalds and the ilk having happy meals with branded toys. I can't tell you how many fights I had with my daughter when she was in the targeted age group, because she wanted to go to get a Happy Meal, just for the toy. She doesn't even LIKE McDonalds food. She never got her way, but she's a stubborn little thing, and it brought more arguments into our car than I would have liked.

I resent that I had to look up whether to spell advertise with an S or a Z, because I'm such a crappy speller. On whom can I blame that? Probably me. Dang.

I agree with the overall message here, though...which is, I think, that I am responsible for taking care of my child, and if I don't like what is being presented to her, I can turn off the boob tube, etc. Priorities should be focused, just as you said.

1/23/07, 2:48 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

KFK: Amen. I loved that aspect of her post as well. I didn't feel I needed to go into it since she already handled it so perfectly. It's the knee-jerk reaction to all youth marketing efforts that makes me a little twitchy.

1/23/07, 2:53 PM  
Blogger Ceallach said...

Yes, I totally agree with the principle....

But exactly how is one a Bleeding Heart Liberal, while being also a capitalist pig? ....they are somewhat opposed on the political and economic spectrum.

1/23/07, 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

Very compelling post. I agree in so many ways and on so many levels.

But there's one more thing that we as parents can do besides be vigilant about teaching our children how to react to advertising. We can lead by example. We can show responsibility in everything from our food choices to our car choices to what we do and don't watch on TV. Kids will mimic their parents' ideals for a good chunk of their formative years and that more than anything can help shape who they are and how critically they learn to think about issues such as these.

Thank you for pointing out the distinction that not all advertising is evil incarnate. Ads are a necessary part of a capitalist society. Business depends on getting their products marketed in order to survive and thrive. Just because the ad comes from a retail giant or corporation the size of a country doesn't mean they don't have a good product. There's a reason there are truth in advertising laws, and ads can be valuable in helping us as consumers make informed decisions about what we do and don't buy.

1/23/07, 3:49 PM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Love your post (and also that you referred to me as "cool"..hee)

Your list of priorities is spot on.
The thing I find most disconcerting is the insidious nature of some kinds of marketing towards kids from industries like Coke and McDonalds. Kids are too young to grasp that they are being sold or influenced.
In addition, when marketing gets so intertwined with Public Services like PBS, Elementary Schools, and Sports programs it seems dangerous and un "Undo-able". Liek once you open up pandora's box, your done for good.
also your comment: "I wonder whether it's that we don't want our children to be consumers, or that we just want to dictate the kinds of consumers they can be."

I will admit with a laugh, that this is very true for me. I'm fine with stonyfield farm yogurt and Toyota seeking brand loyalty from my daughter. However when it comes to Bratz dolls and Hummers, I just get angry. But as her mother, I have earned the right to influence her decisions. not the yahoos at Hummer.

Great post! Thank you!

1/23/07, 3:57 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

I like this topic. I do agree that we parents should be the gatekeeper between our children and what they view on television, ads and all. I'm all for consumerism, but there was one ad that raised my hackles. I believe it was for On-Star, the one where a bunch of kids were "speaking" to their parents (to the camera) and asking them what would happen if they got into a major accident and didn't have On-Star. I felt like it played into a child's worst fears and prompted them to go bug their parents to get this system or THEY WOULD DIE the next time they got into a car. Maybe I was too sensitive to it (read: post-partum) but I was a bit offended. And it played during the day, on channels that a child might be watching. I'd rather explain to my kid that, no, you shouldn't smoke just because that camel says so instead of no we won't die if I don't shell out 35 bucks a month.

1/23/07, 3:58 PM  
Blogger Janssen said...

Another great entry, as usual. I've always disliked the concept of soda/junk food in school, but I've never thought of it as being extra bad because children have no one to help them make a good decision.

1/23/07, 4:17 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Good question Ceallach, something I've touched on here many times before:

I'm an ad chick with a conscious. I believe in capitalism, I have no problems with consumerism, and I also do my best to live progressive liberal values. It only seems contradictory (and makes for a good title) but if you think about it, one has relatively nothing to do with the other unless you buy into stereotypes.

1/23/07, 4:26 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

i totally agree. i obviously don't have kids, but one thing i have done is talked with some of my classes about how advertising and marketing affects their lives. they all claimed that they don't pay attention to ads much, and that they don't believe most ads succeed in getting into the heads of consumers. i sang the "ba da ba ba ba" from the mcdonald's commercials, and they immediately chimed in with, "i'm lovin it." i said, "yeah, i see what you mean."

with the older kids, i at least want them to be aware of when and how the media is targeting them. then they can at least make semi-informed decisions.

1/23/07, 4:55 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

You make some good points. My level of outrage definitely depends on the product being advertised.

I guess what bothers me is that marketing is so much more ubiquitous now than it used to be. The ads on public television are a relatively recent development, and there are so many more tie-ins these days. Elmo's face is on everything from crackers to diapers to bubble bath. I can't even stand in line at the supermarket without seeing a barrage of ads. And at my daughter's age, she can't really distinguish between what's real and what isn't.

I do think parents wield the most influence, but we have less and less control as they grow older. Right now three of my daughter's playmates are obsessed with the Disney princesses, and short of saying she can't play with those kids (something I would never consider), there isn't much I can do about it.

1/23/07, 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my peeve isn't too heavy but it really ticks me off when the toys my son wants are inspired by movies he is not allowed to see. fast food meals also promote PG 13 movies, i don't get it and it really drives my six year old nuts!
p.s. love your blog it breaks up my "Groundhog Day" life

1/23/07, 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

lol...you may be shocked, knowing me, to learn that I don't mind the licensed characters so much (the wholesome ones as opposed to those "dollz" I love to hate) but the Hummer thing chapped my ass because, as you said, because it's a Hummer. The Honda PBS commercials don't bother me much at all.

That said, I do think it comes down to values, for me anyway, and Hummers represent so many things that I detest including, but not limited to, conspicuous consumption and blatant contempt for the environment.

When something that clashes with my values is being directly marketed to my children, it's maddening. You feel like you do all the right things to make sure your child is influenced first and foremost by YOUR values and you realize fucking PBS isn't even neutral territory anymore.

I think people just get frustrated because, well...it's frustrating. But, as many have suggested, I have discussed the nature of commercials with my daughter on numerous occasions and so, fortunately, she is somewhat aware of them.

1/23/07, 5:40 PM  
Anonymous ZMT said...

I appreciate your marketing perspective that outrage is in proportion to affection for the product... however, you are clearly missing a key distinction about the ads here and, say, McDonald's on PBS.

The target consumers of car ads are not children. Targeting children with car ads is an attempt to target parents indirectly, with the power of thier children's persuasion.

And that, to put it bluntly, is messed up. Do I need to post a long rant on that subject? Please say that I don't.

1/23/07, 5:46 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Parents need to stay strong. Marketers know kids often don't have the bucks to buy the products themselves; they rely on the 'nag factor'--ask mommy or daddy enough, and they will eventually give in for their precious offspring. I know parents who buy Coach bags for their 12 year old daughters. This is materialism run mad, IMHO.

On another note, did you see the 60 Minutes episode where they put a Spongebob sticker on a rock, put it next to a banana and then asked preschoolers if they'd rather eat the rock or the banana for breakfast? Many picked the f-ing rock!

1/23/07, 5:51 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

ZMT: Rant away, my friend. All opinions pro and con welcome wherever they may fall.

I would however characterize a car manufacturer's effort to target preschooleres less as "messed up" and more as a frivolous, stupid use of money. I doubt that many toddlers (or children for that matter) have real influence over their parents' automotive purchasing decisions. If they do? Those parents need a serious kick in head.

Kids are much more likely to influence purchases that they'll enjoy directly like say a Happy Meal or a Thomas Train set or at most a trip to Disney World. Maybe a Hummer Hotwheels car but not so likely an actual Hummer.

My guess is that it's an attempt to cultivate brand loyalty early on by seeding good childhood memories of the car brand. It's something alcohol and tobacco advertising has done for years only to a slightly older youth audience and with far more deleterious effects.

1/23/07, 5:58 PM  
Blogger ECR said...

I may not agree with what the Afflac duck says, but I'll defend to the death Gilbert's right to say it. And I'll die laughing ;)

1/23/07, 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Velma said...

I love that you articulated so well why I won't dress my son in the camo clothes. We've always followed the path of discussion and being aware of the fact that "ads are to try to sell you something." We've made a few educational purchases of things like the "No-Bake Cakes" where we talked about the ads, then went out and got some, tried them and discussed whether they lived up to the way the ads presented them.

Like so many others, I have a big problem with Hummers and Bratz, but the other stuff? There are worse things in the world than (gasp!) toy companies trying to sell my kids toys, you know?

1/23/07, 7:55 PM  
Blogger dazed said...

you will probably ban me for saying this, but I love the Aflac Duck! LOL.

1/23/07, 8:21 PM  
Anonymous madge said...

(sheepishly skulks out of room to hide daughter's camo pants...)

WELL SAID!

1/23/07, 8:50 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

YES, also I think I am in love with you ;-)

I agree with every single one of those points. My hot button lately is number 4. My daughter is leaving the princess girly toddler side of the store and moving into the hooker side. 4T... suddenly she "needs" mini skirts, leopard prints, and body hugging shirts. What the hell? Where are the normal clothes?

And then there is the public in general and the way they relate to little girls. My daughter is very into the whole princess thing. Which for her means wearing dresses with lots of tulle. I am not overly concerned. I trust it is a phase and she won't want to dress like this forever.

But other people say things like, "Oh are you waiting for your prince to come?" Funny enough is that she tells everyone she is marrying a princess when she grows up and they are going to carry swords and bows and arrows.

Oh I just thought of another thing that annoys the crap out of me. Commercials for things, like rated R movies like the Hitcher!!! during times and shows that children are watching.

1/23/07, 9:15 PM  
Anonymous mrs. Q said...

Very insightful posts. Never thought about camo in that way before. I live in back-woods Lakeville, so I thought of it more as a sarcastic nod to the 'hunters and gatherers' in these thayr parts. Ack.

I do twinge a bit when I see sponsorships by Chuck E Cheese (Where Everything is Sticky!) and McDonalds before Sesame Street, but I still feel better about that than the stuff that runs during Playhouse Disney or Nick. Egads.

And Fairly Odd Mom-- are you serious that the kids wanted to eat the rock instead of the banana? Um. Duuur.

1/23/07, 9:24 PM  
Anonymous Johnathan said...

It is nice that these big, bad companies actually pay for all of these programs that keep our kids entertained. The money's gotta come from somewhere. The other options are premium subscription fees, which do have the virtue of being cancellable when no longer needed, and taxes, which have the virtue of, hmmm.... nothing. As annoying as commercials can be, you and your kids can learn to ignore them. Just try ignoring taxes. So yes, commercials can suck, but I strongly prefer them to one of the principal alternatives.

1/23/07, 10:42 PM  
Blogger Asha said...

yur so smart. rilly rilly smart. (Too tired to formulate a more intelligent comment than that.)

1/23/07, 11:22 PM  
Blogger The German Girl said...

Being the mother of a 12 year old, who lives in Germany, this is speaking right to me. Germany is even worse, when it comes to advertising. Add the youth magazines that have nude centerfolds, and you have little adults! My daughter visited from Germany last summer and showed me her magazine. I about fainted.

Thanks for a great article.

1/24/07, 12:11 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Kids don't learn materialism in a vacuum. Parents not paying attention to what their kids are watching or playing are a big part of that. It's a challenge to teach them how to think critically about information presented to them, and advertising is a part of that. They'll be faced with ads every day for the rest of their lives (unless they find a commune off the beaten path), so they might as well learn how to handle it without becoming a Gimme Zombie.

Your category 1: Totally agree. Bratz dolls are icky, but not as much of a problem as Joe Camel.

1/24/07, 12:23 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

As the parent of two teens, I've worked long and hard at getting the to descern the marketing gimmicks they see in commercials. My kids have always watched TV, and they probably always will. But they know what garbage the advertisers are trying to sell them, and they don't fall for it.

I think it's the responsibility of parents to watch WITH their children and ask questions about commercials. If Hummer is marketing to kids, parents should counter those ads with thoughtful dialog on why Hummers suck. Present gas milage statistics. Talk about being too big for parking spaces. Discuss global warming. Let them learn the real facts and then decide for themselves if a Hummer really is a good deal.

I trust my kids to understand that they are part of the global universe and it's their responsibility to figure out what is a good product and what is crap. Unbelievably, this has been a very successful parenting plan. My kids rarely ask for anything that isn't energy efficient, good for the environment and good for them. Not that they don't love junk food, they do. But they know when the see ads for supposidly 'healthy' products that are really crap, that the ads are lying.

Isn't that what we as adults do?

1/24/07, 1:05 AM  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Cracking post, absolutely top-flight cracking post!

Many people have commented beautifully and covered many of my own thoughts on the subject so all I'll say is that brand loyalty is a powerful thing. The longer I live; and the fonder I get of Heinz baked beans; and the more sentimental I get about the ads for mild, green Fairy Liquid (a British washing-up liquid) that ran when I was growing up; and the more I crave McVitie's Rich Tea biscuits because "a drink's too wet without one", the more I understand the power of good marketing.

In Britain we don't use vacuums, we say hoovers; all jeep-like vehicles are landrovers (small l); we don't say loudspeakers we say tannoys. It was only the other year that I realized that Tannoy was a brand, I've small t-ed it in my head my whole life.

And then we get sentimental about these brands when we hit our 30s. I'm not sure if it's art or science but I know there are both good and bad wizards at work in the field, and, in the end, we make our own decisions for our children. Good and bad will always be out there; we decide where to draw our own lines. I can't recall a single case in the press of a child being damaged because her mother told her she may absolutely not have a Bratz doll. Should a child be traumatized by hearing "No!" then we're clearly failing her in other more important ways than exposure to consumerism.

Thanks for a terrific, concise, elegantly written post on a tricky, complex subject. You rock.

1/24/07, 1:17 AM  
Anonymous Imperfect Mommy said...

Great post, but I would expect nothing less on this subject. I, too, am concerned about my daughter watching a commercial and saying "mommy, we need that." But I know I show the same tendencies to her -- those pretty new kleenex boxes being example number one.

One thing I have started to watch is just the adult concepts. My daughter, who is 5, would catch the Disney channel in the afternoon and really liked some of the shows (zach and cody, raven, etc.). They seemed harmless enough, but now that she is older, she emulated the sexual innuendo and repeats comments that she doesn't understand. We have been cutting back on it a lot.

I definitely agree that concepts like war, violence, early sexuality, etc. are more troublesome than liking a Honda over a Chrysler.

1/24/07, 10:00 AM  
Blogger movin'mom said...

I have to refrain from comment here because I am too closely connected to the "Hummer" world.


I am constantly watching for that product placement since my husband spent a chapter of his career in the marketing field. Like the new Gwen Stefani/Akon video...."Sweet Escape" It is rare to me in the respect that they do not show much of the two vehicles but really zoom in on the product emblem. I don't know....does that sell a vehicle?

My 14 year old son saw it and said...I want the yellow one...that's what I am going to buy!
I said, "you can't even see the vehicle...how can you say that you want it? Unless he is thinking it comes with Gwen and Akon sitting in the vehicle.

*this is my pong to your ping. (the back and forth comments)

1/24/07, 10:32 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

bloomin' 'eck! doozy of a post and i fucking loved every word (though admit to being uneasy about the Afleck duck reference. I am not a lover of the duck, but I confess to rather liking the Geiko gekko and being a tad in love with the disgruntled Caveman. And no. I do not use Geiko.)

Sometimes when I listen to that "I Believe" segment on NPR, I think to myself, "well shit..what do I believe?? I mean, life is so COMPLEX" I do believe however that all purchasers or Hummers are, indeed, boneheads.

1/24/07, 11:46 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Movin' Mom: YES! Excellent point. I was also thinking that far more kids are going to be interested in Hummers based on what celebs are driving them, than the coloring book feature on their website. Product placement really does rule marketing these days.

1/24/07, 11:54 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because WonderBaby has recently begun make associations between the images that she sees on television (yes, the television is sometimes - cough - *often* on in our household) and things that she sees in stores (dare I admit this? we go to STORES). And it suddenly becomes *oh so tempting* - she recognizes the Backyardigan/Teletubby/Dora/fucking Elmo and hoots and I think, oh, wow, maybe this will provide me with one more moment of distraction. Look, baby! Dora on screen; Dora in your hand! And then I shudder at my complicity in this whole turn-your-kid-onto-STUFF cycle.

I'm not opposed to advertising - my husband makes TV commercials, and I like shopping and television etc, etc - but I am uncomfortable with the many ways and means by which we're pulled in, and,as I suggested a moment ago, made complicit in our childrens' formation as *hyper*-consumers. I recognize - and to some extent welcome - the fact that WB will become a consumer. But I want her to become a savvy consumer, a thoughtful consumer... so I get a bit discomfited when I find myself sliding backwards into sloppy consumerism on her behalf, and/or gently nudging her toward such consumerism because it buys me five minutes of quiet. Does this slope lead to Bratz Dolls or mini-Hummers? I sincerely hope not, because I will have to ask someone to Shoot. Me. Dead. if I slip in that direction.

Not exactly what you were talking about, I know, but I'm having trouble staying on topic these days. So you'll have to settle for 'not irrelevant.'

1/24/07, 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Pia said...

Love your post. No more camie's here. I didn't think of it that way. But if often is that way, isn't it. You (the consumer) thinks, oh, thats cute.... and buys it.

One of my hotties is Disney. What happened to princesses, just princesses? What do you want to be for Halloween - Cinderella (or one of the others). Not a princess, no a specific Disney princess.

I campaign for princess Fiona, if it has to be a licensed Character. At least she got spunk.

1/24/07, 1:54 PM  
Blogger movin'mom said...

Okay I gotta add this to my previous comment.

Yesterday I was moving furniture around the house and my 8 year old said (as I was moving a painting from one wall to the other) "You know what you need mommy, you need the HERCULES HOOK, they guarantee that you can barely see the hole in the wall.

Cut to later while making dinner:
He comes through the kitchen getting his groove on..

ME: "Where'd ya' get those dance moves?"

8 yr old: "YOGA BOOTY BALLET"

gee..have I been letting him watch too much tv?

1/24/07, 2:44 PM  
Blogger Karyn said...

Well said.

I can't add to this...but per your stellar post, I don't need to.

Well done you.

1/24/07, 3:01 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Great post, Liz. And fascinating dialogue. Bravo!

1/24/07, 3:18 PM  
Blogger creative-type dad said...

Interesting post. I agree with most of it.

Parents need to be more of a gatekeeper with their kids, because marketers are becoming more crafty.

And I'd like to see that commercial with the gal and the parade...uh, for research..

1/24/07, 4:34 PM  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

Excellent points & I agree 98%. The other 2% is still trying to envision the organic hemp layette.

1/24/07, 8:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ha ha ha - good luck getting that Hummer out of us! :)

You make some excellent points. I remember when I ran my parents' store, RJ Reynolds used to bombard us with all of this Joe Camel stuff (came FedEx, mind you - like it was that important) - signs, paper pads, pens, lights for the windows, clocks...I could go on and on. After awhile, we were so annoyed that we didn't even open the packages anymore - just tossed them right into the trash or gave them to customers. Which, BTW, wasn't the camel always accused of sporting a nose that looked like a...wang? That's what I remember the most.

Anyway. You said:
"The beauty industry, Laguna Beach, anorexic models, Barbies and their ilk, princesses as the end all be all--I do believe that a lot of these can be managed with parental involvement and the fostering of self-esteem at home. Let your kid (either sex will do) know that girls should be valued for more than their looks. It goes a long way."

Amen.

I really enforce that in my girls - especially the past few months, when our 4th grader has come home upset because a girl in her class announced that if she didn't talk to you, she thought you were ugly. Or when another girl in her class was sent home with head lice, and everyone was trying to tell my daughter not to be friends with her because of it (I can only pray those girls wind up with it someday), and she was avoiding the poor kid because of these other mean kids.

It is just getting so hard to be a parent now.

1/25/07, 10:02 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I love this. You argue so eloquently for common sense.

("guess what--her next one will only be available in Germany." = brilliant! I'm still laughing.)

1/25/07, 4:36 PM  
Anonymous L.A. Daddy said...

As a Marketing Director myself, I feel your pain. And I'll sit and watch TV and complain right along with everyone else.

I think the movie "Thank You for Not Smoking" is an example of how many marketers can not only convince others but also themselves that what they are doing is right. It's how they sleep at night. The ones who have no problems sleeping at night are truly the evil bastards. If you listen to all the ads by Phillip Morris - ads they were forced to make - you'll see their clever manipulation of the language:

"Talk to your kids about NOT smoking."

It's not about the dangers, the addiction, the pain and suffering from cancer. It's using the words to make the parents think they should be scolding their kids for something they're not even doing... thus making them WANT to do whatever their parents don't want them to do.

There are your evil bastards.

1/25/07, 5:51 PM  
Blogger bernalgirl said...

What she said.

Now I'm just going to sit back and wait for the hate mail from Germany (mebbe Lindsay Lohan could tour with that guy from Nightrider?).

1/25/07, 6:13 PM  
Blogger Design Mom said...

Excellent essay. I think I'm in lock-step.

Except on the camo. The fashion world has appropriated it thoroughly enough that "military" doesn't come to my mind upon seeing camo any faster than "safari" comes to mind upon seeing cargo pants.

I can safely bet this is true for my kids as well.

1/25/07, 8:20 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Oy - it's maddening. Don't get me started on the Hummer ads...

My children sing jingles and ask for products by name all the time. (Yes - perhaps it's time I shut off the TV.) Still - they want what they see and hear. Except for Hummers. They know better.

1/25/07, 9:22 PM  
Blogger Juliness said...

Impressively well-written post. Great argument for not wearing cammo. I never thought of it from that perspective...and I suppose I've just reinforced your point.

Hummers have always been a source of irritation for me. Beside the fact that they are pretentious gas guzzlers, does anyone really NEED an urban assault vehicle to take kids to school and grocery shop? Seriously.

I loved what Izzy said earlier, "Hummers represent so many things that I detest including, but not limited to, conspicuous consumption and blatant contempt for the environment."

So I guess my comment would be, "Yeah, what you guys said."

1/26/07, 12:11 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

you've made some really good points, and I hate to admit that I agree. (it's so much easier to just throw a giant umbrella of dislike over the entire shebang of the ad/mkting genre and be done with it.)

I like the idea that we walk through all this stuff with our kids, commenting thoughtfully along the way, and enriching them/getting them to genuflect on the smoke-and-mirrors of it all. I mean, hell. I don't plan on quitting my tv - I love it far too much for that. so I think my option is to talk about what works and what doesn't work for us re: what's being advertised.

thanks for this one, Liz. :)

1/27/07, 12:37 AM  
Anonymous nila said...

My kids are suckers for all those ads. The consensus of your comments seems to be that parents need to lead by example. And that is so true. If my kids are boneheaded enough to believe and buy into every ad they see, then I haven't done my job.

The marketing that really bothers me is the whole sugar free thing. It's supposed to be kid friendly because it's sugar free, but they don't tell you about the poison that goes into it. Hah, sugar free my ass!

1/27/07, 5:44 AM  
Anonymous joanne said...

I know that was an older post but just had to comment - fab!! Totally agree and its about time we all share responsibility!

1/30/07, 1:03 AM  
Anonymous barbex said...

Ok I`m late but I had to say it: Now what the hell should we do with Lindsay Lohan here?

2/4/07, 5:26 PM  

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