Well, I predicted it nearly two years ago: The karma of writing commercial for a living has come back to get me and now I have children who sing that terrifying gimme back my filet o fish jingle over breakfast. I mean, that thing is creepy. Mad serial killer horror movie clown creepy.
Also? Thalia and Sage want me to buy a Kia Sorento because they think it comes with a giant sock monkey.
It’s alllll documented in black and white in the Toronto Globe & Mail today, whom I talked to about the new research suggesting that children as young as three understand branding.
Well duh, of course they do. Kids are smart.
In the research, the preschoolers are able to identify a McDonald’s logo and the fact that the Hamburgular goes with it–the same way if you showed them a picture of a farm and a school, they could tell you where the pencil belongs and where the sheep belongs. It’s symbolism.
Plus, we advertising pros use patented technology to implant special, inaudible child-targeted memory-retention signals subliminally throughout ads. Just to be sure.
No, I kid. The signals aren’t yet patented.
Of course one point I made that wasn’t included in the article: Kids may recognize brands and ads but it doesn’t mean the ads are necessarily influential: Thalia and Sage wouldn’t eat fish if you paid them.
(They also didn’t mention that while yes, I worked on the Cabbage Patch Kids account for all of two months in my very first job, I was moved off it before I actually made any ads because my humor was “too dark for Hasbro.”)
In seriousness, I do try to talk to my daughters about what commercials are so they can start to be equipped with some critical thinking skills as future consumers. The fact is, we live in a commercial world and I think trying to avoid it or deny it does more harm than addressing it straight on. That’s why my bigger concern isn’t with commercials; at least commercials scream loud and clear that they’re commercials. What we have to be diligent about as parents are all the other branding and marketing devices out there that slip under the radar.
It’s the bright shiny soda machines. It’s the candy bars placed at children’s eye level at the check-out counter. It’s the princesses on the diapers. It’s the Hooters girls on the sides of phone booths. It’s walking through the cereal aisle and having to say, pick any one that doesn’t have a cartoon character on it. It’s the doll to go with the key chain to go with the animated series to go with the live ice skating show which then has its own key chain.
I guess I can always turn off the TV, but I can’t exactly turn off the world.
How do you talk to your kids about marketing? Is it ever too early? When a kid sees an ad for a piece of crap toy and says “I want that!” what do you say?