Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Children and Marketing

This is just a quick pet peeve that N and I have noticed - and probably so has every parent in the last 10 years, we are just new to it. Anyway, it is that it is virtually impossible to purchase certain items for a child that are not tied to some movie, TV show, or prominent brand. I am not saying there is just a Barney tag on the sheet, the entire sheet is a huge Barney cornucopia. N went looking, at Sears and Walmart too I think, for a simple blanket for B. You can buy a Sponge Bob blanket, a Toy Story or Finding Nemo blanket, a Thomas the Tank Engine blanket, but there literally are no simple blue blankets. We saw a couple tents for children recently. There were two choices - Hot Wheels (cars from top to bottom covering every inch) or Barbie (same covering, just light pink and Barbie everywhere). Nothing else. This is quite pervasive. For many goods, there is no choice other than the marketing tie-in choice.

This exists in the adult world in certain places. I have often been frustrated by the fact that it is almost impossible to buy any sort of sporting good - like a t-shirt and shorts - that doesn't make you a walking advertisement for Nike, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, etc. Try going to a sporting goods store and buying athletic clothing that doesn't have a prominent logo on it. How did we go from being paid to carry ad boards on our backs to paying for the privelege of doing so?

Anyway, I once heard an interview on the radio with the author of this book.
Born to Buy . It is about marketing to children, typically at ages where there are plenty of studies indicating that they do not yet have the ability to understand what is a commercial and what is not. I remember some ad exec chuckling during the interview saying that kids will buy what they want, and who knows if the ads have any effect. This is of course completely disingenuous. I mean they aren't spending $15 billion a year because for no effect. They know it works or they would not spend the money.


Killer Llama said...
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Killer Llama said...

Even though I fear this may make me sound farther left than I really am, I am coming to believe that our capitalist econcomic system is just out of control. Rampant branding is one relatively harmless example; resource depletion is one that's more serious. But both are sinister in that they've become so ingrained in western "culture" that any attempt to actually change our patterns seems practically impossible.

What will happen when China finally gets rich? 265 million Americans are damaging enough. 1 billion new middle class consumers will devastate the planet...

I truly believe we need a global government; a body that is empowered with managing the global commons. I also firmly believe that no such body will ever come into being until a crisis occurs of such grand proportions that no other alternative is available. Such a crisis will not be pretty, and will have to impact the Global North, where the power lies. Rising sea levels will be one factor; possibly a decline in Western hegemony will be another as China and the Middle East accumulate more influence. Oil prices will never come down; global reserves are projected to be completed expended within 50 years. Wars over oil will only become more frequent. It's a second Great Depression in the making, and another world-wide conflict will most certainly follow, just as it did before.

When the world's copious consumers reap the consequences of their actions then maybe this resurgent neoliberal economic orgy will finally be checked with some Keynsian common sense. Maybe then you will be able to acquire a simple blue blanket.

pacatrue said...

Viva La Revolution!

OK, I know you aren't saying that, but it was good to stereotype you as a rabid Red anyway just for the fun of it.

It reminds me. Maybe it is just cause I used to be in Nashville and not very near the downtown University set, but it has been fun to see that Communism is good and alive here still. I don't really mean the true Bolsheviks. I just mean those old tried and true Communists with the Che Guevara t-shirts, and a little Revolution newspaper put out by the Workers Communist Party, and the like. Those who are still working, or at least writing about working, on expanding the Unions to take back the Means of Production. You miss those guys. I mean, I think of Communism as a philosophy as as dead as the dodo, but it is nice to see people still clinging to it.

Not that you were. This is free association Monday.

I completely agree that for a stronger international government to be created, there will have to be a catastrophe of some sort. It took World War I and World War II to get the U.N. approved by the U.S Congress.

It is interesting that you mention the idea of the decline of the West, when the US is the only Superpower in the world. And yet China will have to be considered a likely superpower within 50 years. The only thing to prevent that is some sort of internal collapse within. It is not easy to make the transitions they are trying to make, and with all the progress they are making, there are equal problems being created, so you never know where things will lead.

As for getting a plain blue blanket again, I have some hopes unless the marketing brain-wash is even stronger than I realized. I think of many of the brand logos stuck on everything now as originally a fashion decision. People wanted to show off with a Ralph Lauren or Izod or Nike symbol on the clothing. And it just expanded and expanded. But if it ultimately is fashion, then surely it will change again one day. Maybe. When I am dead.