Karma, You Truly Are a Bitch, Aren’t You.

Close to two decades working in advertising and in all that time, I never really considered that one day I might have to downplay my own profession to my children.

“Mommy, maybe I can try this?” is the consistent refrain after any ad with even an iota of kid appeal.

“That’s a commercial,” I tell Thalia trying to channel my best Carol Channing in Free to Be You and Me. “It looks like a show but it’s not a show. It’s someone trying to sell us something. And sometimes those things are good and sometimes they’re not. So we need to be really really smart and look carefully at what they’re selling in that commercial and decide whether we really want to try it or not.”

“But maybe I can try that?”

“Sure honey,” I sigh. “Maybe.”

We don’t watch all that much commercial TV with her – and mostly the commercials are for other shows. Dora promoting Wonderpets, crack promoting heroin. But recently Noggin starting running some sort of insipid animated extended-length commercial featuring “The Huggies Clean Team,” which is sort of like a cross between the Muppet Babies, the Chipmunks, and a lobotomy.

Boy it got Thalia’s attention.

“Mommy! I want to watch this show.”

So I went into my commercial spiel. She seemed to get it.

The ad came on again yesterday.

“Mommy, it’s the commercial!”

“Yes, honey! You’re right! That’s a commercial.” I was so proud of my smart, media-savvy, not quite three year-old. “And what’s it trying to sell us?”


I beamed.

“And LOOK! That’s a funny looking snake!”

“Yes sweetie, it is. Because he is there to…”

“That snake is ALL BLUE.”

“Yes, yes he is. He is definitely blue.”

“And that’s a flamingo! Playing a banjo, mommy. A BANJO.”

“Yes sweetie. Because the commercial wants us to…”

“This is great! All these animals! I love animals, mommy. LOOK AT THAT FUNNY YELLOW FISH. Is it a whale? It’s a YELLOW WHALE MOMMY. I love that yellow whale.”

“Yes, of course you do. But sweetie, this is a commercial.”

“That is a commercial for diapers mommy. It’s not a show.”


“I love that commercial.”


“It’s a funny commercial. For diapers.”


“Maybe I can try this mommy? Maybe I can try it some time?”

The loud thud that followed was the sound of karma socking me in the gut with the force of a thousand yellow whales.


30 thoughts on “Karma, You Truly Are a Bitch, Aren’t You.”

  1. Bwah! I work for a market research firm that also does political polling and those voice-blast taped calls from the candidates (“Hi, this is Hillary Clinton….”). I live in Pennsylvania and am SO karma’s bitch this week as we count down to our hotly-contested Democratic primary. I’ve stopped answering the phone, it’s so bad.

  2. Ha!I’m just going to tell my daughter that she’s a big ball of Play-Doh and that the world is full of people who want it to take the shape <>they<> want and she has to be real sure that whatever shape that is, that she also wants it. And if she doesn’t, then she has to tell them to keep their hands off of her Play-Doh mindgrapes.And then she’s going to say “That’s a great ad for Play-Doh, dad. Can I have some?”

  3. I have one well deprogrammed and he points to cereal boxes with cool characters while we’re at the grocery, but he says to me, “Let’s get the Kroger brand of that cereal because it looks good here but that one will be cheaper”. Whoo Hoo Pook! But Bug seems to be drinking from their koolaid more and is more impressionable. I’m going to have to work much harder with him.

  4. Yeah, I am in product development, creating plastic crap for the mass of trash the size of Texas that’s floating somewhere in the Pacific. How do I explain that to my 2 year old??? Who am I kidding–she’s a sucker for plastic crap. She probably wants to live on that floating mass of trash, in that kelp-covered fairy land of old Dora dolls and tiaras.

  5. Ouch… Although we are currently childless I am dreading the day I come up against the fact that I sold my soul to satan when I made kids’ ads. Kudos for trying to explain the craziness of it all! Do you think it makes it harder having done it yourself?

  6. Ah, yes, advertising, the bane of parents everywhere. Luckily my older ones are more savvy and the baby doesn’t really watch TV much right now. When I first started college, I was an ad major, but soon realized I’m too much of a wimp to follow through. Much better to be TOLD what to write, for me. Speaking of, I guess I better get going on mah next article. (UGH)& btw, LOL at Susannah! Heee.

  7. We have programmed our children to hate commercials and understand that they are to be skipped or avoided. But wanna guess what happens when they watch TV at my Tivo-less in-laws? “That looks like a fun toy, Mommy, maybe I could get it for my next birthday?”

  8. I have a master’s degree in Media Ecology–read: Propaganda–and I’ve been telling my kids since they were tiny that commercials are just there to make you feel inadequate and sell you things you don’t need. That does not help one bit, though, when they see the shiny pretty things that the kids on TV commercials get to play with or eat. Argh. You advertising people are just too good!P.S. I love your blog!

  9. Awesome. I just love her growing excitement over the animals! Those must be the most rocking diapers ANYWHERE!!!! All other diapers suck and she will never, ever wear those kinds again. Just wait til she is in preschool and sees the other kids wearing those diapers.

  10. Isn’t it just evil how Noggin is throwing subtle commercials for products at us?Of course, Nick Jr. doesn’t even pretend. Cordy occasionally watches Nick Jr., and once during the commercial break between shows, she saw a commercial for some cleaning product (I think it was Swiffer?), turned to me, and said, “Mommy, you need that! It will make you happy!”Ugh.

  11. One reason why we only watch PBS Kids… Oh… and The Simpsons, but that’s mostly vehicle advertising. And I don’t mind so much being told “Mommy, your car is the Best in Texas”. Because I really really want to believe that commercial too…

  12. My oldest, then aged about 4 1/2, was finally allowed to watch some show that wasn’t on PBS (we solve a lot of these issues not having cable). This new show (I’ve clearly blocked it out of my head) had…commercials. After seeing this show several times, my sweet, pure boy came up to me, and very sincerely said, “Thank you mommy for letting me see this! Now I know what to ask for, for my birthday, thank you!”And suddenly, his devotion to watching other children unwrap their presents at parties was so clear to me. The poor child knew he should be wanting and consuming and yet was sadly thwarted. Happily, he’s now 17 and while he wants lots of things, he’s also extremely tight with his money.

  13. My three year old hasn’t seen a commercial yet, except the Dora pimpin’ Wonderpets, etc as you mention in your post. I think in a couple years the TV might just have to conveniently “break” until after he’s asleep. I so don’t want to buy Life cereal just because Mikey likes it!

  14. My mom used to tell us that if there was a commercial for something on TV it was because the product was no good and they had to convince people to buy it. “Anything worth having you’ll never see on TV.” That worked until I realized we had Pledge in the house and I screamed, “BUT IT’S NO GOOD! THEY USE COMMERCIALS!”

  15. b, that’s hilarious. Considering my father was in advertising too, that conversation definitely wouldn’t have happened around our house.

  16. Our son requested a “hot dog” for breakfast this morning, because he’d been watching a Dora episode in which Swiper was dressed as a giant hot dog. Even the shows are commercials.

  17. I have a masters in mass comm (including studies in advertising), and I’m still like this! BUT THERE ARE ANIMALS!!! I LOVE ANIMALS TOO!!!I’m hoping my hubby does a better job at explaining commercials to our little one, cause I will buy something just because I like the commercial (on the flip side, I’ll stop buying something if I don’t like the commercials). You guys have got me good. It’s why I read instead of watch TV these days. 😉

  18. You got advertising. I got fashion. Somehow it’s all inevitable that our kids know what we do. So while my little daughter doesn’t really understand the concept of commercials, she is obsessed with her clothing. Honestly, she’s the shortest fashionista on the planet. She’s three years old and she already knows how to accessorize. Lord help me!

  19. That is hilarious. Anna watches the “shows” that follow Blues Clues, but hasn’t caught on yet. Wish the dvr would just cut off when Steve & Tickety wrap things up.

  20. Loved the “Free to be You and Me” call out! Our 3 yo doesn’t pay much attention to commercials yet, she lets me fast-forward through them now, but there will come a day….

  21. I love that I can totally hear that conversation as you wrote it. I can see her little face mesmerized by the snake and the whale and it’s a funny commercial, mommy. For diapers.I love it.

  22. Commercials, oh how evil they are. We made our very first marketing encouraged purchase recently. Cali Gear by Skechers. We made it six and a half years before it happened though. I think that’s pretty damn good these days.

  23. “…with the force of a thousand yellow whales.” I loved that line.What I’ve noticed (and my boys have noticed) is that the advertisements very sharply divide the girls’ world from the boys’ world, much, much more so than my husband and I would ever have done. I think it has definitely changed how they see things, and not in a good way.

  24. My kids would be perfectly content just watching commercials, seeing amazing toys that they don’t have, salivating as they amass a wish list for their next birthday. Then again, my kids would be happy eating poptarts and marshmallows all day. If they like it, you know it’s bad for them.

  25. I still have a hard time NOT believing what I see on TV since I watched so much at an impressionable age (constantly from the time I could up till college) and my kids are the same. They see no difference between commercials, cartoons and documentaries. All are fascinating and obviously true. The best is when my 5 yr old starts recommending cleaning products to me with a glib sales pitch. “You need to get this mommy!”

  26. I work in marketing. My children are older now, so I can totally relate to these experiences. Recently, we had this exchange.“Look at the way they are trying to sell [the product] by using pretty girls.”“That’s right. Once you hit your teens, ads begin to use sex appeal as a powerful weapon to entice you.”“That’s stupid. I’d never fall for that.”The next day . . .“I think I want [the product].”“The ad got to you, huh?”“No! But, this cute girl at school thinks that it’s really cool.”So, if we are any indicator, karma will keep kicking for quite some time.– Your friends at < HREF="http://www.bestdogvideos.net" REL="nofollow">Best Dog Videos<>

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