Children: Advertisers are coming for your brains! (Oh wait…that’s me.)

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?


60 thoughts on “Children: Advertisers are coming for your brains! (Oh wait…that’s me.)”

  1. I usually say, “I'm sorry you want that, but it ain't going to happen.” Most of the time they don't even ask anymore, so I guess I've done my job right.

  2. I laughed at the McDonald's reference because while yes, those golden arches offer a strong branding element that Laurel has long recognized, whenever she sees them she also says, “I'll never go there! Their food is full of chemicals! Their meat isn't happy!” (Hmmm… wonder where she got that…I think I was reading Fast Food Nation when the topic first came up with her.)

    We do talk to her about commercials — and also the wants that come with seeing what her peers have — as the need arises. The first part of it is explaining that just because something is on TV doesn't mean it's any good (there's a Berenstain Bears episode she has seen that hits on this topic). And usually things are dispelled when we talk in terms of “one thing in, one thing out” — meaning, if she wants something new, we need to look for some things she no longer plays with to donate to charity or pass along to friends.


  3. OMG, I'm not going to have nightmares about a Cabbage Patch doll coming for me while singing that Filet-o-Fish song. And, it boggles my mind that people want to EAT fish because of a song from a dead singing fish.

    It's amazing what logos my kids can recognize, even from a very early age. But you made a good point that kids can recognize the products but it's up to parents to make the purchase. . .

  4. I bought my 4 year old kid a new “gun” for the Wii. He noticed the cardboard Wiimote in it, which generated a very interesting conversation between us that ended in my talking about packaging and marketing.

    Great post.

    I think it is human nature to want, want, want – then, to want some more. It is just another job as a parent to teach our kids self-control and how to make appropriate decisions.

    Interestingly enough, I am seeing far more “branding” issues with my 2.5 yo daughter than with my 4 yo son. The Princess Pandemic is NOT for the faint of heart.

  5. Semi-related, I was looking at my kids' school lunch calendar and realized they are now including brand names in the menu. “Tyson chicken patty sandwich”, “Tony's sausage pizza”, etc.

    It's a sad state of affairs that schools are so strapped they feel the need to do this sort of thing in exchange for a better deal on their crappy food.

  6. McDonald's has a lot to answer for. The food may suck, but the advertising is generally brilliant. Creepy brilliant but brilliant. A logo that basically screams FRENCH FRY and is recognizable by children at a very very young age. Scary clown face characters and yes, now that damn filet of fish commercial. I wonder, would people think it as funny if it were a cow mooing give me back that hamburger?

    The most effective tool I have against advertising? “I'm not going to buy it for you but if you really want it I suppose you could save your own money for it.” Of course sometimes I have to defend his college fund, but that usually works to reset the priorities.

  7. Here's my response: “I know you want that. Is that something you want to save your allowance for?” Then, oddly, their desire diminishes.

    I think you're so right, we can't shield them in a world that shouts advertising at them at every turn. So I guess we'd better teach them how to be discerning.

    p.s. I see I'm not the first to say it, and we all surely thought it: the fact that your humor is too dark for Hasbro is exactly why we're sitting here reading…

  8. My daughter who is 4 is obsessed with that Filet-O-Fish song. She actually wanted to try a fish sandwich from McD's the other day. She did eat half. I couldn't believe it. This is the same kid that only wants to eat chicken nuggets and mac & cheese.

    When my kids say that they want whatever is on tv I tell them that we can't just buy everything that they see or we won't have any money to do fun things or buy food. They get it most of the time.

  9. Great post. Also a copywriter, now with older kids (8 and 10) who are very aware of advertising. We talk about it a lot. Have actually found it a very good way to talk about other areas in life where people will try to persuade you: peer pressure, politics, etc.
    Okay, now I can't get that fish song out of my head…

  10. I take a hard line on almost all branded stuff, but you know what I really hate? Telling CJ I'll read any book to her except the ones featuring cartoon characters.

  11. I live in the Philly area where a long roll sandwich filled with cold cuts and cheese and lettuce and what have you is called a Hoagie.

    My older two boys call them Five Dollar Footlongs. That is advertising for you.

    I have not yet had any conversation with them about advertising because, well, I was hoping some advertising exec somewhere would come up with a 30 second spot that they could show during Phineas and Ferb that discusses the evils of commercials. Then I think my kids would get it.

  12. Between commercials and friends at school, we're battling the desire for every single kind of toy out there that we'd never even heard of.

    Interestingly enough, the commercials don't even really need to be good.

    Or maybe that's just at my house.

  13. Both my children, 2 and 4, recognize many brands. But judging by the comments, I'm much more laid back about a lot of this stuff than other moms.

    If my son happily brushes his teeth with the Spiderman toothbrush, I'm happy to let him have it. If he wants the Diego underpants, that's fine, too.

    When shopping, my kids understand that they can pick up a toy and carry it through the store with them, but it doesn't mean they're bringing it home.

    If they ask for a questionable toy, I mark down the name and tell them I've put it on the list. When gift getting occasions arise, I refer to the list and ask them if they still want any of those items.

    I recognize that I can't protect them from everything, so I focus my efforts on what I feel is important. I also know that if I deprive them of certain things, they'll find other ways to obtain them.

    Everything in moderation.

    PS: My daughter just got a 27 year old Cabbage Patch Doll, STILL IN THE BOX, from my MIL. That advertising shit works.

  14. I gave my kids a long-winded explanation of what commercials are and how our job as viewers is to think critically about whether we really need what the commercial is trying to sell us. My kids summary of what I explained: “Commercials are yucky.” So they don't quite get it yet.

  15. Julie, I don't think most of the readers are brand-averse here. My daughters have Wall-E toothbrushes and we're no stranger to Dora vitamins.

    I can only speak for myself, but mostly I don't want my kid to develop bad habits driven by marketing, or to find themselves in that Gossip Girl world in a few years where one's self worth has to do with the label on your handbag.

    (God help me!)

  16. When my kids beg me for something at any store, I ask my kids if they have the $$ to buy it. Usually the answer is no or a stall because they don't even want to CONSIDER the possibility of spending THEIR money. My children have also experienced the whole planned obsolescence thing when toys or toy parts break quickly (and need to be replaced or you risk wasting the bigger toy it went with) or when they don't function as the commercial promised they would. I gently remind them that it's a lesson learned and we know better next time.
    I do let my kids spend their own money sometimes on something they feel they *cannot* live without. Sometimes it's worth it to them and sometimes they learn a hard lesson.

  17. It cracks me up that your humor was too dark for Hasbro. I once submitted an idea to the Food Network that had a Quentin Tarantino look-alike chopping up hot dogs in a mini-guillotine. Yeah. No.

    My kids are 4 and 5 years old and aren't really asking for much branded stuff yet, but when they do, I'm planning on using my cover-all-bases phrase that I employ when they want to watch too much TV, “No. Because it will turn your brain to mush.”

    For some unknown reason, this image really freaks them out.

  18. My huband and I have started a drinking game…everytime our 5-year-old says, “I want that” (or a similar version) after a commerical we have to take a drink. (It is usually of our water or milk since if we made it a REAL drinking game, the 5-year-old would be putting Mommy and Daddy to bed by 6:30)

  19. My 5yo daughter is all about McDonald's. Mostly she plays with the toy and throws away the food.

    My husband is in sales so I can't explain that commercials are the devil; instead I talk to the kids about persuasion. My daughter doesn't get it yet but my 8yo will say things like, “They're trying to make me want to buy that and they're doing a good job! I DO want to buy that!”

  20. All I can say is thank god for Dora underpants, or we may never have gotten potty training underway.

    We don't “do” princesses yet, but my daughter (almost 3) knows all about them from day care.

    The first time she pointed at Mickey Mouse on her diapers and knew who that was (when we had never shown her anything to do with him), I realized that I couldn't really fight the no-brands battle.

    And you know what, I kind of like Dora.

    But we have started talking to her about commercials and what they are trying to do. She doesn't see many, because she only watches Dora, PBS, and DVDs, but we let her watch some of the Olympics and that had plenty of ads to talk about.

    I'm with you- my main goal isn't to shield her from the stuff, but to give her a healthy attitude about it. I have no idea how I'll do that. I'm making it up as I go!

  21. My son just turned two and after a month-long abstinence from all things Cheerios saw one commercial glorifying those delicious little circles and needed a bowl immediately (of which he finished every last bite). While I actually welcomed this change of heart (I mean, they're better than goldfish for breakfast, right?) I was amazed at the power of advertising for a kid this young.

  22. When my daughters tell me they want something, I tell them they can ask for it for their birthday or Christmas. Doesn't mean they are going to get it, though.

    As far as packaging and marketing in the rest of the world, I am struggling to read Packaging Girlhood. So, uh, maybe I'll have a better answer for you once I get through it. It's supposed to be about giving parents the tools to talk about marketing with their daughters (there is also one for boys, Packaging Boyhood) and how to navigate the world outside of it.

    Did that make sense?

  23. I have a rule we never buy anything off of a commercial, they have to tell me why they want it and it can't “because the TV.” I also will not let the kids watch cartoon network, (sponge bob) being my biggest no watch show. I also I do not buy any character clothing. A point my MIL thinks all kids should like characters. But my kids are not walking ads. But as my son is 9 and his friends ask why he can watch sponge bob and anything rated Y7. I think the bubble is going to burst. So I know my end is near…but I hope it can last a little longer.

  24. I've had a number of interesting conversations recently (on and off my blog) about advertising, including fast food companies sponsoring olympians and formula and bottle companies advertising to moms.

    One person I was conversing with said that she tells her kids advertising is just people trying to convince you to buy things you don't need. I think if you start from that premise with your kids, you can then have interesting conversations about how advertisers are trying to push junk on them and how they are smarter than that.

    That said, advertising works. It works on kids. It works on adults. If it didn't work, no one would do it. Everyone likes to think they are smarter, their kids are smarter, but really…?? really??
    Maybe not everyone is duped by every message, but I think there are plenty of messages out there that catch us in moments of weakness or moments of lust that do seep in. Or the subliminal things that you hear over and over and over again and then start to believe without consciously doing so (like babies drink from bottles, only beautiful princesses live happily ever after, etc.).

  25. Mom 101 – It's certainly not unheard of that I misunderstood something. 😉

    Yes, I'm wholeheartedly on board with a world that doesn't equate self-worth with a label.

    My parents and siblings were the least fashion/brand conscious people on the planet, yet that didn't stop me from wanting the latest trends during high school. But as an adult, I'm back to not giving a crap about any of that.

    I'm sure my kids will go through the same phase. I can only hope we do a good enough job instilling values that it'll be just that… a phase.

    For now? It's all about getting the Ernie diaper for my daughter.


  26. @PHD

    I can give you the standard annoying advertising response which is that I can't make anyone buy anything they don't need. I've yet to see a guy buy a pack of OBs for himself, no matter how great the ads are.

    I think that a lot of those messages about princesses (and yes, bottles) come from media and cultural influences beyond advertising – but you know that! It's that constant conversation about whether ads reflect the culture or shape it. It's both.

    I don't think that every product is junk or that every brand is bad. So while it's a conveniently broad description for kids, personally I prefer to explain that some products are good and some are bad and we need to work hard to decipher which is which.

    I mean heck, if it weren't for ads, how would I know that the new season of Real Housewives is only DAYS AWAY?

    That's important stuff right there.

  27. Great post. I haven't had the pleasure of hearing the filet-o-fish song, but proof that good advertising takes over your brain is that I can still sing most of these:

    “Big mac, McDLT, quarter pounder with some cheese, …etc… I love McDonalds good times great taste, and I get this all at one place”

    “tweet tweet, twiddle twiddle, there's only one candy with the hole in the middle…”

    …but can never remember whether my brother's birthday is on the 23rd or 24th.

    My daughter (nearly 3) definitely notices & recognises brands & characters, but she doesn't seem to care whether we buy those brands or not. She'll often see something and say “Oh, I've got that on my TV!”, in the same way she says “Oh, look, that toothbrush is red and blue like my toothbrush at home”… so for us it's not a big deal. Saying that, she only watches a couple hours of ad-free TV a week.

    On the other hand her friends at nursery are hugely influential – we MUST buy the purple shoes because her friend has purple shoes, and she is constantly asking us to buy her some “Crocs”. One day I might give in, but til then I'll keep using “they don't fit” as an excuse and hope that she never works out that I can just ask the shop assistant to fetch the correct size.

  28. The rampant proliferation licensed products is my biggest pet peeve. The perfume is the worst example, but honestly head into any department store kids' section and see how many clothes DON'T have a licensed character on them. It drives me batty.

    We don't have a TV, so my children's exposure to marketing is somewhat limited, but of course they do see friends with toys. My compromise is that I won't buy them cheap plastic tacky stuff, but I don't sweat it if other people do. So far, grandparents, aunts and uncles have ensured that my kids have more than enough noisy, licensed products to last them, and I ensure that we have other toys to balance it. It's not perfect, but it's generally OK.

    And we do talk about advertising and marketing, but my 5-year-old still doesn't totally GET it. For example, she likes McDonald's food, so therefore it must be good for you and noble and benevolent. I'll just keep sharing my viewpoint, and I trust that when she gets older she'll understand.

  29. I gave in once and bought the mac-n-cheese with a character on the box and character shaped pasta inside. When I cooked it up, there wasn't enough for the two of my boys to eat! I showed them the two boxes- store brand and character brand, and showed them how one had more in it but cost less. Seeing was believing- they were convinced.

    We had the same conversation in the cereal aisle and now they know that we have to pay for the pictures on the boxes even though the boring boxes have food that tastes the same.

    As for commercials, they see few, but I'll point one out and say, “hmm, I wonder what it is about that sock monkey that makes the car sellers think it will convince people to buy the car?” We talk about it and it keeps them aware of what the commercials are trying to accomplish.

  30. Cancel the cable. Show your kids early and often the power of helping others (those who can't afford a roof over their heads, let alone a Dora lunchbox). And treat them to a Happy Meal every once in a while. Everything in balance, in moderation, right?

    (And don't forget the magic Target logo. My daughter knew that one before she could talk.)

  31. At 22 months we're not at the “I want that” part yet (at least not at the part where I can't convince him otherwise), but I have found that he *loves* logos. The idea of matching drawings? Just genius. Starbucks is his favorite: the cup matches the napkins matches the windows matches the door…oh yeah. That's a good time for a toddler.

  32. My 5 year old brought me the land line phone and told me she had to text 424242 or something like that so she could talk about her love life. Thanks Nickelodeon! (No more “Full House”)

  33. There's been lots of research done on the influence of advertisements on young children all of which concludes that children exposed to adverts show a preference for the foods etc shown in the ads, no matter how briefly they view them for.

    The answer? There are a number of things you can do, one of the most critical in my view being to ensure that in the weaning and toddler phases you only introduce to your child foods that you are happy about them eating. If they've never had it then they won't crave it. One of my friends has a twelve month old who, aside from formula, only consumes french fries because that was the first “food” (I use that term in the broadest of senses – as Jamie Oliver says a french fry is not a vegetable) her parents introduced her to.

    Once they get to a certain age of course children are going to get all sorts of exposure to advertising, what other children consume, branding etc so then as many other respondents to this post have noted, it's a question of being tough when you need to be and also sometimes let them have a treat. Very few things in moderation are bad for you, so sometimes it is OK to let you kids have the candy etc just so long as overall they are eating a balanced diet.

  34. I love TiVo for many reasons, most of which have to do with my love for crappy shows like “Burn Notice” and the fact that I can program my tivo to record without need an advanced engineering degree. But also I love it b/c then when we watch “Penguins of Madagascar” (those writers could never work at Hasbro either) or “Clone Wars” or whatever else, we zip thru the commercials. Whuzzat? Uh…nothing. True, I can't fast forward thru the crap that barrages us on the streets of nyc (and don't get me started about that %^&$& TaxiTv) but at least we avoid the most egregious re-singing of jingles. Mostly.

  35. Great post!
    I work on a contract basis in order to be with my boys as much as I can. I started relating the cost of things with my boys quite early (ie. “It would take Mom a week of work to pay for that toy.”) Most of the time, they agree that it wouldn't be worth it.
    As for food products, since they have been old enough to read, we have two rules:
    1) If sugar is one of the first three ingredients, we don't buy it.
    2) If they can pronounce ALL of the ingredients on the package, then we will discuss the purchase of the item. (You should see the reaction of people in the grocery store to this one!)
    These two parameters pretty much rule out every processed food in the store.

  36. I just about lost my mind a few months ago when I saw Disney EGGS. Yes, this is a food product as in you-could-make-scrambled-eggs with them (or your husband could, at least…).
    Of course my daughter wanted them. Then I had to say, “They are just regular eggs. There's nothing special about them. They just have characters on them because they want you to pay more.”
    Now that's she into Hannah Montana I find that we have this conversation more and more often. “You don't even know what that cereal tastes like… I'm not going to buy it just because there's a picture on the box.”

  37. I loved reading the post, but not for nothin', the comments are amazing! My boys don't watch tv. But they do go to daycare. So somehow my 4 yr old knows about “shooters”, “superheroes”, and “The Incredibles.” Whatev. As long as I'm not being asked to buy them Disney shit or Dora shit or Elmo shit (particularly Elmo shit) I'm happy. And they seem pretty content playing with their empty toilet paper rolls. (I know. I'm a bad mom.)

  38. I've been talking to my big girl about commercials and advertising since she was old enough to sit in a shopping cart. Kids are pretty smart. She totally understands, as a 6-year-old, that Dora is on the front of a yogurt because it helps the yogurt company sell the stuff.

    And like Boston Mamas' little girl, my little girl understands that just because something has some glittery packaging or a cool ad, that doesn't mean it's good for her. But then again she doesn't watch much TV.

    I can't say the same about her daddy, though. My husband has been singing that fillet of fish song for about two weeks now. It's driving me nuts!

  39. This makes me grateful that we don't have any tv reception. Still, we're not immune to consumerism. Good luck finding a sippy cup or bouncy ball WITHOUT a logo character on it. My solutions, such as they are: we do a lot of activities that don't involve anything branded — like going to the park, or cooking pretzels, or having fantasy tea-party robot-fighting something-or-others. We put off buying begged-for items with the phrase, “Okay, the next time you need new shoes, we'll look for the princess-logo shoes you so desperately want now. But you don't need new shoes now.” We get some of the stuff I hate (Princess DVDs and Curious George books) from the library, so then we'll have to return it — although I hope it will bore her eventually anyway — I'm just not fool enough or courageous enough to ban it entirely.

    All of that is pretty obvious. Here's the only odd one: I religiously observe my own mother's rule of never buying cereal that has sugar as one of the first 3 ingredients. It's harder than it sounds.

  40. I finally caved and bought Roo a pair of Twinkle Toes sneakers for her birthday. She's been asking for them for months now, the Skechers ads run constantly on Disney XD. Jasper's only two but even he has gotten the message that “grocery store” means “possibility of new toys” and so he will wail that sad refrain anytime we get into the car. Ugh. The only thing I can do is to remind them that stuff that's on TV isn't necessarily as cool in person as it looks. Easier said than done. Man, I really wanted Guess jeans in junior high. Even though they made my butt look like a lego block.

  41. I have a feeling I might get unintentionally preachy here.

    First though, there are major benefits to going overboard wtih the “only natural foods” movement. Whole Foods 360 brand doesn't have any marketing deals with Disney or Hasbro. Most natural food companies don't employ cartoon tactics. All the cereal boxes have pictures of windmills and soybean facts on the back. Maybe an occasional picture of a panda. No brands. No toys. It's awesome.

    My kids have never been to a MacDonalds. They don't know what it is. They'd be the ones who didn't know the arches meant hamburgers. Oh and they don't watch cartoons. So no commercials yet.

    It will hit at some point. And we will talk about it.

    To me, the greatest thing a kid can learn to live with is wanting something and not getting it and realizing they are still happy. A kid who always has a want granted is going to grow into an adult who isn't comfortable with not having the things they want. That is a scary person. A person who can't wait, can't save, can't be content.

    We are talking about a generation of young folks who want to live in flats and houses out of college (or during college) that their parents couldn't afford until they were 35, or 50, or ever.

    Things don't buy happiness. The best thing I can do is set an example of this. We don't get everything.

    BTW If they made a freaking kids' toothpaste that didn't have a character I'd probably get that. But we have Belle underwear. It hasn't killed us.

    But I don't want my daughter – like you said Liz, to think her worth to others will be best measured by a Dooney & Burke purse in high school. That is crap.

  42. PS. I just read all the rest of the comments. Good stuff. I get so much shit from my family about how uptight I am about food. Glad to see other families out there reading ingredient lists in the store. I am not alone!

  43. I shop at Whole Paycheck and Trader Joe's…so the food I buy isn't branded with a character.

    I fast forward thru the advertisements…ah, the beauty of DVRs as to limit the exposure to ads…

    All that's allowed currently is PBS programming…but Moose's only 2.5 and I know that's bound to change.

  44. Great comments! I have found many takeaways for how to talk about this with my kids.

    We do have the fun underwear and toothbrushes, fine. That creates some incentives and I am okay with that. And I am okay with the clothes (says she who bought her fair share of concert t-shirts in high school.) We do eat at McDonald's for fun and the kids know it is NOT healthy – that it is just a treat.

    Sure, it is a balance.

    But you know the branding has gone overboard when you find GLUE STICKS that come in hues of pink and are emblazoned with princesses. Can my baby girl not find inspiration with a plain glue stick? Why, yes! Yes, she can.

  45. I actually make a point to not buy anything that is advertised on t.v. If I want something, I will go find it. Don't serve it to me as a shiny red apple on a silver platter. No thank you. And, my kids….well they see right through it too. I didn't have to teach them anything. Well, maybe it's in the jeans.

  46. It's interesting in that I work in marketing/advertising and also have kids. it's a part of our world, so we have taught them, from early on, that it's a necessary part of life…people need to sell stuff and people need to buy stuff.

    But we don't necessarily have to buy the stuff just because someone told us to.

    They may be overly jaded about the whole thing now, but at least I no longer have a six-year-old telling me I need Aquaglobes.

  47. I L O V E that freaky fish commercial. I have children that are older (15 & 20), so now when they spend “thier” own money it's different. They are a little more choosey as to what they buy.

    Unfortuntely on occasion I am the one still buying their over priced clothes.

  48. I remember when my daughter was your daughters' age, and she REALLY wanted to go to McDonalds. She didn't like the food. She rarely ate it. She just wanted the toy. Grrr. Didn't take her often, esp once we found out she didn't like the food.

    It's hard. But while they may be very susceptible while they're little, by the time they're teens, they trust no one. So there's hope.

    I remember when they first started having animated characters for toys in commercials. My cousin was young enough to believe that the gymnast Barbie would actually do back flips and so on, not just be dressed in a leotard. She was pissed when she got one, and the family all thought she was a spoiled brat. Me? I was on her side. How was she to know? She was 5. THAT is when advertising fails our children, when it represents toys and products as something that they are NOT.

    She survived the exeprience, shockingly.

  49. And while all products may not be crap, nor the commercials, my cousin might perhaps have been happy with the gymnast Barbie if she knew it was JUST A BARBIE. It was the advertising that misled her and ruined it for her.

  50. This is so true. I sneezed the other day and my four year old suggested Claritin.

    As far as the constant requests for toys that they'll never get? We tell them to put the toy on their “wish list”. Eleanor's list is a page long with items such as Totally Nails and Swim to Me Puppy. She seems pretty content knowing they are her list.

    A kid can dream, right?

  51. Like Amber, I don't have a TV in the house. My wife and I couldn't decide what cable provider to use ten years ago, and we have been TV-free since then.

    Our twins are only 8 months old, and I guess I won't be surprised if we cave and get a TV in a few years, but for now the only media they experience is NPR, so I expect that they will be nagging me about the Robert Wood Johnson foundation as soon as they start talking.

    I think I'm going to write a blog entry about that right now. Check it out. (Sorry if I have violated self-promotion etiquette–I'm am extremely new to this stuff.)

  52. I say, “That's a piece of crap!” Okay, I don't say that. I just try and fast forward the commercials as much as possible. My son is 6 and my daughters is 3. So far they have not really asked for things they have seen on commercials – yet.
    And the irony is that I was in over 20 commercials when I was a kid for a bunch of unhealthy restaurants, sodas and the like.

    What I am concerned about is all the magazine covers in the grocery store!!! My son doesn't read yet, but I wonder what he thinks when he sees all these half naked women next to the gum! Yikes!

  53. When Jake was 7, he wanted a Mouse Trap board game. I remembered Mouse Trap and how it was a piece of junk that never worked. He whined and fussed, and eventually…I let him use his birthday money to buy it.

    It fell apart immediately, wouldn't work, and in general was a piece of crap. He returned it and bought something else.

    Natural consequences. He really was more judicious about his purchases after that. Plus we had a lot of talks about commercials, and how companies don't care if things really work…they just want your money.

    And, I always refused to buy things with movie/tv characters/logos etc on them. (ie Harry Potter toothbrushes, fruit snacks etc)

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