Is Marketing Destroying Our Childhood?

It is a sunny Sunday afternoon and I enter the supermarket with my list in one hand and a shopping basket in the other. There is nothing special about my list; laundry detergent, hand soap, bread and milk are some of the items I have been running low on the last few days. I immediately head for the bread aisle when I notice the long line of items titled whole wheat, pumpernickel and white bread and then more titles on top of those, Wonder, GreatValue, SaraLee and so much more. I stand for a minute before walking up to a fresh package of whole wheat bread that I’ve seen my mother buy a hundred times. It goes in the basket without another thought, “I know I like this kind” is the thought that runs through my head as I move on to the next item on my list.

This simple act of purchasing a brand based on the preconceived notion that I will continue to buy the same brand my mother brought growing up is the act of marketers and nothing less. The art of marketing to a particular demographic is based on the ideology that if one member of a family is targeted by a certain brand, then as a result the rest of the family will be swayed to do the same.

Unlike hegemony in which the type of power that is maintained over citizens is normal, ideology is a set of ideas that are presented in a way that seems obvious or natural. In the case of marketing, the media target people from birth to choose one brand over another. According to “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood” commercials spend $40 billion in marketing products to children under the age of 12. They focus on the “nag factor,” how often they can get a child to ask for something before the parent agrees.

As a child I remember sitting on the counter-top while my dad made coffee and I would watch him dip the spoon into the Folgers coffee and walk out onto the deck and share a morning conversation. It is because of this nostalgic feeling that keeps me grabbing the Folgers coffee and bringing it to the checkout line.

While this is a subconscious tactic, marketing agencies present their product in a not-so-subtle way on a daily basis. It is constantly presented in films such as “Yes Man” which seems to constantly be marketing a product. From the mention of Red Bull and how it is represented by the amount of energy Jim Carey has to the Ducati his friend wants to buy, which is marketed by the line “Careful, it has a lot of…tork” as Jim Carey speeds around the corner with it. The film is filled to the brim with advertisements that are in no way subtle, especially the marketing of a tempur-pedic memory foam mattress where Jim Carey jumps on the bed with the wine glass on it and yells into the phone “Wow this really does work!”

In other films it is brought immediately to the attention of the viewer such as in Transformers in which Michael Bay, the Director has been accused of using too much product placement.

Companies are literally using children as a means to get adults to buy their product. According to “The Commercialization of Childhood” products are designed to pull on kids heartstrings. How often do you remember going to the store as a kid and wanting a certain cereal because Scooby-Doo was on the box or macaroni and cheese with Spongebob on the cover?wiaw-scooby-doo-mac-cheese I know I did more than once, I didn’t know if it tasted better than the boring generic cereal, but I thought it did because Scooby-Doo was on the box. This happens every day, and the problem with the commercialization of America is that marketing doesn’t just end when the television gets turned off at home.

Marketers follow kids every day from the comfort of their own home into the hallways and the cafeteria of their school. There is no proper placement for it, it covers the billboards on the football field advertising the new Vanilla Pepsi, or in the hallways for milk. Does anyone remember the sign that hung in almost every elementary school cafeteria with the cow and the words “Got Milk?” written next to it? If that isn’t product placement, I don’t know what is.Got Milk Cow

The biggest problem with marketers is when they turn to ethnographic research which is when children are filmed in school, on the playground, talking to their friends, in the bathroom, and so on. It becomes very invasive, all at the cost of finding out what interests the kid, what they will look at and immediately decide they want. The researchers go even further by promoting a new idea called the Girls Intelligence Agency. Little girls  are asked to get information from their friends and enlist in the organization without their parents knowledge. In “Commercialization of Childhood” on girl was asked if she was okay with essentially spying on her friends and then reporting back to the marketers, and she responded that she didn’t have a problem with it at all.

What are children being taught when they are asked to lie and sneak around, what will be the lasting effects of this research and how far will they go to find out what appeals to a certain demographic?

ralphlauren_dog_2e__oPt The essential outcome is that kids are growing up too fast, they aren’t allowed to be children anymore. Magazines promoting Coach and Ralph Lauren show children wearing the clothing, dressed as mini-adults.

What room is there for playing in the backyard in a pair of tattered shorts when they could be dressed in a designer brand. It adds the final opinion that it isn’t who you are but what you wear and what you own, is this the message we want to send future generations?

 

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