I highly recommend a video called Consuming Kids which has just been released by the Media Education Foundation. You can see a 5-minute trailer by clicking here.
We know kids are attracted to television commercials, and are, for the most part, impressed by catchy ad messages, wherever and whenever these ads catch their attention. I see the attraction in my own children, though I try my best to point out to them the flaws in the messages every chance I get. As a result, my 10 year-old has become a bit cynical. Good for him.
What most people may not know is the lengths to which marketers go to shape children into consumers – even going so far in their “research” as to visit the homes of these malleable little spenders, talking to them about what they eat, what they wear, and what they like to do, all in the interest of figuring out the best way to sell to them. The marketers also get the wee friends involved, since it’s best for marketing practitioners to witness kiddie group think. The worst part is that not only do the marketers talk at length, and intensely, with these burgeoning consumers, they also just sit and watch them—with the video camera running. As one critic featured in Consuming Kids aptly explained, it’s just absolutely creepy!
The video is a must-watch for parents. It reminds me of a kiddie version of “cool hunting,” a practice explained in the PBS documentary Merchants of Cool, where marketers penetrate the minds of urban youth trendsetters, looking for ideas to steal so they can brand their sodas, sneakers and other products using techniques that continuously associate those products with the latest, hippest trends.
The irony is that it’s just so uncool to shape children into consumers. I realize it’s been happening for a long time, and that it’s virtually impossible to steer clear from it. After all, how did we get into this financial mess in the first place? But thank goodness for a video like Consuming Kids, which lays it out there–cynical marketers, cutesy advertising, the resulting eternally dissatisfied children slathered in advertising–all of it.
Truth be told, kids need to watch this, too. I’ll get my 10-year-old to sit down and watch. Maybe we’ll get a viral anti-marketing thing going at his school, for the kids and the parents.