Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Am I too paranoid?

I don't think so. I'm comfortably skeptical but not yet paranoid. I don't think so - it's why I'm putting it out to you. Reason I ask is, I'm replaying a conversation I had with Sassyface this morning about TV commercials programming you to have a preconceived idea about what something should be like, but when you actually get it it's never like the commercials. So you get more of it, telling yourself it must have been a bad batch, or maybe you weren't in the right mood and yet time after time you may get the same results. The ads still run saying "This product will make you young, sexy, attractive, popular" etc so at some point a person either accepts the ads are rubbish and lies or the person begins to force themselves to take the product regularly and pretend it works, thereby mimicking the ad and creating a false persona. Trust me, she's 10 and she totally understood! I think.

I used the example of McDonalds. Asked her to tell me what a McDonalds ad tells her, what does she see, who does she see, how does she think those people are feeling? Does the ad make you want to have those same experiences? Do you think the food is what makes them happy? Did a Happy Meal ever make her that happy? "No it's just a plain burger and I never eat the chips. Sometimes the toy is nice!" Is McDonalds a toy store or a food store? Food store. Is the food as good as the toy? No. So why don't kids just go to the toy store instead? Hmmmm....

Then I told her about Budweiser. Told her about how the ads are for adults, but they show barely out of teens youth doing fun things like beach volleyball, or having fun camping trips or whatever. Young, fun, popular. Or they use animals and the animals are popular and funny. The ads are shown when kids can see them. This gets the kids brand aware many, many years before they are even legally able to drink alcohol. It sets the seed in their minds. It's the only explanation I can come up with for why so many people drink Budweiser because really; it's piss. It's awful stuff! (Thankfully I've not had to endure the eyesore that is Bud on TV for a long time.) (I'm sure it shows)

I think we can sum it up with cigarette ads of the 70's/80's. Young? Sexy? Independent? Rebellious? Let's personify with a smoke in our hand. I know I did. I was highly insecure as a kid and was roped in easily to the idea a cigarette would make people think I was better than I thought I was. Despite the fact that when I started smoking it made me feel violently ill - I pushed through it. It was a right of passage, not a sign I was poisoning myself. Cool people don't puke from a cigarette! Never once did I think I was being a sucker to an ad campaign - I was creating a cool, confident persona. I bought Marlborough Reds, then moved onto Marlborough Lights. Smoked nearly three packs a day for six years. Quit when I was married, hopped back a few times after bad things made me depressed but never never back to that level. Have not had one in over 3 years now. Still crave them though. That's the problem - most of these products have some element of addiction to them, be it habit or chemical dependence or both. You don't hear about vegetable addicts, or water addicts or deep breathing meditation addicts.

I'll have to get some ads together to show her the ways advertising manipulates people, and how kids are the most susceptible because they aren't often taught critical thinking skills. They aren't encouraged to question adults. In fact they question the wrong adults. Don't question me when I tell you to go clean your room. Question strangers who tell you you must have a certain toy, food, magazine or sneakers. Toy stores won't ground you for belligerence, Mom will. But if Sassyface feels she can challenge me, then maybe she'll grow up confident enough to challenge others. Especially since they can't ground her, either.

9 comments:

Overboard said...

Excellent post, Lyvvie and wow, congratulations on being smoke-free for 3 years. I've known you longer than 3 years, albeit via the web, and I never took you to be a smoker.
Seriously, well done.

Rox said...

I don't think you're being paranoid at all, in fact, I applaud you for encouraging your daughters to see the world for what it is. Smoke and frigging mirrors!

jomamma said...

I agree, excellent post and I agree on exposing the kids early at how it's all about getting you hooked and getting your money.

Brook said...

Have had same conversation more than once with my own. And will continue to have it as I have 12 more years with the youngest to look forward too. We are the only ones these days who are going to teach our children to think-no way does anyone else want them too!

Dingo said...

Great post! I've had this same conversation with my students. We also discuss how ads are photoshopped and what you see is never what you get, either in the product of the desired result from using the product.

Lyvvie said...

Dingo - I'd love to get your teacher's notes for that class! In fact let's write a parenting book - all of us - on how to raise critical thinkers in a commercially driven world. (Oh - the irony!)

Maja said...

3 packs a day! That is NUTS. You must have been chain smoking!

There is a show called the Gruen Transfer which is all about advertising that was on the ABC, have you seen it? It's probably somewhere on Youtube, or you might even be able to watch it on the abc iview or whatever it is.

Lyvvie said...

I was, Maja. It was filthy. My dorm room must have stank. I must have stank. It was vile. I think about how I was given a very small allowance by my Mom and I spent most of it on cigarettes - worst still, just up the road was a discount cigarette store where I'm sure I tried every vile foreign tobacco concoction that was available.

That said, I'd smoke a clove cigarette today if someone offered me one. They were nice.

Lyvvie said...

OH and of course I'll check out that show ASAP!!