My daughter was making some angry-sounding noise the other night while I was making dinner. I peeked around the corner from the kitchen and heard her loudly objecting to a commercial on television. She seemed genuinely upset, exclaiming, “It couldn’t protect you from a flood-it’s not an umbrella!” I finally figured out that she was yelling at an insurance commercial.
I had flipped on PBS Sprout, a channel we hadn’t watched in a while, while I made dinner, figuring that it would be something quiet and fun for her to watch, as we both wound down from our day of school and work. Sprout usually features more gentle cartoons like Make Way for Noddy, Caillou and Kipper. What I had forgotten was that it wasn’t all cartoons any more, Sprout plays (lots of) commercials. And not just any commercials, but especially the As Seen on TV commercials.
How had I forgotten that this channel was responsible for our owning a Pancake Puffs griddle? The kid had become obsessed with the Pancake Puffs ad two Xmases ago, so Santa succumbed. I got it at the As Seen On TV store, by the way. I am of two minds about all of this. On the one hand, I think it’s pretty shady of any kids-oriented network to run the hard-pitch ads. On the other hand, they aren’t running ads for all of the brightly colored multi-part toys . . .
Advertising and marketing is everywhere. Kids know who Ronald McDonald is before ever eating a McNugget. It takes real research and effort to avoid Disney and other franchise branding on everything from pajamas to pillowcases to underwear. I try to keep the product placement merchandise to a minimum, but I’m also not going to “protect” her from the overly commercial world she is growing up in by trashing a brand, like my mother did with me and Disney. Still not sure why my mom hate(d)(s) Disney so much. She said she saw Snow White when she was a kid and the witch scared her, but that can’t be it, can it? All I know is the only way I ever got to see a Disney flick was if I was going to a birthday party or with a friend. Mom wouldn’t take my brother and me.
I guess the most interesting thing about this for me is that although we have cable television and primarily watch a lot of commercial-free programs or our own dvds, my daughter still responds to commercials, as strongly or more than the show she is actually watching. The Space Bag and Pillow Pets commercials completely mesmerize her. When I was her age there was still only one channel, the public television station, that was commercial-free. And cartoons were on Saturday mornings. Commercials were a regular part of our television viewing, too. i can probably still recite the speecy spicy meatball commercial . . .
Alka Seltzer commercial, 1969
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that in a world with so many more channels, more viewing choices, her responses might be amped up a little too. But it makes me think maybe tomorrow for her little bit of T.V. we’ll switch to ad-free (still I think) NickJr or Boomerang instead . . .