17 May The Parable of the Broken Egg, Part 3: Advertising Fun with Dick and Jane
See Dick turn on the TV. See Jane sit down next to Dick. See Dick and Jane watch commercials. See Dick and Jane want everything they see. See Corporate America with $$ in their eyes, as they market adult items to the way too young.
Have you noticed the moving target? Over the past decades, Corporate America has put their crosshairs on younger and younger kids. Advertising dollars are looking to gain lifetime consumers and brand loyalty, soon, out of the crib, by marketing everything from make-up to clothing to electronics and the latest move by Skechers to focus their Shape-Ups shoes for girls. Perhaps companies feel that if Joe Camel got in on the game, “shouldn’t we get our piece? It should be okay for us, shouldn’t it? After all we are not selling cigarettes?”
Advertising Gone Wild
I think we have to be careful to jump to too many conclusions that many ad campaigns gone awry are exploitative from the start. There are many good intentioned people who work for Corporate America who want to make this world a better place for our kids. They often believe that what they are selling would be great for kids, and while some have valid points and misguided intentions, others have gotten lost on the way to their year-end bonuses. “Lets help our girls look fitter, slimmer, feel good about the way they look… because looking good in our culture is the most important thing. Right? It is for the Kardashians, isn’t it?” Their intentions do not always add up to a good outcome, and sometimes it is downright exploitative, intended or not.
This blog is not just about Skechers. It is about a consumer-based culture that has been changing in a dangerous direction. This trend toward marketing more adult products to kids is in full swing and shows no signs of slowing down. “In a down market, expand your customer base. Isn’t that good economics? Kids will be our consumers one day so why not start them out now?”
As I have discussed before, our kids and we are inundated with thousands of images everyday selling everything but our collective soul, and even that may be up for sale soon. Our boundaries are getting blurrier and blurrier as to what is healthy for our kids, and ourselves, and we can barely see our moral compass before our eyes. This is not about a conservative movement to control what our kids see and do, and it is not a liberal agenda to destroy a corporate culture. It is a concerted effort to point out that we are taking our kids’ childhood away with our own blind ambition. In this situation with Skechers, I can see that they may not have intended to create such a negative buzz, but just like the Elmo/Katy Perry debacle, those in the position to make decisions were numb to the deeper issues and the result reflected their own dysfunction and/ours.
The Balancing Act
Our kids require limits and balance and so do we. They deserve a childhood that brings them the joy of time spent together – one that offers freedom from addictions to toys, phones, televisions and computers. They deserve our time, patience and love, not our credit cards and wallets.
We are their eyes when they are learning to see. We are their ears when they seeking sound, and we are their voice, when they cannot speak. It is up to us to realize that we may have lost our way, and may be guiding them down that path that got us into debt further than any generation before us. That debt is not just financial, it’s emotional, it’s relational, it’s recreational, it’s sleep-deprived, it’s over-scheduled, and it’s farther and farther away from peace than it is war.
The Rear View Mirror
We often complain that being left behind is becoming a reality. Why is that? What changed in the last fifty years? The consumer culture is part of the problem, not the solution. We are looking more at what we can buy, than what we can learn. Furthermore, when companies are confronted about their ads, they claim ignorance. When parents are confronted with their kids’ behaviors and preferences they blame the culture.
We have become a society that blames others instead of taking responsibility for our actions. The less responsibility we take for our actions, the less we can learn. Integrity has to begin at the foundation and continue all the way up to the top floor. Where is ours today? Where is yours?
People want an answer for how to stop corporate greed and marketing to kids. Don’t buy their products and have the self-discipline to turn the channel or the page. Here are a few more tips to good parenting. Take the time to talk with your kids about what they are exposed to – ask questions, don’t lecture. Give them limits on what they watch and compute and listen to, and how much they watch, compute and listen. Pay attention to what you spend your money on and theirs; don’t look to pacify them. Give your kids hugs and kisses, not Hershey’s Kisses and a happy meal. Take them outside and play with them, don’t just send them outside. Put your phone down, get off of your couch, turn off your I-pod, and be an example. Play games with your kids. Read to them. Don’t expect the school to teach them. Don’t complain about why our world is the way it is and why our kids are behaving as they are; do something about it. Be part of the action that will help your children and you get healthy, emotionally, relationally , recreationally, academically, socially, spiritually… Even Joe Camel wearing his Skechers won’t be able to touch that.