Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Advertising: Manipulative or Informative?
Let me start by saying that Advertising has been very good to me. It's put food on my table since 1993. But every once in a while something happens that makes me question the ethics of the business. The first time it happened was back in 1995 when a good friend of mine worked as a media planner on the Phillip Morris business. I watched her struggle with the ethics of her job for nine months before finally quitting. (P.S. She smoked like a chimney at the time and has since quit and has been "clean" for 10 years).
I had another one of those moments last weekend. My four year old has been watching his fair share of Nickelodeon lately (keep your parental judgements to yourself - Dad's been busy!). So last weekend, we're hanging in the back yard taking a break from a game of frisbee and he's having a snack when the following exchange occurred:
Me: How are you enjoying those Cheetos?
Him: Dad, they're Dangerously Cheesy!
I almost fell off my chair. Are you kidding me? Dangerously Cheesy? I've got to say, I laughed out loud. But it made me stop for a moment and think about the effect of advertising on young kids. Kids at that age have no BS filter. They can't distinguish between entertaining programming content and entertaining advertising. It's all the same to them. And because of that lack of a filter, advertising is very effective.
To complete the circle, it turns out that Mrs. MediaGeek made the mistake of taking the little guy with her to the grocery store for the weekly food shopping run. They came home with at least 5 things that I've never seen before including something called Yogos (yogurty covered fruit snacks!)
To see the whole advertising process in action in my very own household, which I though was impervious to such tactics, was very strange.
At it's worst, advertising can be viewed as manipulative. The poor little kid didn't stand a chance! At it's best, the advertising helped him discover the joy of Cheetos. I imagine that's how the client or agency would describe it. One thing is for sure, Advertising works.
But until I come to grips with this, he's watching nothing but PBS.