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Five things my kids have taught me about advertising.

My two little boys would live outside in their tree fort if we would let them (and there have been days I’ve been tempted to say yes), but when they are inside, things are chaotic with the TV on along with tablets.  So working in advertising, I’ve found it enlightening and sometimes amusing, to see how they react to different type of ads.       

  1. Commercials are annoying

I’m sure you know the look.  The glassy eyes.  Mouth slightly agape.  The sudden inability to hear their name being called.  It’s only when Spongebob is no longer on the screen that this unflinching hypnosis breaks. My 8-year old immediately goes to his iPad and my 4-year old begins asking “When is Spongebob coming back on?” incessantly…for 3 straight minutes. 

For my kids, commercials interrupt the story they are engrossed in.  They are a colossal inconvenience to the precious time they have to watch a favorite show.  This is like me stopping the boys at Chuck E. Cheese to take a break from the video games and read a book. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  Occasionally, a commercial will get their attention, but more times than not, they are an annoyance.  My older son even said one day, “Mom, this is stupid.  They keep playing this commercial over and over trying to get us to buy something.”  He was right.

  1. Infomercials do not lie

Think Sam & Cat are captivating?  Try an infomercial about a new vacuum cleaner.  If the TV is on and an infomercial happens to air, my 8-year old will stop whatever he is doing and absorb every single word stated.  I will hear all about how the vacuum operates, how it would make our lives easier and why we need to get one now because if we hurry, we will get a free attachment for liquids, like spilled wine.  Maybe chocolate milk would be more appropriate. Anyway…  

Infomercials are not interrupting a favorite show and they tell us why whatever product we have now supremely sucks and how their product is far superior.  On top of that, they have a confident and compelling spokesperson who must know what they’re talking about, right? You also can’t forget about the “But wait! If you order now…!”, offer that WILL expire.  You just can’t accomplish the same thing in a 30-second commercial.

  1. Trying to appeal to kids with the latest lingo is whack

A recent commercial for a Furby caught my older son’s attention, but not because he found it interesting.  He immediately picked up on the toy saying “redonkulous” and seemed to be genuinely offended.  He went on a short tirade about how stupid (and ridiculous) this was and what was the point of a Furby anyway?!? 

Kids are smarter than ever and are learning at a level and rate that often blows my mind.  Attempts to appeal to them using the latest lingo may be poorly misguided and come across as very uncool.    

  1. “I want my MTV” is now “I want my YouTube”

Who knew building a virtual world where zombies can wreak havoc would be so captivating?  Yes, I’m referring to Minecraft.  If the iPad and headphones are on, 9 times out of 10 there will be a YouTube video playing of how to build something like a Starbucks or a wine shop (ok, maybe this would just be in my world – if I had a world), but you get the point. 

Why is this significant?  Well, now when my son wants to see how something is done or has a question about most anything – skateboard tricks for instance – YouTube is the place to go.  And what plays at the beginning of every video?  An ad.  These may have an annoyance factor much like TV commercials, but regardless, this is where kids are spending their time. 

  1. Toy catalogs are as exciting for him as the new People magazine is for me

It was an exciting day this week when the new Lego catalog arrived.  They both sat down and carefully looked at each page, circling what they want.  All previous notions of what Santa may bring are gone and now the lists for both boys are full of Lego sets.  (I have to admit that I’m kind of happy about this as I can cross off the previously listed dirt bikes.)  We will go through the same excitement and exercise when the Toys-R-Us Big Book arrives as well.

The point here?  While I shop online for almost everything and love clicking on ‘Submit Order’, my boys experience the same kind of excitement with catalogs.  So don’t dismiss print with our young padawans. 

So what’s the point to all of this?  (No, it’s not that I must drink a lot – I just enjoy a glass of wine – every day.)  It’s that if children are your target audience, it’s important to not assume what has worked in the past will work now.   They are perceptive, smart and technically savvy and it’s up to us to keep up with THEM.

Misty Smith-Klein, Account Executive

Topics: Advertising