Eyes Wide Open – Why we need to protect our kids from advertising!

We know that advertising is deceptive, often misleading and untruthful and yet it doesn’t cease to amaze me how low it can go.

On Saturday, I sat down on the couch to watch TV and given the new (fairly restrictive) TV rules in our household the kids flocked to join me. I turned to a commercial station to watch an episode of the saddle club. A program aimed at 8-12 year old girls which I assumed would be fairly harmless.

After watching for a few moments, the ads came on. The first one was for dolls dressed like prostitutes which strangely, wasn’t that shocking to me. However, the next ad blew my mind. It was a pretty pink advertisement with words flashing across the screen LOVE, HOPE, FUTURE, BEAUTIFUL, HAPPINESS, LIFE. I got excited as it seemed to be promoting something positive, perhaps a charity organisation?  The Dove self-esteem campaign? The ad came to an end and the logo appeared surrounded by frilly, girly hearts: Hogs Breath Café.

I was in shock. Firstly, at how deceptive and misleading the ad was and secondly that this family restaurant was specifically marketing their product to 8-12 year old girls. Young girls (or boys) who are an easy target as they’re not yet aware of the deception associated with advertising.

In the book adproofing your kids, the authors write that “advertising aimed at children exploits their developmental inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. It exploits their trust and manipulates their natural need to belong, to be be loved and their self-esteem in order to sell products”. It is clearly wrong which is why advertising to children is banned in some countries and why passionate people here in Australia work hard to keep the negative impact of advertising to a minimum.

The ad I’m talking about is clearly targeting a young girls self-esteem with words such as ‘beautiful’ ‘future’ and ‘hope’. It’s a promise it clearly can’t deliver because it’s a restaurant that serves steak.

As an adult, I can laugh at the ridiculousness of believing a sumptuous steak will make me beautiful. A young girl however, only knows the ad makes her feel good and these feelings are then connected to a product.  Little girls can’t explain how or why they suddenly want to go to Hog’s breath for dinner but they do! Such is the persuasive intent of advertising and marketing to children!

My response is to ban commercial TV (yesterday was a relapse!) in our household. It’s not just that most programs are rubbish but that I feel uncomfortable exposing my children to the deception of advertising.

“Parents need as much help as possible to deal with the manipulative and exploitative practices of advertising and marketing to children. Protecting our kids is tough when corporations are in the business of employing neuroscientists to discover the best ways to target a child’s unconscious mind.” – Julie Gale, director of “Kids free 2B kids”.

If this makes you uncomfortable too – join the campaign!


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