Magazine article Information Today

Marketed to since Birth

Magazine article Information Today

Marketed to since Birth

Article excerpt

Everyone has friends, relatives, and co-workers who spend an inordinate amount of time forwarding jokes, homilies, etc., around cyberspace. Sometimes the message is something that is genuinely interesting or funny, but most of the time ... it's not.

I usually find that it's easier to hit the delete key than to hurt someone's feelings unless I receive something seriously offensive in a social, political, or religious sense.

I actually delete much of this stuff without even looking at it because when I am online, I am usually too busy to let messages pile up in the in box. But the other day, I was clicking through several of these e-mails (delete, delete, delete) when something caught my eye. Someone had created a quiz in Microsoft Excel to identify 50 corporate and sports logos that were pictured without their names or acronyms.

Hitting the Proverbial Wall

I went through the entire quiz and managed to identify 27 out of 50 logos. Then, out of curiosity, I passed it along to my No. 2 son, who is now 15. He sat with the quiz for about 3 minutes before I heard him muttering that he'd hit a wall and couldn't finish. When I asked him how many he had identified, he said 47 out of 50. Wow.

"How in the world do you know so many of these things?" I asked, as I looked over his shoulder. He shrugged. "Remember," he said, "I'm a member of the advertising generation. I've been marketed to since birth."

He's right. When I was growing up (and maybe you too if you are "of a certain age"), children were not the audience actively marketed to. I vaguely remember breakfast cereal commercials appearing on the limited number of children's programs on the three existing television networks. As the winter holidays approached, toy commercials were also included. I guess children were not assumed to have a great deal of disposable income back then or much sway over household purchasing decisions. So corporate America pretty much left us alone.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar

Fast-forward a few decades. We are in a world where every family-friendly film is accompanied by promotional tie-ins; where name-brand athletes are selling name-brand sneakers; where celebrities who appeal to the young are hawking clothing, fast food, and other merchandise; where product placement in television programs and movies is so routine that we have grown to expect it; where just about every professional sports venue has some sort of corporate "naming rights" deal; and where even your local school district may well have sold its soul to a soft drink company, chain restaurant, etc., in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

And then there's the Internet. It gets blamed for all sorts of things. It's a playground for pedophiles; it lets cyberbullies torment their victims 24/7; it's the reason kids no longer use libraries. After all, when you have Google, what more do you really need?

And the Internet is commonly cited, along with television and video games, as a reason for the so-called epidemic of childhood obesity. Kids don't go outside and play anymore. They might get snatched and sold into human slavery. The sun causes cancer. The family down the street may have a veritable arsenal of unsecured firearms. Drug dealers are hanging around the playground. …

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