Posted by: fathersez | November 12, 2007

Facing and overcoming advertising terrorism

The Number 1 cause for a bad financial position is “living beyond our means.”  

And very often, the most likely suspect for this would be a  consumerist attitude of buying things that we can really do without, or could have gotten the same functional facilities a lot cheaper.  

Not surprisingly, the oil that lubricates this is advertising. (Another prime cause may be “peer pressure”). 

The advertising industry’s relentless targeting of the teenagers and even younger children, has raised a lot of eyebrows.  Punny Money has posted a well written post on this and has coined the term “advertising terrorism”, (most apt, don’t you think) to refer to the scare tactics the industry uses to get us to open our wallets. 

And if we open our wallets too easily, we should be on the road to living beyond our means…..a clear no-no. If advertising can make even mature adults buy things that we often end up not using, or regretting, imagine the effect on the younger generation.  

So how do we prepare our children to face this onslaught of advertising? This onslaught that makes them feel that without the product being advertised, they are inferior, or not hip, or whatever. 

This is not going to be easy.  When our children were toddlers, there were many a time, when the TV was used as a “babysitter”. Our children’s cravings for KFC, and for McDonalds are clear cut signs of the success of advertising.  

As our children grow older, the items desired and seen advertised become pricier. Fancy overpriced handphones, (some of which are advertised as fashion items), cosmetics, food supplements, cars and car accessories etc., will soon feature in the list of “must haves” of our children. 

Hence it is clear that we must take on the task of educating our children on how to objectively view advertisements.  

Ms. Susan Carney writes about “Why and how marketers target kids”. She says :- “Many ads focus on creating insecurity about something, such as appearance. They focus on convincing the viewer that they have a problem that needs fixing and then propose to fix the problem.”  Many kids unwittingly buy into this message and as a result end up being hyper critical of themselves as they feel that they do not fit a certain image that they believe is necessary for their happiness. 

We have to help our children become more critical viewers. Help them recognize what is behind the hard sell. Ask them to identify the theme the advertiser is using to connect with them. Ask them to point out the “need” that is being projected that the product promises to fill.” 

This makes a lot of sense to me. But how do we start doing this? These days, it is quite uncommon, I think, for the family to watch TV together. The availability of a multitude of audio and TV channels have created this divide. 

Perhaps we should start a family TV viewing day, with one family member choosing the program each week or month and analyzing one ad along the lines of Ms. Susan’s advice.  

Maybe we could set a permanent agenda in our Family Meetings, to name and to give reasons as to why a particular advertisement may actually in fact, be misleading. 

What do you think?   

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