Today most ads for products – from cars to mutual funds – feature kids. According to advertisers, kids are the biggest source of ‘pester power’ and so have a direct bearing on the purchasing pattern of a family. And with kids becoming smarter and more aware of things around them, this is a very sound strategy – for the advertisers, that is!
How the children are affected in this process merits a separate post in itself. Issues like the undue exploitation of child actors, the psychological effects of being in the limelight and going through the grind are all pushed to under the carpet.
It is the ads themselves that I am talking about here. These are undergoing a sea-change. Earlier, the kids who featured in the ads were cute, child-like and behaved like children their age. But kids in today’s ads are increasingly made to act bratty, insolent and sometimes insufferable. What surprises me is that no one seems to have any objections to it!
The other day I saw this ad on KBC on the TV. It shows a classroom and a teacher asking a question. It goes something like: ‘Who said, you give me your blood and I will give you freedom?’ One boy jumps up and says, ‘You said it just now, sir!’ The whole class laughs. The kids then give the same reply to another teacher while jumping and giving each other high fives for their smartness, over his head! Some other kids heckle an old man in their colony for protesting against their throwing a ball into his home. Finally Big B asks the same question to the contestant in the hot seat and the ad ends.
As concepts go, it might be a good ad, but using kids in that fashion is what I find unacceptable.
There is another ad in which a father brings a piggy bank for his son on his birthday. And the boy says, ‘If you had to give me something for saving, at least you could have given me SIP,’ a savings scheme of Tata Mutual Funds. When the father expresses his ignorance about it, all the kids heckle him saying, ‘Don’t you know SIP?’ as if they are talking to the world’s biggest moron. A child’s voice over then lists the pluses of the said saving option! The adman perhaps wanted you to understand that it is so simple that even a child can understand it.
There must be many more such ads, but these two came to mind immediately.
There have been other ads that have shown children who are smart vis-a-vis elders, but somehow the way this ad is made did not seem right. Agreed that children know a good sight more than their elders sometimes, but please show some plain-old-good manners, if not respect to the elders in the ads!
Now, I agree that kids these days are very smart, aware and intelligent. But isn’t it carrying things too far to show them putting down adults and ‘advising’ them on – of all things – mutual funds? More importantly, does being intelligent give them the liberty to be insolent and rude? Sadly we see more and more children becoming this way even in real life. But when an ad carries such images, it reinforces such behaviour, doesn’t it? Whatever happened to old fashioned values like respect, humility and innocence?
I will digress a little here: While in the UK I saw this cartoon, ‘Peppa Pig,’ which is about this little pig called Peppa and her younger brother George. There are also Mummy and Daddy Pigs to complete the family. Now, in this hugely popular series the daddy pig is shown as making stupid mistakes and the kid pigs calling him, ‘Silly Daddy’, and laughing at him. The sheepish daddy then admits to his mistake and corrects them. I found this rather offensive, but going by the popularity of the series – the markets are flooded with Peppa Pig kid’s merchandise – one wonders if a whole generation is growing up to think that it is fine to tell one’s father that he is silly! Perhaps the liberal parents of today might find it offensive that I am even pointing this out instead of appreciating the intelligence of the kids!
That was about a cartoon but our ads are fast catching up in this department.
It is fashionable nowadays to ask, ‘Why should we respect someone because he or she is old?’ I have heard parents say with pride that their children can be ‘blunt and point out to the ignorance of an adult.’ As if it were a great thing for children to be impertinent! The least they can teach the kids is to be polite while doing it. There is nothing wrong in learning things from a child if he or she knows more than you, but to let the child think it is ‘smart’ to be impolite, is surely bad. Children give lip to the elders in their family and often get away with it, partly because their parents themselves treat the older members with scant regard.
Cases like these are not the norm in all families and so can be ignored. But when such sentiments invade our living rooms in the form of ads, it is cause for concern.
The media has such potent power at its disposal that it doesn’t realise the havoc it is creating in every sphere – news, movies, ads, you name it and they are there with their devastating inputs. The latest is the assault on kids and their psyches. Can you imagine the havoc it would create if this generation for whom TV is God, begins aping its ad counterparts? I think the bodies regulating ads are only worried about false and misleading claims made by manufacturers in their ads and not about such insidious corrupting of a child’s mind.