Monday, September 18, 2006

Morality, Ethics, & Marketing - Two More Cents

John recently posted an entry on Seth Godin's recent blog entry on marketing morality. It's an interesting topic, that certainly won't be exhausted here, but I did want to add a bit on a sub-topic that wasn't addressed in either place: marketing to children.

USA Today had an article on a timely, back-t0-school example:
The latest effort by schools to boost tight budgets by hooking up with corporate sponsors gets going next month, when school buses in 11 states begin airing commercial radio with ads targeted at kids. Bus Radio, a Massachusetts-based company, says 100,000 riders on 800 buses will hear music and commercials. The company says the broadcasts will entertain children and curb rowdiness.

Forget about whether kids need to be entertained 24/7. (What's wrong with yacking about mean teachers and yucky homework with the kid next to you? Or even charing critiques of last evening's episode of Survivor or American Idol? What's wrong with staring out the window and twirling your hair?) And, while there's plenty of rowdiness that should be curbed, isn't a bit of schoolbus rowdiness OK? I guess we're supposed to be assured that this is OK by the mention that the ads will be "age appropriate." Thank goodness, I'd hate to see those kindergarten boys targeted for Gillette Tag body spray (or worse).

What's really insidious here is making the schoolbus yet another opportunity to market directly to kids - with no adults there to mediate and discuss whether what's being marketed is crap, whether the claims made about the product are crap, and whether it's really OK not to fall in line and, at age 8, sign up for life-time membership as a cog in the fly-wheel of consumption.

A while back, I saw a show on a marketing company that specializes in targeting pre-teen girls. They go into the market-place-of-choice and somehow identify the girls who are the biggest influencers. They then get these alpha-girls to "sponsor" sleep-overs during which products are evaluated. The pitch to parents is that the girls are being "empowered" to help decide what products will come to market. (As nice a piece of marketing-spin rubbish as I've ever seen.) Yes, they're empowering those girls to hound their parents into purchasing yet more crap.

Anyway, it seems to me that we're all greedy little beasts by nature. Forget about curbing rowdiness. How much harder does it make the job of parents trying to curb the consumption madness of their children when the schools seem to be condoning it by bomarding kids with ads on the schoolbus, however "age appropriate" they are.

If kids need entertainment on the bus, let 'em sing Three Cheers for the Bus Driver or 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

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