Today marks the anniversary of the first TV advert aimed at children - the ever popular Mr Potato Head toy, advertised with a fun video (hit that link above to view it for yourself) showing children what fun they could be having if only they had their very own Mr and Mrs Potato Head set. (Is it just me, or was it much creepier back in the day?!)
This early advert was no less sophisticated than modern incarnations; appealing images, children engaged and having fun, the bouncy sound and familiar cadence of a childlike voice narrating the piece - and the keen little upsell at the end where other products are mentioned, and the kids playing throughout are almost certainly using more products than what’s available in the advertised box set!
The market for advertising toys in technicolour, explosive booming sound, with gleeful kids getting high on plastic and battery powered sensory overload, has never been bigger - and despite regulations being regularly updated, the impact of Pester Power is huge - so the budgets for adverts on Children’s TV channels is mind blowing. Every parent knows the pain of ad breaks between mind numbing cartoons!
In a matter of just a few decades, advertising and marketing have evolved into huge industries which play on an understanding of psychology and desire - and the bright colours, flashing images and catchy music included in adverts targeting children are a cynically manufactured approach which stimulate the vulnerabilities and addictive capabilities of the human brain.
Specifically targeting children with these adverts guarantees sliding past the rational and practical decision making processes adults have developed, ensuring that the appeal of the products is communicated directly to the developing synopses of young minds, and creating the impression that this toy is necessary to have the kind of fun and excitement that the children in the images are having - a brighter, louder, more stimulating and pleasing environment than the surroundings from which the child is viewing those images.
As adults we know that editing and filtering can take any real-life situation (or body, or toy, or beachside hotel…) and gently remove the blemishes, reshaping, recolouring and carefully showcasing a more appealing and desirable version of the truth; we can see these advertisements and, whilst those messages are communicated directly to our own subconscious minds, we are also able to critically assess the validity of the message, and to moderate our responses.
Children, however, don’t have much capability for this kind of critical thinking; they quite literally haven’t yet grown the part of the brain which physically processes these critical responses. Which means that advertisements which specifically target them have very little friction to overcome - tapping directly into the subconscious mind which creates a sense of need and desire for whichever brightly coloured, multi-textured bit of fun is being had by the smiling faces on the screen before their wide, shining eyes.
I may seem cynical - but, as someone who works in marketing, I’m very aware of the importance of creating that sense of desire in customers; however, as a morally sound, adult woman I’m also very careful to maintain an honest and consistent message for whatever the product I’m promoting might be. Those of us who are creating these messages are aware of the psychological desire and subconscious decisions that we are tapping into - and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we aren’t taking advantage, creating false impressions or outright lying about what our products can do.
As a copywriter I have been offered a great many ‘opportunities’ over the years which not only didn’t sit right with my own moral compass, but were on occasion outright illegal; keyword cramming for dodgy websites, fake reviews for new products to boost their ratings, falsified claims about miracle diet drinks, even the MLM makeup companies which encourage their sales teams to exaggerate the effects of the products to make more sales.
This kind of pushy, aggressive selling makes my skin crawl - and it makes many people mistrustful of advertising and marketing as a tool. It makes people mistrustful of me, and of others in my industry; creating a good impression and building trust takes time - but destroying that trust takes no time at all.
Which is why I’ve always steered clear of those kinds of ‘opportunities’ - even when I first started out, even as I went through a divorce and single parenthood, even when I had debts up to my eyeballs that my little copywriting business needed to pay.
Because I’ve stuck to my morals and trusted my own innate response to these kinds of business approaches, I’ve built a reputation as an honest and reliable marketing and copywriting consultant - someone who can create copy which tells a true story, highlights the real benefits of the products or services I’m writing about, and who customers and audience alike trust to be truthful and transparent about what it is I’m discussing.
When you’re promoting a product or service it can be so tempting to stretch your truth, to reach more people with tricks and gimmicks - but in the long term, it’s your own reputation that you’re playing with in doing so; is it worth sabotaging your tomorrow for the sake of a quick sale today?
Think about your audience when you’re promoting your brand; think about what they need, and how you’re able to meet that need - and if you consistently communicate that message, without flashing neon or technicolour stimulants with a thumping baseline and catchy theme song, the sales will come. It’s pleasing your customers that keeps them coming back for more - and most people aren’t pleased if they discover that they’ve been lied to.
If you want to chat to me about how I can help you to create a more open, honest brand identity and relate to your audience in a transparent and emotive way, building those lasting relationships which benefit you both, have a look at the services I offer, and give me a call. You can also download a free May content ideas calendar, which includes all kinds of awareness days, holidays and key events through the month which might help you to create some content of your own which will help you to market your brand: https://www.elizadolots.com/may-content-ideas