Old Spice?

9 11 2010

Marketing magazine recently reported that Canadians are fans of the current Old Spice advertising campaign (“You like the way I look. Of course you do.”). Not only was it the most recognized campaign, it was also the best liked in this country (least liked? The family chasing the Dairy Queen Blizzard truck).

Flash back for a moment to 1965 and imagine the likelihood of either of these marketing campaigns being successful. A naked guy taunting us from the shower? A family drive with Mom on the hood of the car trying to grab hold of an ice cream truck? Doubtful these would ever have been conceived, let alone aired and memorable. My point here is that things have changed considerably in the way marketing reaches us. More disturbing to me is the change in how it affects us, and what has become acceptable to so many of us.

The so-called “prime time” viewing slots on television have opened up to include programming that once was restricted to much later hours and intended for adults only. Shows like “Pimp My Ride” and “Desperate Housewives” are now airing when young kids are still in their living rooms. Not that long ago, Brooke Shields caused a tremendous uproar by exposing her navel and midrift in an advertising campaign. Bratz dolls have sexed up their wardrobes to the point that once-fashionable Barbie has now donned similar garb in order to stay “trendy” and competitive. The cast of Glee on the cover of GQ magazine has been in the news for its racy portrayal of highschool kids, and children have come to know firefighters in most communities as heroes and calendar pinups.

There’s only one common element in all this, and it’s money. Whatever sells goes. And we buy it. Every lowdown, inappropriate and disrespectful moment of it. Maybe our filters are so tired from trying to screen and distinguish among all this stuff that they just don’t work anymore. Or maybe we’ve just become numb to all the skin and sex and selling. Old Spice sales reportedly are up, and Bratz dolls are again being touted as a must-have item for the holidays this year. Trouble is, child abuse is up too. Domestic assaults are still a plague on families. Pornography still nets kids and ruins lives. The links are obvious. What we do about it is trickier.

Stop advertising? No. Censor more of this stuff? Governments won’t do it. Quit spending our money on the products and services that try to sell to kids with sex and violence? Now that just might work. I spoke to a mother the other day who had been trying to explain to her 8-year old why a particular mannequin’s outfit was inappropriate for school (mini skirt, lacy tights, spaghetti strap/sequin top). It’s not easy. I admire her taking a stand though, and she showed that it can be done (and done at any age) with patience and love. She told me she’d rather put up with a few tantrums than risk the alternative.

Can we find more ways to reinforce the appropriate, and gradually reduce the inappropriate, from our lives and the lives of young children? Can we do a better job of turning trashy TV into teachable moments for kids? I think so. And I tip my hat to all those parents out there who are trying to do just that every day. Their task is daunting, and they could use our help and reinforcement. Whether you have children or not, take opportunities to voice your disapproval when the merchandise in the next store you visit falls well short of the mark for appropriateness. As I often hear teachers and parents telling children, “use your voice”.

Photo: spreadshirt.com

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