As someone who has worked as a copywriter for 15 years (which, oh my God, how did I get that old), I am fully aware of the power the advertising industry wields.
As advertisers, we have the ability make (and unmake) trends. Add new words and idioms to everyday language. Create celebrity where there was none. And, of course, convince large groups of people that a product they previously hadn’t even known existed is, in fact, essential to their future happiness.
Nike does it. Volkswagon does it. Budweiser does it. Virtually every brand that has ever existed has used advertising to its advantage.
But knowing something is true and actually seeing it in action are two different things.
Or so I found out this morning.
Let me set the stage for you: I was sitting on the living room couch, icing my ever-broken knee. Tori was upstairs playing in her room, or so I thought.
All of a sudden I heard the pounding of frantic footsteps in the upstairs hall.
“Mommy! Mommy, come quick! I need you!”
Fearing something dire had happened, I limped up as quickly as I could as she continued to call, “come, Mommy! Come quick! You have to hurry!”
But when I finally reached the upstairs landing, heart pounding, I realized there was no crisis. There were no large objects knocked over. No scribbles of red painted on the walls. In fact, Tori was nowhere to be seen.
“Tori? Where are you?”
“In here,” called a small voice from my room.
Puzzled, I headed that way. “What’s up, sugar butt?”
“I know what I want for my birthday!” she shouted, eyes gleaming as she pointed at the TV (which I had forgotten to turn off).
“You want…toilet paper?”
“No, no a Glow Pet!”
“A glow pet?”
“Yeah. I just saw it. It was on TV!”
“And what does a Glow Pet do?”
“It lights up!”
“Ohhhh…you mean like the Dream Lite Santa just brought you for Christmas?”
“No! A Glow Pet! It has LED lights, and it glows!”
“Like your Dream Lite.”
“No, not like that. It’s super com-com-fort-able…and IT NEVER GETS HOT!”
That’s when I realized my three-year-old was quoting a TV commercial, word for word.
Being a Netflix family, the only TV channel she ever really watches is Sprout. And Sprout? Is awesome at infomercials (or rather, their advertisers are).
Because of Sprout, a unicorn Dream Lite and Francine the Stuffie topped her Christmas list.
And now? Now, I’m apparently supposed to buy her a Glow Pet – a seal Glow Pet – because “that’s what the girl on TV had.”
I could pretend I won’t, but in the end I probably will.
It’s just another light-up pillow, after all. Pretty harmless.
But. She only saw that commercial once. I’d guess that the majority of kids watch hundreds of commercials every month. Most for toys, but if their parents are watching regular TV, they also see beer commercials, weight loss commercials, skanky girl commercials…and God knows what else.
Who knows what’s getting cemented in their brains?
Being in the industry, I can’t come down on them too hard. If there was no advertising, I’d be just another starving wanna-be novelist.
But man, it makes you think. And what I think? Is that I’m pretty glad I’m in the business of higher ed these days. It’s hard to feel too bad about pushing the value of a good education.