Posted by: laughs4dads | April 30, 2010

“Ad” Nauseam

So there’s a new website called that’s supposed to teach kids how to recognize and react to advertising.

You can tell by the “gov” suffix that it’s run by the government, in this case the Federal Trade Commission. The other thing you can tell from the “gov” suffix is that it’s going to be pretty lame.

According to the FTC, the site “aims to educate tweens (kids ages 8 to 12) about advertising so they can become more discerning consumers of information.”

Indeed, the design, animation, sound effects and dialogue on the site does seem to be directed toward tweens…if they happen to be living “tween” 1950 and 1970.

“Your ad-ucation starts here,” are the first words out of the main character’s mouth. Totally rad, man! Let’s go!

In fact, the site instantly achieves its goal of making kids “more discerning consumers of information.” They will immediately discern that they have better things to do, like buy stuff that they’ve seen advertised.

To be fair, the site, which I visited on April 28, appears to be in its beta stage, which is to say it doesn’t work very well. So a major promotional campaign, which included an appearance by the FTC’s David Vladeck on The Today Show that very same day, is perfectly timed.

Mr. Vladeck, who is quite possibly a bowtie away from being the least cool-looking person in the world, told Matt Lauer that the purpose of the site is to get kids and parents to “deconstruct” ads so that they know who it’s from, what it’s saying, and what it wants you to do.

As an example, they showed a commercial for Apple Jacks cereal that ran during Spongebob Squarepants. Mr. Vladeck pointed out that there was nothing about nutritional value in the ad, that its sole message was that Apple Jacks would make you happy.

Matt then pointed out that there are no equivalent commercials for broccoli.

Well, two things here. First, not that anyone would pay attention to it, but the FTC probably could require advertisers to include nutritional information in the advertising. Second, why are there no vegetable flavored cereals?

Oh, right. Because kids wouldn’t eat them no matter how much you spent on advertising saying that “Asparagus Aliens cereal will make you happy.”

And that’s where the FTC has lost all connection to the real world. Kids already are discerning consumers of information. They have to be, because they are hit with so much of it. If they didn’t filter it, their little heads would explode, and then mom would need to run out and buy Lysol® to clean up the mess. Because, as we all know, Lysol kills 99% of germs.*

Sure, a kid may not know that some company paid for a product placement on his favorite TV show, but no eleven-year-old is going to want something solely because he saw it on a TV show. After all, the kid that watched that Apple Jacks commercial probably didn’t ask for a sponge.

A kid will want a product not because she saw movie characters with it, but because she saw kids at her school with it.

And if kids really are as susceptible to advertising as the FTC seems to think, there’s a much easier cure than using taxpayer money to launch an advertising campaign to help kids identify advertising.

Just get parents to stop giving their kids so much money to spend.

*Did you catch the subtle product placement in this blog? If you go to, you’ll learn how to spot such insidious messages. Or you may be so bored, you’ll hang yourself by your Hermes tie. I might also point out that said product placement was not compensated, which is not to say that offers from the makers of Lysol won’t be considered.



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