The other morning, I was watching “Arthur” on PBS with my 12-year-old son.Â Yes, he’s too old for Arthur but the television pickings are slim at 6:00 a.m. which is when his internal clock is set to awaken him and I am grateful that he doesnâ€™t choose the Wiggles or something even more annoying.
So, the plot of that day’s show is Arthur decides to earn money by starting a pet sitting business.Â Hilarity ensues as Arthur finds himself caring for a menagerie of beasts.Â Â Since Arthur has taken in frogs and snakes and cats and dogs, he finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to care for a variety of different pets with wildly divergent needs and he spends most of his time trying to keep the dogs from chasing the cats and the frogs from becoming dinner for the snakes.
As Iâ€™m watching, IÂ find myself saying to my 12-year-old, “If Arthur just limited himself to a single type of pet, he wouldn’t be having the problems he’s having. If he would define his target audience to a single pet, his business would be more successful andÂ he could provide better service to his clients.â€ (Yeah, that’s what it’s like to watch cartoons with me at my house.)
My 12-year-old ignores my comment and pours himself a bowl of cereal.
The thing about watching PBS is there are no commercials during childrenâ€™s programming so to fill the time, they run a short filler piece with adorable preschool or school aged children to fill the time slot.Â During this morningâ€™s segment, the adorable school aged children were obviously videotaped as they performed their class assignment of creating a commercial for a fictional pet store, which tied into the Arthur story plot.Â The first groupâ€™s commercial consisted of the adorable children jumping in place while holding the sign they created with their pet storeâ€™s name.Â The second group spoke in unison as they held their sign.Â They threatened in unison, â€œYouâ€™d better come to Pet Palace . . .Â or else!â€ and they ended with pointing an accusing finger at the camera.
That, my friends, provides a glimpse into how small children view current television advertising.Â Â As Iâ€™ve watched television in the days that follow, I am saddened to say that I can see from whence they drew their inspiration for their commercials.
Children are great imitators.Â They imitate adults as they prepare for their future, when they join the adult world.Â These children didnâ€™t see commercials as a way to communicate but just joyless fluff.Â Their attempts at creating their own commercials told the tale.Â They didnâ€™t say, â€œCome see us!Â Weâ€™ve got the cutest puppies in town!â€Â Â They didnâ€™t say, â€œIf you want your pet to live forever, buy our pets!Â They never die!â€Â They didnâ€™t cajole, they didnâ€™t coax, they didnâ€™t persuade their audience or try to charm them. Instead they bounced and bullied their way through their commercial attempts. Not that I expected great advertising from what appeared to be third graders, but I really was surprised by the â€œbuy here or elseâ€ slogan.
Take a look at your advertising.Â Is it cajoling?Â Is it persuasive?Â Is it alluring?Â Or are you just bouncing and bullying your way through 30 or 60 seconds of air time?