Commercials for Lucky Charms Right on Your Kitchen Table

Feb 28

I remember reading cereal boxes over and over as a child. I can’t recall any specific reason why I did it, other than it was sitting right in front of me as I slurped my milk-soaked Shreddies. Back then the boxes touted health benefits, which were apparently interesting enough for me to read over and over and over again. Today, I see my kids equally engaged with their cereal boxes. However, the backside is more likely to be illustrated with quizzes, mazes, and scrambled words than nutritional information.

The cereal box is, in fact, one of the most widely read mediums according to General Mills’ Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Addicks. The average person reviews his or her cereal box 12 times. Not surprisingly, the company plans to further take advantage of this branding opportunity by using the newest digital technologies available to create more interactivity. Very likely, this will be most appealing for the youngest marketing segment – kids.

According to a USA Today article, General Mills is considering the addition of QR (quick response) codes to cereal boxes, as well as creating apps for their top brands. With the use of an iPhone, cereal eaters may be able to point to a logo for some sort of entertainment. Needless to say, the motivation is to provide pure entertainment, not nutritional know-how (not particularly surprising since one of their top sellers is Lucky Charms, a food product that is clearly short on nutritional bragging rights). General Mills and Kellogg’s are eager to look beyond the traditional 30-second TV spots by providing videos and games that can be turned on only inches from your cereal-munching face.

What does this mean for parents? Here are a few of my predictions:

  1. Your kids will beg even harder for the “fun” boxes (think: unnaturally bright-coloured morsels of sugary shapes) as you peruse the grocery aisles.
  2. They will fight over who gets to use Mom’s iPhone to watch the game or video.
  3. New breakfast table entertainment will slow down the morning routine the way television programs have a tendency to do. “Wait – I’m almost done playing this game! One more minute.”
  4. Kids lose yet another opportunity for good old fashioned reading – even if it is back-of-the-box fluff, it’s a nice break from animation.
  5. The brands that health-conscious parents least want their kids to eat will be more enticing than ever to their young ones.
  6. More brand brainwashing for kids during a morning ritual that is typically a wonderful time to chat among the family.
  7. Parents will feel more urgency to teach their children to be critical of videos and games provided by brands.

Okay, clearly I’m not a fan of the interactive cereal box. When one considers the enormous potential of a medium that is read almost a dozen times, it’s hard to fathom that the best we can do is give kids more cartoons to encourage them to eat more sugar-laden cereal. I have an idea: how about an interactive box that encourages kids to study for school, listen to their parents, and eat their fruits and vegetables? Now, that’s a box I’d keep on my table all day long.

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Jan 23

A review of e-readers in the January edition of Wired Magazine ranked Chapters-Indigo’s own Kobo Touch as number one. Beating out some of the world’s top-selling competitors, it came out ahead of the Amazon Kindle, Nook Simple Touch, and Sony Reader PRS-T1.

Admittedly surprised by their choice, the editors found the Kobo Touch to offer the “most natural e-ink reader we’ve ever used. Its touchscreen is the fastest and most responsive yet.”

As a fervent reader and long-time fan of Canada’s largest and most stocked chain of bookstores, I admit a sense of pride that Chapters-Indigo is offering tough competition in the e-reader market.  While the company’s bricks and mortar stores are leaning ever more toward non-book merchandise (think tangerine-scented candles, cozy blankets, miniature LEGO), this is a good sign for Canadian readers that the iconic bookstore is maintaining its strong foothold in the sometimes struggling book business.

The young readers in my house are not, yet, ardent fans of the e-reading experience. That’s not to say they’re not comfortable with a pint-sized screen attached to their hands, they’d simply prefer to stare at bouncing animations or burping cats on it than make out sentences. When the day comes, as it inevitably will, the Kobo Touch will be the one they get. It is an easy pick for Canadian readers who are already big fans of the Chapters-Indigo stores and online offerings. Until January 25th, Kobo Touch is on sale for $119.

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Oct 27

I’m a big fan of the group gift. It is likely as a result of growing up the middle of five children in a household that valued getting the most bang for your buck. “Hey – this this scarf is on sale! She’ll never know, AND, we can split the cost.” Even today, as my sister’s birthday approaches, I have arranged a shared gift with my other sis. Why buy two so-so presents for twenty bucks each when we can get one awesome gift for forty? Thanks to the latest gift-giving technology (no, not cityville), there need be no more exchange of bills, coins, or cheques. It can all be facilitated online. This is especially useful when the “brothers” are in on the shared purchase.  They’re the hardest to collect from.

Social gifting is the new buzz word for what my siblings and I have been practicing since we were old enough to earn an allowance.  Except it refers, specifically, to chipping in on a gift online.  One such example of how this works is Socialgift – a plugin that businesses can add to their websites inviting purchasers to make a group purchase.  The sucker in charge or organizing the gift simply selects the product, invites others to join in the purchase via Facebook or email, and viola! Each invitee pays their portion and the gift is mailed out to the lucky recipient.

One app (still in beta), called , goes a step further. It offers the recipient of the gift the opportunity to pre-select his or her favoured gifts. Let’s say your best friend is tired of getting the same old thing every year (free dinner at Swiss Chalet, for instance?) She can choose those gifts most to her liking through Friendgift’s enormous offerings and alert all her friends, acquaintances, and people she kinda’ knows (through Facebook, twitter, email) of what she would really, really like.  They then all have the opportunity to chip in.  Sure, an iPad is touch more expensive that a quarter chicken dinner – get enough friends together and it’s actually a lot more affordable than you might think!

All joking aside, it does make gift giving that much simpler for everyone involved.  Will this spell the end of good old fashioned gift-giving surprises?  Will the old adage “it’s the thought that counts” no longer be useful?  I hope not.  But then I again, I also hope I never again unwrap a huge white sculpture of two “adorable” kids in wedding garb. I can think of better things to set on my basement shelf than that.

Top Thumbnail from: Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Jun 16

Ever feel like it’s just too much effort to take off all those layers of clothing to try on a pair of jeans at a store?  Well, then this new shopping experience may be just what you’re looking for.

As crazy as this seems, I have to admit it would come in handy when I’m shopping from home on my laptop and wondering if that purple top with the ruffled neckline is really my style (probably not!)  On the other hand, will the screen be as honest as the mirror?  After all, it’s only after trying on that gorgeous floral summer dress that I realize my cleavage is on display, my hips pop out like lumps on each side, and the hem falls a little too high on my legs.  Even a tinted mirror can’t hide those defects, but a computer screen? I’m thinkin’, yep, it can.  Oh, evil screen.

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Angry Birds Domination Coming to a Household Near You (Like Your’s)

Jun 09

There is no stopping Angry Birds’ quest for world domination, okay, well, at least merchandise domination (like there’s a difference). I know Christmas is still a long time away, but I’m betting that there will be at least one of these products featuring the ticked off winged creatures under the tree for a child or, uh, severely addicted grownup player.

  • Angry, yet cute, plush toy
  • Angry Birds cook book featuring recipes made with, you guessed it: EGGS
  • Angry Birds Rio movie DVD
  • Angry Birds video game for Wii, PS3 and xBox
  • Angry Birds board game: Knock on Wood

But there’s even more! Check out this site, Hongkiat.com for a visual listing of 85 fabulous finds for the seriously addicted Angry Birds player.

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Parental Controls for iPad and iPod Don’t Filter Mature Apps

May 16

In an earlier post I chastised myself for failing to set up the parental controls for our family’s new iPad. My 6-year-old son had inadvertently opened up a screen in the app store offering a myriad of sex apps.

Lest you’ve never searched for the carnal apps, there are a lot.  Too many to count – for me anyways. I gave up counting after my iPhone listed 75 of them. They don’t interest me, and frankly, I’d rather they not interest my three sons either.

After said incident, I set up the parental controls for our iPad, which asks the user to define which age-based ratings I wish to to be accessed in the app store. Imagine my surprise when my 11-year-old announced that he’d somehow come across a page filled with sex apps again. I’d selected “Don’t allow apps rated 9 years +”

“Mom, I thought you set it up so we wouldn’t see these?” he asked.  Thankfully, my boys are no more interested in seeing them than I am.

Perplexed, I double checked the controls that I’d set up. Yep, all exactly as I’d remembered. So why were these kinds of programs popping up? Not to mention all the apps that celebrate gut explosions and machete wielding head chops. Wonderful games for young developing minds, no?

Then… Eureka! I realized that the settings only prevent kids aged nine and under from installing the apps. It didn’t prevent them from seeing them and reviewing the summaries.  For example, my 11-year-old son can read all about these enlightening apps:

Girl Sex Mistakes

Learn the 50 most common mistakes girls make in the bedroom. Great for girls looking to mend their ways or [sic] for the boys who love them! Your map to more satisfying sex. Download now!

Aw, how nice that my sons can learn at such a young age that girls are actually supposed to work at getting guys off . Gosh, it’s never to young too start messing up boys’ minds (or young girls’ minds for that matter.)

Sex Secrets

How to turn a woman on, satisfy her in a big way and get her to do the things you’ve always wanted! (the exclamation point is my own addition)

The main features of the applications are:

  • Women get turned on by a few major categories of things:
  • Did you notice anything missing from the list?
  • Anticipation
  • Stimulating her senses
  • The transition into sex
  • Women LOVE to be blindfolded

Again, so wonderful that my kids can learn this. Shouldn’t every child know that women LOVE to be blindfolded. My only conclusion to that bit of advice is that the creator of this app is exceedingly ugly, yet more exceedlingly rich.

Clearly, the parental control feature for the app store is useless. My kids are unable to install any apps, free or not, without my password anyway.

So, Apple I must ask… Why even bother? If you’re going to be responsible enough to provide the means for parents to protect their kids’ young minds and eyes, at the very least…

MAKE IT WORK.

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