Elmo For Christmas? Again?

Sep 18

Expect to see a new surge in Elmo-buying parents this Christmas season as Fisher-Price¬†¬†begins¬†the advertising campaign¬†for its latest version of the furry little red guy.¬† This time, he’s talking, singing, grooving and telling knee-slapping jokes and looks more life-like than ever – as life-like as a Sesame Street puppet can get, anyways.¬†¬†He is¬†Live Elmo, and judging by the growing buzz around this new toy,¬†you can bet he‚Äôll be sitting mute under thousands of trees this year, waiting for pyjama-clad youngsters to rip off the red wrap and turn him ‚Äòon.‚Äô¬† Carols sung by the piano and Uncle Marty‚Äôs holiday joke routine will¬†be pushed aside as¬†Elmo takes the spotlight (at least until¬†his high-pitched¬†voice grates a few too¬†many nerves.)¬†

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVUPTTkIBVI

Live Elmo is available in stores on October 14; however,¬†customers are encouraged to pre-order their gifts (so as not to disappoint the wee ones come Christmas time.)¬† Fisher-Price.com has limited online purchases to a maximum of six Elmo‚Äôs per order, and warns buyers that they will not receive their order¬†until December 4th due to the backlog of pre-orders.¬† Canadian customers can pre-order the toy through Toysrus.ca for $64.99 to have it shipped by October 14, or pick one¬†up at the store (they’ll also be available at Wal-mart.)¬†

 

While a number of parents will not think twice about racing to the closest store before Halloween to purchase their child’s Christmas joy, other more sensible-minded folks may be wondering, why should I buy¬†this furry, red, singing, dancing,¬†friendly monster¬†for my child?¬† Well, just in case¬†Mattel’s commercials do not convince you of the merits of this year’s Live Elmo, I’ve compiled a list of reasons to help sway you toward the right purchasing decision this Christmas:

  1. Once your little angel learns (via television commercials) that she or he can have her very own personal Elmo, you’ll be compelled – no, thrilled! – to fulfill her Christmas wish.
  2. Elmo can sing 2 songs, play 2 games, recite 2 stories and tell 5 jokes.  When was the last time you offered such variety to your child in one sitting?
  3. You can let Mr. Funny entertain your child so you can steal some valuable time for yourself (you know you want it!)
  4. There are few more heart-warming moments than the one when your child unwraps a gift and learns with wide-eyed joy that she’s received the best-selling electronic toy of the season… Thanks Santa!
  5. Come on… admit it!  You think he’s cute, too.
  6. If the batteries haven’t died by the 500th time you’ve heard him tell the “flying” joke, you can pull them out yourself.¬†¬†But no matter how sick of Elmo you are, do not tell your preschooler with hand-wringing glee that Live Elmo is now Dead Elmo.
  7. You’ve always wanted to cut back on your child’s TV-watching habits.  Now you can!  Tell your child that Elmo’s World is off-air because he’s here in the house.  Then have her play with Live Elmo for a quarter an hour, or half-hour, or three-quarters of an hour.
  8. Sure, it’s a little creepy to have a toy with such life-like qualities, but that didn’t stop your mommy from buying you a Cabbage Patch Kid, did it?
  9. When the teacher asks if your child is being read to regularly, you can look her in the eyes and silently nod your head.
  10. Who are you kidding?  There is no such thing as a sensible-minded parent during Christmas.  Just try to remember what you bought for your kids last Christmas.  And now think about your credit card statements that followed.

 

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Marketing Apples to Children? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Aug 21

Too many Canadian kids are fat.  This is a fact.  Over the past few years, newspapers and health advocates have decried the rising obesity rates, but it’s not headline news today.  As Canadians have come to accept this weighty truth and various organizations and governments scramble to find solutions, it’s hardly surprising that finger pointing has begun.  Who is to blame for this epidemic of chunkiness?  The list of culprits is exhausting and their culpability impossible to define – from the nutritionists in Michael Pollan’s bestseller In Defense of Food (Fat bad!  Carbohydrates good!) to parenting experts that bemoan Mommy’s use of the word “no” – the blame game will very likely find few winners.  A recent report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, however, shows both the food and media industries are strong contenders.

 

According to the report, $1.6 billion was spent in 2006 by 44 major food and beverage marketers to promote their goodies to kids aged 2 to 17 years old.  For children aged 2 to 11 years, a total of $229 million was invested in breakfast cereals alone – while the amount spent on fruits and vegetables was $8.4 million.  Is it any wonder then, that kids are especially vocal about their preferences in the cereal aisle of the grocery store?  Take a teen to the local Loblaws, and it’s more likely to be the soda shelves that invigorate his taste buds.  That’s because the marketing strategy shifts toward carbonated beverages for 12 to 17 year olds where $472.2 million was invested in making sure your kid begs for Red Bull rather than V-8.  In that same age category, fruits and vegetables received a measly $6.2 million to promote their not so hip qualities.

 

The report also chastises the media for bombarding children and teens with messages and images that promote unhealthy eating habits through television advertising, the internet, and movie tie-ins.  In the reported year, food and beverage products were tied to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters that appeal to children.  It specifically cites the use of characters from Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean to sell fatty food products.  According to a Dr. Martin Schiff, weight-loss expert and best-selling author of The Thin Connection, goes a step further in blaming Hollywood for North America’s gluttonous habits.  He is now part of a health campaign that urges the movie industry to add a new rating – “O” for Obesity.  According to Schiff, shows such as Sex in the City where skinny, beautiful women constantly eat yet never gain weight are setting an unhealthy example for thousands of children (as opposed to the promiscuous sex and shallow lifestyles?)  While this proposal is a noble effort to curb the overeating that has gripped our youngest generation, it’s not likely that an industry that profits from gratuitous violence and lurid sex scenes is going to omit all-you-can-eat buffet scenes from their movies.  Furthermore, parents busy censoring their children from lewd language, nudity and blood spilling are not about to whisper “cover your eyes” when some chubby kid eats a twinkie on the silver screen. 

 

A battle against America’s corporations to focus their energies less on junk food and more on healthy eating is, quite frankly, fruitless.  Although the report concedes that some of the largest food and beverage companies have taken “important steps to encourage better nutrition and fitness among the nation’s children” by limiting their advertising to foods that meet certain nutritional standards, if the “standards” are met by injecting a few vitamins into a sugar-laden gummy, children and parents are not much better off.   Maybe advertisers will bear some of the responsibility for North America’s unhealthy eating habits, and maybe they won’t.  Only time will tell.  But one thing is certain, all this finger wagging and strongly worded criticisms will do little to shrink the enlarged girth of a ten-year-old.  Regular trips to the farmer’s market, less time in front of the television, and a firm and well-practiced “No” will shed pounds and transform bad eating habits long before anyone sees an ad touting the funky pink treat that dances in your mouth and spreads cool antioxidants to your finger tips called … Watermelon!

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