Nov 21

I hate to be cynical about a commercial that is so sweet (okay – that’s a lie… I love being cynical) but there’s a reason why McCain has to make up a fairy tale about the creation of their fries – or more specifically, their smiley faces.¬† Would any mother want to buy from a company if they showed minimum wage workers dropping tons potato slices stamped with happy faces into massive vats of boiling canola oil?¬†Duh, nope. Bring on the potato dusters and affectionate oven mitts.

The reality is that I actually do enjoy McCain’s spot.¬† Heck, I watched the entire 60 seconds, which is pretty lengthy for a fry commercial.¬† Certainly, my younger boys will asking for those greasey grinners as soon as they see this ad because they’ll no sooner doubt the authenticity of the commercial than question the existence of Santa Claus (particularly around Christmas time.)¬† Typically, I keep away from any fried potato products, preferring to purchase a kilogram of PEI spuds for two bucks and, over the course of a month, peel, mash, bake, slice the versatile orbs for frequent dinner side dishes.¬†

Yet, does McCain get what it wants from the commercial? That is: will I buy a pack of frozen smiley faces next time my kids stand by the freezer section of the grocery store, nose pushed against the glass, begging “Ple-e-e-e-e-ease.¬† Can. We. Have. Smiles?”¬†
Well…¬† All right. I’ll get them.¬† But just ONCE.¬† Okay, maybe twice.

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Bracelet Gives Sound Advice: Don’t Do Drugs

Mar 18

“Everybody does it.”¬† The statement is a mantra among high school kids, for whom the label of “being different” can mean a one-way ticket to loserdom.¬† It’s the defence for the slacker who wants company when he’s skipping class.¬† It’s the¬†girls waving off with indifference why they shoplift jewellery.¬† Or it’s a little nudge among buddies to push the one sober kid to smoke his first joint.¬†

This peer-on-peer power of persuasion is what parents want to combat when they tell their kids to stay away from drugs.¬† Lucky for them, they have mammoth advertising crusaders to help them achieve their anti-drug message.¬† While I was in high school in the 1980′s, the campaign to ‚ÄòJust Say No’ was introduced to curb the growing use of recreational drugs among kids.¬† As I recall, drug use was not as rampant then as it is now, and I had no trouble staying away from the stuff.¬† But then, I was never one to buckle under peer pressure, either.¬† My parents spoke openly about every vice known to humankind and did a fine job of scaring the heck out of me and my siblings if we were ever caught doing any of them.¬†

When I was about 15, my father offered some sage advice: “Don’t try them, because you might like them.”¬† Somehow that statement resonated with me.¬† I never forgot it, and I steered clear of pot, even as friends took up the habit.¬† If that same advice came from a glossy poster rather than my dad, I would have likely ignored it.¬† While the ‚ÄòJust Say No’ campaign was a valiant effort that may have had a mild effect on teen drug use, it was also great fodder for parody and practical jokes.¬† All you had to do was step into the local ‚ÄòIt Store’ to find a “Say no to crack” poster that featured a vertical inch of¬†plumber butt¬†creeping out of a pair of drooping pants.¬†

The latest anti-drug campaign to hit the high school market is by the Sound Advice Project.¬† It features a bracelet uniquely designed by the parent.¬† Here’s how it works:¬† the parent visits their web site and records a statement to remind her child to stay away from drugs (in the commercial the mother says “I believe in you.”)¬† A bracelet is then created in a design that mimics the shape of the sound wave.¬†

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Fqg3NGtdcc

It’s a unique idea.¬† The strength of this campaign, however, is its emphasis on the importance of communication between parent and¬†teen, as the¬†commercial states “kids whose parents talk to them about drugs are up to 50% less likely to use drugs.”¬† The bracelet idea, while very sentimental, is a touch gimmicky.¬† Will a teenager actually wear a brightly coloured bracelet designed by their parents for the explicit purpose of telling them that they don’t want them to do drugs?¬† That’s hard to know.¬† Sure, kids value their parents’ beliefs and advice, but how many would be willing to announce their loyalty so openly?¬† Isn’t that kind of, well, dweebish?¬†¬†

The latest statistics in drug use show the tide is turning among teens.  According to Statistics Canada, usage almost doubled from 1994 to 2004 among every age group except 15-17 year olds (and those aged 65 years and older).  Among the 15 to 17 year old group, a third of them reported having used marijuana or hashish in the previous year(2003).  More current research that tracked cannabis use between 2002 and 2006 in 31 countries across (mostly) Europe and North America indicates that drug use is now actually declining among teens. 

Canada, the country with the highest rate of drug use among teens, at 30% of boys and 28% of girls, also showed the largest drop in usage.  It was down 13 percent among boys (from 2002) and almost 10 percent among girls.

Are all the advertising campaigns to fight drugs finally paying off, then?¬† Perhaps they’re helping.¬† But the research indicates the driving force in the decline has more to do with changing social habits than anything else.¬† The study found the “more frequently adolescents reported going out with their friends in the evenings, the more likely they were to report using cannabis…. Across countries, changes in the frequency of evenings spent out were strongly linked to changes in cannabis use.”¬† That is, as kids cling more and more to their online tools to communicate (email, mobile phones, social networking sites), they are cutting back on face-to-face time.¬† Less hanging out, less opportunity to light one up with the buddies.¬† Perhaps the next great campaign to end all anti-drug campaigns should just hand out cell phones and tell parents to keep their kids at home.¬† There’s got to be a better way than that, but the latest research offers two simple, yet powerful tools to help parents keep their kids away from drugs.¬† Talk to them about it (or even better – about everything) and keep them busy enough that they don’t have the¬†time or desire to spend hours just hanging out with friends every other night of the week.¬†

 

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Feeling Down? Watch Commercials.

Jan 21

Some people go to church.¬† Some people go for a run.¬†¬†Some will¬†shun the newspaper.¬† While others will bake a cake.¬†¬†Whatever it is that¬†smooths the worry wrinkles on our brows¬†- we all need an opportunity to feel happy when times are bringing¬†us down.¬† Today, it’s not very hard¬†to descend into despair in the midst of a dreary, cold winter with an economy in the tank and¬†no end in sight¬†to the constant threat of terrorism and war, courtesy of the Middle East.¬†¬†North Americans are seeking a glimmer of hope in whatever, or whomever, they can.¬† And where there’s a demand, there’s a marketing strategy.¬†¬†

Pepsi is among the first companies to sell hope, er, soda, uh…¬†I mean, optimism in a can?¬†¬†Their latest ad campaign is a feel-good montage of bright colours and happy words.¬† The kids will love it, for¬†the catchy tune is certain to get their legs jumping and hands clapping.¬†¬†But, lest you think¬†the¬†sole purpose of the ad is put a smile on your gloomy face, there are not-so-subtle allusions to the Pepsi brand throughout.¬†¬†So, if you think slurping fizzy sugar drinks will wash away your sadness, buy some Pepsi.¬† Otherwise, snap your fingers and tap your toes for the 30 second break in your¬†TV show, then try not to think about your grocery bills, job security,¬†kids’ lessons, or mortgage, and¬†for goodness sake… don’t get cynical about huge corporations trying to promise you happiness if you buy their goods!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDix0VvrV1g

The kids will be dancing to this one.  And asking for more pop?  Perhaps.

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War Child Commercial – Brilliant Satire or Bad Taste?

Dec 11

This is a commercial for War Child Canada.¬† It is difficult to watch, although few could argue its brilliant use of satire.¬† The producers of the ad have taken a great leap of faith in assuming that most viewers have a strong grasp of the literary device.¬† Certainly, children viewing this would be confounded by the images and likely completely misinterpret its meaning.¬† While I appreciate the charity’s¬†message and the method to convey it, I don’t necessarily agree that inaction to donate is equal to encouraging children to bear arms.¬† Unfortunately, other issues – completely beyond the control of Canadians – play a much¬†heftier role in creating child soldiers, such as corrupt, unstable governments and tribal wars.¬†

I have, in fact, supported War Child in the past, not because I think I am helping to build armies of child soldiers if I do not donate, but rather because I hope that War Childwill aid kids suffering as a result of wars caused by those very forces that are unlikely to be eliminated by any single person, government, or NGO. 

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7uW5m_tAGk

What do you think?

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