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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Tip #15 Prepare Your Kids for Gladvertising

Jul 21

Teaching your child to withstand peer pressure is in every parent’s mental handbook for raising healthy, balanced kids.  However, what if the newest pressure facing the young generation doesn’t come from another person, but rather, um, a billboard?  Welcome to the future of marketing: gladvertising.

Slated to begin appearing as early as 2012, gladverts are digital outdoor advertisements that use cameras and facial-recognition software (that just sounds creepy) to detect a consumer’s mood.  The consumer, of course, constitutes: me, you, our kids, our grandma and ex-brother-in-law, even that annoying neigbour – basically anyone who moseys across the camera’s “eye”.  Once the gladvert reads the victim’s mood, it will push products and brands that are relevant to that person’s emotional state.  For example, if the gladvert detects a woman walking by in a grumpy mood, it may display chocolate. Suddenly the poor gal (who has been trying to lose her last 10 pounds of post-pregnancy weight) finds herself wolfing down a Kitkat bar (and regretting later, thereby increasing her grumpiness).  But, the chocolate company will have achieved their coveted sale.  Yes – I have a cynical attitude toward this new advertising ploy.

The whole sci-fi inspired move toward turning our every emotion into a “brand” experience is creepy, at best, and downright criminal, at worst.  Shouldn’t a person be allowed to just wallow in his or her emotional conundrum (be it joyful or sorrowful) without having to worry about being exploited by a company seeking profit?  Unfortunately, although the answer to the question is a definitive yes, the near future will see gladvertising pop up in cities across the globe.

Parents are advised to learn about the gladverts cropping up in their own communities and make their kids aware of the impact such advertising will have on them. With commercialism already so prevalent in our children’s lives, this new trend will only add to parents’ efforts to teach kids that buying stuff doesn’t ever resolve emotional issues.  In fact, I’m betting that consumers who buy based solely on emotion rather than common sense will be the ones sobbing most when the credit card bill comes. (But the brands will be cheering!)

I give the same piece of advice almost every time my kids beg for the latest gadget, gizmo, or crappadoodle-doo that they’ve seen:

There’s only one reason that this company wants you to buy this thing… because they want your money. They don’t care if it’s good for you or if it’ll make you feel better. They just want your money.

Yes, I realize that’s over simplifying things.  But I want my kids to grow up knowing that their mom and dad actually care far more about them than any corporate brand.  And, frankly, I hope that our advice will always outshine that of a glossy billboard – no matter how alluring, or underhanded, their methods.

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Coca-Cola Continues to be Cool with 3-D Motion

Apr 01

Coca-Cola continues its quest to showcase creative and entertaining video to market their fizzy beverages. Although health-conscious parents, like me, are loath to encourage their young ones to sip on the sugary sauce, the pop company still leads in its cool-factor. How can you not admire their ability to create fun-loving, imaginative ads?
This latest ad was developed by Jerome Masi and Gaetan Boutet for the company’s 3D motion design contest. Pretty cool. And, more motivation for my kids to ask for Coca-Cola.

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