Bad Ads 3: Stuff Not to Buy for Kids
Recently I had a dream that I found an old video tape of Return of the Jedi taped off TV from 1984, complete with vintage commercials. I remember that in the dream, I was really excited to watch the commercials, something I initially couldn't understand when I woke up. But after watching TV for a while, I figured it out: modern commercials for kid's stuff are almost universally unappealing. Check out these hot toys:
THE PRESIDENTIAL TIMELINE
There's a new edutainment product from C-SPAN, the people that brought you such kid-popular TV stations as C-SPAN and the even more galvanizing and edgy C-SPAN 2 (which was likened by one senator as "like C-SPAN, but set on fire, and driving through the House of Representatives pursued by bears and ninjas, and most of the ninjas are on fire"). It's a great learning tool for classrooms that will get even the most apathetic students interested in American history. It's called the Presidential Timeline.
The Presidential Timeline is a giant blackboard-sized posterboard hatched with a maze of criscrossing colored lines, each one of which represents the career of an American president. You don't have to be Piaget to know that kids love puzzling out presidential biographies even more than they love giant posters with tiny lettering and no pictures. The lines are color-coded so even illiterate kids can join in the fun, assuming they can somehow commit the color key to memory. "So green means he was a good president, right?" "No, green means he was a Senator." "So what does red mean?" "That he was a bad senator." "And pink?" "Breast fondler."
THE SLINKY DOG
In an attempt to make even more money from selling some crappy springs, Slinky has created a line of toy dogs whose front halves and back halves are connected by a slinky. I guess the theory is that your pet would be more fun if he were infinitely extensible.
It's all fine for us older folks, who will enjoy the implicit cruelty in slinky-walking him down the stairs on his face, but how traumatic is is going to be for a little kid? It's gotta be the five-year-old equivalent of being on the beach at Normandy. "I saw Slinky Dog's metal guts spill out of his stomach right before me. When he looked at me with his pleading eyes, I knew that there was no God."
SOME CHRISTMAS AD
I know this is no longer timely several days after the Feast of the Epiphany, but I just have to mention a Christmas ad that was being run by some company, I forget which, let's say Best Buy or Target. A kid runs up to his mom to give her a piece of paper. "Is this your Christmas list?" she asks.
"It's the first page," the mischievous, cherub-cheeked scamp affirms. "The second page is still printing." And as if to highlight his words, we hear foleyed in the background the unmistakable buzz of a dot matrix printer. A DOT MATRIX PRINTER! For God's sake. There is no kid on earth who is still using a dot matrix printer to print out his Christmas list, and if there is, his list should be one line long: it should read either "a real printer" or "a time machine to get me out of the 80's".
I guess it's part of the association of sounds that will keep that annoying modem connection noise in commercials long after everyone has gone to broadband. And do cash registers really make that "ch-ding!" sound anymore?