I have just watched an ad selling iPads to children. Well, not to children, obviously, to their parents who actually pay for them. Part of the back-to-school marketing onslaught, presumably.
The ad appeals, like most parent-targeted marketing, to the importance of giving children a head-start in life. On the surface, this sounds positive and desirable. It looks like the ad is saying, “Buy this iPad for your child and you will prove that you are a caring, nurturing parent.”
That is not what it is really saying. The real message is one of fear. “If you do not buy this iPad, your child will fall behind. They will miss out and never fulfil their true potential. And you will be known henceforth throughout the earth as a bad parent.”
The real message is one of fear.
Ads like these remind me of a satirical Australian TV series aimed at revealing the truth behind such marketing devices. This TV series had a regular sketch titled, “As a guilty mum”, where a mum talked about the exorbitant amount of money she had spent on the latest unnecessary baby product.
This sketch successfully highlighted the manipulation of the marketing world as it played on our sense of fear and guilt to entrap us into spending more money. It also served to highlight the ridiculous nature of parent-targeted advertising.
The thing that really gets my goat is the use of parent-targeting ads to sell products that even non-parents use.
Take cleaning products, for example. I recently saw an ad for one of those spray-on antiseptics that people use to wipe down spotless white kitchen surfaces. They used an “As a guilty mum” attack in the ad. You know: “As a parent, I pride myself on keeping a germ-free home.”
I found myself sarcastically replying to the oblivious actors.
“Oh good,” I sneered at the TV, “I am so glad that parents now have clean household surfaces. Unlike everyone else on the planet. Because childless people could never want that. And even if they did want a shiny white benchtop, this product is reserved for parents only.”
“This product is reserved for parents only.”
Unfortunately, our society is *still* under the impression that only parents care about cleanliness. And a whole host of other products. Only parents have need for crucial items ranging from user-friendly bin liners to outrageously expensive life insurance.
Something in my brain starts to scream when I see these ads. Something in my childless self protests at being relegated to a sub-species of human, simply by virtue of my childlessness. It seems wrong that the majority of ads seek to resonate with parents only.
It results in alienation. It leaves the rest of us out in the cold. It tells me that I am different. It reinforces the notion that I do not belong, that as a childless person I am wrong, wrong, wrong.
It reinforces the notion that as a childless person I am wrong, wrong, wrong.
But this is a lie. I personally would like to see more ads appealing to our humanity rather than to our parental status. Imagine if ads started running on TV appealling to our commonalities as a race of humans.
“As a person, I value health and wellness in my home.”
“As a citizen, I take pride in making my vote count on election day.”
“As a human being, I need that user-friendly bin liner.”
It could be the end of civilisation as we know it – or the dawn of a new one.
Do you hear people making “As a parent…” statements, or have you made them yourself? How do you respond? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.