Things I’ve Written: Advertising Article Featuring My Little Pony

So I’ve mentioned that I’m doing a lot of writing at work and that maybe I should use that writing to, like, do something with my own personal blog. I also have a couple of for-realsies blog posts simmering, so, hey, building momentum.

One of the coolest things about where I work is the mission. We’re talking truly life-transforming and belief-shaping. Pornography is the easiest example. Before I started at my job, I found it morally objectionable but was personally ambivalent for non-Christians. (This is my default stance on many issues: I may find a behavior objectionable, but I’m not going to force someone who doesn’t share the basic tenants of my faith to live under my moral code.) Now, almost two years later, my opinions on porn are much more closely aligned with my opinions on drugs. In short: “NOOO DON’T DO IT YOU’RE RUINING YOUR BRAIN YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP STOP WATCHING IT NAOW!” Seriously. There’s a ton of science behind why it’s just about one of the worst things you can do to yourself sexually.

*climbs off soapbox*

So the point of that whole tirade is really to say that I get to dig into a lot of really fascinating issues regarding the brain and social trends. For example, 9 months ago or so I wrote an article about advertising. Fun fact: A lot of advertising standards changed in 1983. I was one year old. So I’m a member of a generation raised under Pavlovian advertising conditions. Advertisers got their hooks into me (us) at a young age and built brand loyalty into us before we even knew what it was.

See also: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If you know me at all, you know I have a great affection for this show. In fact, it’s one of only two shows I watch (the other is NBC’s Community, which totally deserves its own blog post because it is Just. That. Awesome.)

Anyway. My Little Pony. I have fond memories of the old show. Some of my favorite toys were My Little Ponies. I have a traumatic memory of giving away my favorite My Little Pony ever because I had a misguided concept of sacrifice when I was 8. (By the way, if anyone ever wants to give me a vintage Glory My Little Pony, you’d be my hero for, like, ever.)

And now, as an almost-30 adult, I still watch My Little Pony and buy the toys for myself my niece myself and my niece. And next time McDonald’s offers them as a Happy Meal toy, I am totally going to buy a bajillion Happy Meals. (Also, a hamburger happy meal with Diet Coke is only 13 points on Weight Watchers, so it’s sort of healthy. And cheaper. And comes with a toy.)

Again, I degress. My point is this: A 29-year-old single woman should not be going out of her way to watch a show for 7-year-olds. Yet here I am. Why? Because, in part, advertisers got their hooks on me, saying if you like this cool product you should give us all of your monies forever in order to buy derivative products forevarz. (The fact that current-gen My Little Pony toys are kind of ugly has saved me a ton of money. No joke.)

Is it fair to blame advertisers for my personal desire to own every cool fan-made My Little Pony or Community t-shirt ever created? No and yes. There’s personal responsibility, certainly. On the other hand, my admittedly limited research leads me to the conclusion that there’s something to be said for the whole idea that kids these days have a horrible sense of entitlement. We’re the boomerang generation; we stay with Mom and Dad well after the age our parents would have married and had kids; we waste our lives playing video games and buying toys and stupid t-shirts. And advertisers are at least partially to blame in a very Pavlovian sense.

Without further ado, here’s the article that I wrote for the June 2011 issue of Pure Minds Online.

Sold for Life: How Advertisers Influence Children, and What You Can Do About It

You’ve no doubt seen the kid in the grocery store, throwing a temper tantrum because his parents wouldn’t buy him the new toy or candy he wanted. Maybe you’ve even been that parent, and you know the sting of the dirty looks for not giving up and buying your child the treat, just to get him to calm down.

Or maybe you know a boy whose love for Spider-Man extends so far that his bedroom is decorated solely in that theme, and he’ll only eat Spider-Man mac and cheese because it “tastes better.”

Perhaps you’ve even seen a group of 5-year-old girls celebrating a birthday with pedicures at a salon.

The common thread to these is not bad parenting, as some people may be quick to assume. The common thread is advertising. Marketers are doing everything in their power to influence your purchases through your children.

Read the rest of the article…