Thursday, January 17, 2008

Swedish Advertising Neglects the Children

Yesterday, as I stood in line at Max waiting for a hamburger made with real Swedish beef, I was struck by a revelation. Much like the Heliga Birgitta, it seemed as if life's very mysteries had been revealed to me. It all started as a woman was ordering two Max Boxes for her kids. And they got a toy. Of course. And then it hit me. I had no idea what kind of toy the kids were going to get. Because I hadn’t seen any ads for toys in Max Boxes, or Happy Meals for that matter.

And then the mysteries of Sweden were revealed to me. I remembered that Sweden has a law against targeted advertising towards children. Granted, I’m not a child, so I don’t exactly fall into that target market anyway, but still. It dawned on me that the lack of advertising directed at children was conspicuous for that very reason, the lack of.

As I stood waiting for my hamburger made with real Swedish beef I started thinking back to the ads McDonalds used to always run in the US advertising the next toy in their Happy Meal. That just doesn’t happen here. Sure they still give away the toys. And I know this for a fact because I am cheap and Happy Meals are an inexpensive way to feed myself when I’m in a pinch. But there aren’t commercials explaining that next week Happy Meals will be giving away Hot Wheels!

Instead, the McDonald’s Happy Meal ads in Sweden focus on their being healthy options like milk, carrots, or apples. Or the newest phenomenon. The option of getting meatballs with your Happy Meal. Swedish meatballs. Again, the style of these ads were clearly directed at adults, a little kid doesn’t care about carrots. They do care about Hot Wheels.

I have yet to see a single ad for a Max Box though. Although they do sell hamburgers made with real Swedish beef. Maybe Max Box has resigned themselves to not even toeing the line with this law, while McDonalds has yet to acquiesce. Maybe they are just hoping for some collateral rub-off when they advertise the Happy Meals even though they do a good job of targeting the parents. I don’t know.

And I also don’t know how I feel about this. A part of me actually worries that it cheats children out of learning how to discern, distinguish, dissect all the ads that people are bombarded with every day. Some would argue that children are just too susceptible to advertising. I think we might be giving copywriters and marketing coordinators too much credit and not giving nearly enough credit to the kids.

18 comments:

  1. I think it would be fabulous if all commercials were abolished...so I'm thrilled. :o)

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  2. But how are you going to find out about the sale at your local department store? or about the new toy in Happy Meals?

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  3. That's the whole point. When you need something, you re/search for it.

    But when someone advertises to us, we go searching for it - even if we don't need it - usually neglecting to genuinely research the entire scenario.

    Of course, we can choose which sales lists we want to be on, but that's not so much advertising as choosing to be a member of a particular consumer group. Keeps us in charge of what is directed into our brains. And cuts our consumption drastically.

    If more people did this, they wouldn't need to spend most of their life working full-time, to pay off stuff they get tired of accumulating.

    This slight change can change ones life. I'd selfishly like to see others living more and working less. :o)

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  4. i like the commercials, it makes me go buy things i dont need..lol

    kinda like the H&M magazine i get. i dont need it but when i get it in the mail i buy stuff

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  5. @ isle dance - But everyone has a choice. I really think, when it comes down to it, that most people are able to make cnscious decisions about what they want and need. Advertising brings a product to mind, but it is up to the consumer to make the final decision. So those people who spend their life working to pay off stuff they have accumulated have made a decision to purchase what they have. Through no fault but their own. For better or worse. And I would argue that signing up for a mailing list is most definitely a form of advertising. In fact, a much more effective and targeted form of advertising. Now people are bombarded with stuff they like, but don't necessarily need. But again. People have a choice. To buy or not.

    @ mrs cecrux - you're really killing everything I just wrote... come on now.

    except for the H&M part. good work on helping my point.

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  6. sorry..lol

    i was actually trying to help

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  7. I totally agree that each human is fully responsible for themselves and what they purchase.

    However, the difference between commercials and signing up for emailing lists: You cannot (for the most part) stop or choose commercials. You can choose to sign up for emailing lists - or remove yourself from them.

    When commercials automatically begin from infancy, they automatically train the brain to accept/believe what it's bombarded with. It's not necessarily a healthy way to train the brain.

    Then...commercials are not necessarily facts/full stories. One still needs to research to ensure they are indeed understanding the whole picture.

    I dunno...I just think choice is the way to go.

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  8. It's true... when it comes down to it everyone should look into what they are buying a bit more closely than they do. And I agree with choice being the way to go. But I think allowing various forms of commericials, advertising, and all around marketing opens people up to more choices than they might if they were forced to find things completely on their own. Because like it or not, sometimes the things that are advertised are, in fact, some of the better products out there. Maybe those don't get found without the extent of advertising we see today. I'm not quite sure I totally buy into that myself but just throwing it out there.

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  9. Isle dance - just came across this on thelocal.se about the ban on ads targeting children. thought you might want to give it a little looksee:

    http://www.thelocal.se/9559/20080104/

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  10. Yeah, just thinking about how info would get to people, without advertising, makes the brain really think. My brain is drawing a blank, but I'm going to make it think further on this...somehow!

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  11. Thanks for the article link! I'm really glad whenever I see such a committed effort to protect children in these ways. I know it might sound juvenile to those who grew up with advertising (and other things), but from my own experience, once one has removed themselves from such things for an extended period of time, it gets much easier to see why it's important to fight these good fights. :o)

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  12. some people struggle though, advertising does expose you to a bunch of different products... and some people seem to need that help

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  13. Hairy Swede, just because advertising directed at children is banned it doesn't mean that people are left having to find things completely on their own. I mean what are you referring to? The children have to go and find the toys for themselves? or what?

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  14. no no not at all. I was only trying to make a point. In fact right after that sentence I say: "I'm not quite sure I totally buy into that myself but just throwing it out there."

    The idea was that advertising has allowed for thousands of products, some very good products, to come to the attention of the general product. Products that could be argued to have made life easier. So banning forms of advertising could have a negative impact on those products that are undiscovered. You could also aruge that the cream always rises to the top...

    Just trying to make a point.

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  15. Its funny that I started reading this blog with enthusiasm (hey this is a nice and informative blog) and the more I read the angrier I get :S
    Or I wouldn't say angry, just confused. Are you Americans really so fucking fucked up that you think children take damage from not being exposed to a disgusting advertisment/consumerism culture?

    Children aren't happier today than they were 100 years ago. Brainwashing kids into wanting the latest "Mc Donald's toys" will lead to no good.

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  16. Ill just claim my Swedish citizenship on this one.

    But, yeah, just about every form of measurement shows that people are in fact, a lot happier and better off today than they were 100 years ago.

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