Drug company uses movie promotion to target your kids

It was Mickey Mouse who started it all. Back in 1934, the iconic cartoon mouse generated $600,000 in merchandise sales for its creator, Walt Disney – a staggering sum for the era.  Although it was during the Great Depression, Disney was able to save his struggling film company and his business partners from bankruptcy – including the Ingersoll-Waterbury Clock Company, maker of the first Mickey Mouse watches.

It wasn’t until 1978, however, that the modern age of movie merchandising really took off. George Lucas cashed in on the trend with $2.6 billion worth of the collectible toys he sold based on his original Star Wars trilogy.

For the first time in history, a movie producer partnered with a toy company (in this case, a young company called Kenner) to create little 3 3/4″ high collectible “action figures” as well as assorted Star Wars toys, books, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc. (My kids’ rooms were filled with these!) Even the popular TV sitcom Modern Family recently featured a discussion between Mitchell and Cam about their favourite Luke Skywalker collectible – “Luke wearing the shorty robe”.

But today, the release of a new movie includes the launch of corporate partnerships that not only sell action figures, but help push over-the-counter drugs for children.   Continue reading

Warning: Dora the Explorer may be dangerous to your children’s health

Spend any time at all with a 4-year old, and you’ll realize a couple of things right away: first, Fours are a lot like Twos except they’re now bigger, stronger and louder. Secondly, Fours are not skeptical at all about what grownups tell them. Although children of this age have fairly advanced cognitive skills as well as both short- and long-term memory in place, they do not have any marketing savvy.

Researchers at Yale University confirmed this observation recently when they found that simply adding licensed cartoon characters such as Dora the Explorer to product packaging can drive pre-schoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.  And that is precisely why the fast-food industry in North America spends over $3 billion marketing to the tiniest consumers.

Not only do pre-schoolers lack the ability to figure out the marketing motives of advertisers, they do have what’s known as “pester power”, an innate children’s ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Thus marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be.  Continue reading