Do I like children’s advertising?

Grace doesn’t watch a lot of TV, but when she does it tends to be CBeebies – BBC’s digital channel for kids. (I’m not entirely sure if there was a lot of thought behind why CBeebies – but ITV’s kids channel has only been around for a year, so I guess it was mainly that we got into a habit when it was one of the only options.)

I’m bringing this up because Grace watched Winnie the Pooh on telly in bed with me this morning. The TV in our bedroom doesn’t have Freeview, so I was limited to terrestrial channels. I happened to come across ‘The Book of Pooh’ on five just by chance – she loves Winnie the Pooh, and it bought me an extra half-hour in bed, so everyone was happy.

Anyway, this is just an observation, and I’m not trying to make a deep and meaningful point here… but the difference between watching kids TV on the BBC and five was striking. Adverts.

After a couple of years of license-fee-funded (and therefore commercial-free) stuff, I’d forgotten what watching kids telly was like. Advert after advert – for toys, mainly I think, but I was half-dozing so I’m not really sure.

And I’m not sure why, but I find it kind of uncomfortable. I’m not anti-capitalist, I think toys are great, and I vaguely remember talk of banning advertising of junk food during children’s television sometime last year so there probably wasn’t that being pushed at her.

So I’m not sure why I’m not liking it. Maybe it’s just because it’s different to what I’ve got used to (am I that inflexible to change? 🙂 ).

I didn’t really pay any attention to the talk about advertising junk food during children’s television when I saw it on the news before, which is odd because now I think about it, it seems very important, and a step that I’m glad was taken.

The BBC do seem to go out of their way to promote their children’s television as being positive. It even feels funny sometime – the way that they do everything with such earnest political correctness.

They have a programme teaching cooking, a programme teaching dancing, and one teaching sign language. (This is as well as all the sorts of programmes I remember from when I was young – teaching stuff like maths and science.) Even the regular programmes all have some sort of moral or message – ‘Bob the Builder’ bleats on about ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ so often that I sometimes wish Wendy would feed him into his cement mixer, and the bizarre ‘Lazy Town’ features a character who harrangs kids into exercise while trying to trick them into eating fruits and vegetables by telling them that they are “sports candy”.

‘Postman Pat’ now lives in possibly the most ethnically diverse little sleepy village in England, and in fact you’d be hard pressed to find a minority group of almost any description not represented by a character in one show or other. ‘Balamory’ has Penny Pocket the disabled shopkeeper and ‘Me Too’ has Rudi the blind market seller (although incidentally… I’m not entirely sure how flattering this is for him) and there are lots more.

(I don’t remember kids telly being like this when I was young… in fact, the only TV character in a wheelchair that I can remember from my youth is Davros – the creator of the Daleks. Not really the same sort of thing…)

All of this without trying to convince kids to buy anything. (Well, okay – BBC license characters to a ton of merchandising stuff like books and toys, but that’s stepping on my point a little…)

And it’s fantastic. I hadn’t really appreciated it before, and I’m not sure why a handful of adverts that I only half listened to has really got me thinking about it. It suddenly seems more valuable to me, and I feel grateful that effort was taken into getting this sort of representation and positive message into the time that Grace spends in front of a television – where before it all seemed a little quaint and amusing.

I dunno… can you say “overreaction”? It’s probably all fade into insignifance as I’ll completely mess her up by introducing her to Doctor Who and the Daleks before too long anyway 😉

2 Responses to “Do I like children’s advertising?”

  1. Ben Waldron says:

    Hi There,
    It is interesting read your thoughts on your daughter’s consumption of TV. I am writing a thesis on the consumption of media advertising targeted towards young children and would greatly value your opinion. From what I gather from CBeebies, the only advertising is done regarding shows on the same programme. But have noticed any impact on your daughter with materialistic wants, such as toys or food at the supermarket?
    It is obvious that adults and even older children have learnt to interpret corporate messages and not take them at face value and trust there message. However it easy to forget the young children are very naive and trust worthy.
    How do you deal with a ‘I want’ attitude, if at all there is one. This generally takes place more in boys at a younger age and actually reverts back to girls at ages 12+. Which I am sure you will be delighted to here. lol
    Your opinion would be of great interest to me and my report. Thank You.

  2. dale says:

    Materialistic wants? Yeah… she would happily get everything in the supermarket branded with a kids TV character given half a chance. So we have to work on the whole “us-saying-no-isn’t-a-bad-thing” – you know, being firm but still cheerful and positive. Tricky though – not sure if there is an easy answer…