Thursday, May 12, 2011

Truth in Advertising

The first foul-mouthed ninety seconds of this clip totally crack me up!

I was reminded of it by a more important and less funny issue: false advertising to kids.  Yes, I was almost a childhood victim of false advertising. Thanks goodness the FTC was there to protect me:

In a 2004 report, based on a speech delivered by J. Howard Beales, III, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, reported successes in targeting false advertising to kids.

A. Ballerina Dolls Don’t Dance, Toy Horses Can’t Stand Up,

and Bread Doesn’t Help with Homework
. . . A horse named “Nugget” was shown standing on his own; in fact, “Nugget” fell over without human assistance. In each of these cases, the ad was examined from the viewpoint of a child in the age group to which the toy was targeted. While an adult viewer might understand that special techniques were employed in such commercials, the child would expect the toy to perform as shown.

What girl growing up in the early 70s did not want Nugget? (Sing it with me now, Dusty, Dusty, Dusty, riding Nugget, Nugget, Nugget!)

Actually, I’m no victim, not because of some bureaucratic prohibition, but because despite my incessant pleas, my father told me straight out – You want a Palomino, I’ll get a Palomino, but I’m not buying you any dumbass fuzzy Palomino  for twenty bucks!  I’ll just paint the damn Barbie horse you already have.  And so he did. 

Love the white blaze and my father for painting it. 

Goldie represents the perfect nexus of childhood desires and parental responsibilities – minus one tail.  Maybe that’s why I’ve kept the damn thing all these years with nary a Barbie in sight. 

But I fear this no nonsense approach to parenting (colorful vocabulary optional but super-fun to say as a parent) is all too rare; there now seems to be a collective sigh of relief when we hear, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” where raising children are concerned.

This universal relief from our parental burdens, real or imagined, must certainly fuel the federal government’s recent charge to four ginormous bureaucracies (the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Federal Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control) to develop proposed voluntary guidelines for advertising unhealthy foods to kids under the guise of improving children’s diets. No doubt, keeping tabs on what your kids eat is downright time consuming, their incessant whining to “buy me Kids Cuisine” is totally irritating, and monitoring every single thing they watch on television or see on the computer is completely out the question! I can see why people might think that the prohibiting private companies from advertising to our children might lighten our parental burdens.

But any imagined benefits break down when we look at what is actually occurring here.

First, there is no force or fraud on the part of the advertisers impacted by this proposal, just that the smart guys—expertise is the word used in the proposed guidelines—in the bureaucracies think the advertisers’ products are unhealthful. The advertisers have done nothing wrong and yet they are supposed to voluntarily curtail their advertising, effectively making speech, for them, no longer free. 

They, the experts again, see marketing as an effective tool to encourage children to make better food choices, and voluntary adoption by industry of strong, uniform nutrition and marketing principles, like those proposed here, will advance the goal of promoting children’s health. The bureaucrats see using marketing to children as a tool they can use. On whose dollar, I might ask? But what is worse, by far, is that  the bureaucrats are trying to do my job!

The proposed guidelines are only voluntary in the sense that advertisers won’t be fined or put in jail if they don’t comply, but that they will not receive the sanction of the governing bodies and will most likely be served nasty innuendo in the press is understood. All “guidelines” become regulations by default, if not by decree.

This is the truth that needs to be advertised:  This proposal tramples on the proper role of government – the protection of individual rights – and slinks into the role of parent to our children, helping to reduce our overall responsibilities as adults and increase our reliance on the mighty, mighty government: a reliance which will not, by any stretch of the imagination, make for healthier children.

If you’re feeling particularly feisty about this and are tired of the government trying to tell you what to eat, what to buy, how to live, who to love, and how to parent – tell them so.  If you’re not fed up with the incessant destruction of the rule of law and the veritable orgy of this government of men, take a gander at what the federal government has in store for you today.  Maybe you’ll change your mind. While you still have that choice.

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