It has always payed to advertise to kids

Jack Miller - Contributing Columnist

As I watched television with my granddaughter the other day, I was amazed at the extent advertisers go today, to hook children on their products.

Ads aimed at kids have always been around of course, but as I recall in my childhood they were not as loud and obnoxious as those kids experience today. The ads during kid’s shows today almost demands that a child have their parents go right out and buy something for them. Advertisers have always known kids are better targets for their sales pitches, than their parents.

That is why the places for ads aimed at kids in the days before television, were the comic books and kid’s radio programs. Those ads although not as pushy as today’s, were apparently just as persuasive. I can remember getting things like a cheesy little star finder from a radio ad on “Space Patrol,” and a decoder ring that broke in shipment from one of the spy shows I listened to back then. The back pages of comic books however were where I recall seeing the most ads for products, which didn’t live up to their promises.

I remember as a kid identifying with that skinny little guy in the Charles Atlas ads. Those ads, which showed the little guy getting sand kicked in his face by a bully, were in nearly every comic book I read as a kid. After taking the Charles Atlas body building course the little guy, who was now well muscled was shown getting his revenge, and of course the shapely girl in the one piece bathing suit. The ad made it sound like all you had to do was order the course and the muscles would come with it.

It turned out you actually had to do a lot of work to get those muscles. I decided since there were no sandy beaches around Sedalia, all that work would be wasted, so I stayed skinny. I did have to put up with the occasional dirt that was kicked in my face however, because that’s what happens to skinny kids where there are no beaches.

My friends and I were also the perfect target for many of the other radio and comic book ads as I recall. I remember sending off for a set of eye glasses with swirls on the lenses; the glasses were guaranteed to hypnotize my friends. The comic book ad showed a kid with those glasses on, with rays were coming out of them. You could tell the friend in front of him was hypnotized, because he had those swirls in his eyes just like the glasses. All I ever got were headaches from staring through those swirls. I would have probably bought those other glasses in the back of the comic book too, but mom wouldn’t let me. Those glasses were supposed to let you see through peoples clothes. (Little boys were that way you know.)

A friend of mine bought a pair of those glasses however, and they worked about as well as the hypnotizing ones. I guess advertisers have always known exactly which buttons to push on a child to get them to ask mommy, daddy, or better yet, grandma to buy an advertised product for them. The ads worked on me all those years ago, and they still work on children and grandchildren today. The products may have changed, but those advertising people know the “I want that button” on kids has remained pretty much the same through the years, and grandma and grandpas are still soft touches.

Jack Miller

Contributing Columnist

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