How to end marketing to children, by Alex Bogusky

So I was a guest last week at the annual two-day summit of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, and my acceptance of a press pass implied that I would write about my experiences. I guess I better get started!

The first presentation I attended was by Alex Bogusky, of whom I was a fan before he spoke a word, though I didn’t realize it. Bogusky was a mover behind “The Real Bears” video that parodied Coke’s deployment of cute-as-buttons polar bears as ambassadors for sugary soda. Bogusky’s version shows the bear family beset with obesity, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and other ills. Daddy Bear even loses a limb. I saw the video last October and immediately shared it on the blog, saying merely “If you haven't seen this, then you should. And then, you should share.” (Dontcha just hate people who quote themselves? I do.)

Realizing that he was the guy whose worked I’d admired last year only clinched my affection/admiration for him; his presentation was winning me over anew. The title was “Corporations don’t advertise to children, people do,” and his point was that CCFC need only convince the people who create marketing campaigns not to create campaigns pointed toward children.

To hear him explain it, it’s not that farfetched. “Everyone in advertising has a list of things they won’t advertise,” Bogusky explained, and then added that his original list included drug makers and insurers, but neither tobacco or nor campaigns targeting kids.

He further explained that in the case of tobacco, advertising talent was deserting Big Tobacco well before any tobacco ads were banned. “Agencies that would work on tobacco couldn’t recruit the best talent, so they stopped taking on tobacco clients. If you’re an agency and you can’t recruit the best talent, you’re not a good agency.”

Bogusky also said that changing an agency’s, or the industry’s, values is easier than in arenas where dues-paying is done by decades. “The entire industry turns over every six years, because when you’re old, you can’t work 24 hours a day. When you’re young, it doesn’t feel like work. You’re just playing all the time.

Bogusky’s suggestion to CFCC was to bring its message to advertising schools — he identified 20 of them nationwide — to try to get marketing to children on more “will not do” lists.

It shouldn’t be that hard a task: What individuals really want to take advantage of young unformed minds just to make another buck?

Bogusky’s take: ”Greed is a very real force in business, but it’s not the only force. I have met only two actual evil capitalists. The rest are really good people who make decisions in their corporate life but then walk outside and say, ‘I don’t like this.’”

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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