Why we need to have a kids-free ad world

We are all pouting for likes on social media. The kids too. Everyone is selling hard, so are the kids. But in the wake of the recent controversy surrounding a toddler's 'reported makeover', we need to rethink if we should even allow kids in the ad world.

Written by Sharon Fernandes | Updated: October 15, 2016 7:11 pm
Kids free ad world, Kids free ads, kids free advertisements, kids-free ads, children ads, children advertisements, children in Ads, blogs, indian express A still from the advertisement of Flipkart’s Big Billion sale featuring children acting as adults. (Source: Youtube/Flipkart)

Kids sell everything today. There is hardly any product left on this planet that is not being sold by a kid, even a razor blade commercial will have a baby somewhere in the background to be used shortly after to be rubbed on the male model’s chin as a “smoothness detector”. A deodorant ad will show you an infant crying if the person near him is smelly and obviously after the product is used, the child will smile. A deodorant. The infant is selling a deodorant. There is a lot wrong with our planet today, but the biggest epidemic is that of stupidity. And we have proof daily by the insanity that is conning people to buy products using babies and worse still, by the fact that it actually works.

Recently, there was a lot of brouhaha on a Pepe Jeans initiative that gave a ‘makeover’ to a toddler after having donned its denim garment. Though it seems the advertorial was for girls’ right to play football, just the way the “lucky” toddler in the ‘after’ picture was stamped pretty, as opposed to the healthy bright-eyed wonder that a toddler normally is, fuelled a massive debate online. So then, at the zenith of civilization that we are at, how do we get away with making a kid feel shamed that he/she may be ugly? We brainwash them with commercials. We use them in every advertisement possible, behaving like mini-sized hustlers, and then we complain about innocence lost.

Using kids in advertising is as old as people having sex. The blessed outcome to all the wooing, courtship and wedding planning you went through, your child is here, and since your world revolves around your bundle of joy, let us try to sell you everything under the sun using a cherub’s face. A cherub just like the one you magically produced. It is a tried and tested advertising formula. From the Murphy radio baby pushing his pinky into his mouth to the dazed looking one year old that has helped Parle G sell biscuits for over 50 years! There is no dearth of kids making products look safe, sweet and innocent. Online shopping, of course, is a jet-propelled version of shopping that has warped the idea of using kids in advertising by making them dress up like old folks, and behave like scheming old clerks and peons in an office space trying to make a better ‘digital’ purchase.

The health drinks have used a short and a tall child successfully to shame one mother from not providing adequate nutrition for her ‘short and hence, deformed’ offspring. The pharmaceutical companies are the best of the lot, a sniffle here or a itch there, the child will have to be the martyr to some seasonal illness before it is prescribed that the whole family buy the tonic/lotion/capsule/surgery that will help save the family. The only way advertisers feel anyone on this planet can understand how to use a insecticide vaporiser to get rid of mosquitoes is if a child can push its button up and down. I am sure, even the mosquitoes used in that commercial were baby mosquitoes. Kids can sell you anything.

This is not a new rant, but it does make you wonder why we ask our kids to stay away from TV screens, tablets and phones so that they don’t grow up with a squint or have an Attention Deficit Disorder. We worry about additives and parabens in the foods kids eat, because we are scared they may get physically sick or cancer prone. Why then do we let them be surrounded with hoardings of kids dolled up in make up, behaving like bitchy adults. Why do we act surprised when a tween behaves like he/she is 20? They know it all, since we have not bothered to make sure they are not pushed to behave beyond their years.

Sure, their eyes will be fine despite all the screen time, they will be healthy despite all the junk they eat, but I doubt they will remember much about being silly as a child, because it is a hard market, and we are all pouting for likes on social media. The kids too. Everyone is selling hard, so are the kids.

Don’t believe me? Watch TV or Youtube for 15 minutes, and if you find a kid-free ad, I am sure you just haven’t switched the device on, as the kid in the advertisement had told you to do so.

Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in New Delhi.