Tag Archive 'schor'

Apr 11 2010

Born to Buy Part 2

Published by under Reflection Blog

In class we talked a bit about Channel One television which was discussed a great deal in the book.  When I was a kid I always thought that Channel One was published by someone like PBS because it was informative.  Commercials seem so commonplace everywhere that I hadn’t even considered the large amount of commercials aimed at kids before.  But, it is such a marketing tool! I feel like my middle school years were a lie!  The school district was selling our eyes for money!

But, it’s smart. What do schools need?  Money.  What do advertisers need? Eyes.  Instantly a connection is made.

We also talked a bit about school lunches and I still find it amazing that some people have “real” food on their campuses from different companies.  I put that word in quotes (I know it was grammatically incorrect) to emphasize the conundrum about whether having that food on campus is good or not.  It’s all mass produced, and all have problems with how they are produced.  Sure we watched that clip in class about a woman finding a chicken head in her McDonald’s chicken nuggets, but the people who provide food to McDonald’s probably do to schools, too.

The problem always comes back to money.  Channel One exploits that need, and so do outside food producers.  Schools are always strapped for cash because they always want to get their classrooms as good as they can be with new technology.  Schools get more money if their students do well on test scores, which is often aided by technology.  But poor schools usually get their budgets slashed as that money is taken elsewhere in the city or county budget to places like public safety.  These businesses know that, so they will always be trying to brand every aspect of students’ lives, including schools.

As Schor points out in the book, as the line becomes more and more blurred between facts and advertising, children will fall deeper into the pitfalls that advertisers set.

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Apr 05 2010

Born To Buy: Children and Consumerism

By Peter H. Smeallie IV

In the book Born To Buy, author Julia Schor discusses the various insidious, opportunistic ways in which large, powerful advertising companies/firms target and market to young children, and how they try to indoctrinate them into a lifetime of mass, oftentimes unhealthy, consumerism.

She starts out her first chapter by talking about how children/kids are “conduits” (or links) between advertisers and parents, and how children are usually targeted first as the adoptive users of technology (for the reasons that they learn ideas fast, are more passionate about consumer goods/desires, and are brand-loyal). She discusses gender commercialization and how advertisers market violent video games to boys and sexual/bodacious, “glamorous” toys to girls, how the culture of consumerism in America has put a weak emphasis on teaching children to thrive socially, spiritually, and intellectually in the world (and, instead, has led to such troubling issues as obesity, ADD & ADHD, electronic addictions, drug abuse, bullying, and alienation/low self-esteem), and how advertisers often exploit the fears and pressures impressed upon young children. Schor talks about the illusion that adults have of viewing childhood as “innocent and sacred” (while, ironically, discussing the “disappearance of childhood”), the history of significant consumption in America (dating back to the 1870s), and the old gate keeper model of advertising, where in which the marketing of ads filter through parents before reaching children.

In her second and third chapter, she writes about several shocking advertising truths: that kids recognize logos by 18 months, ask for products by their brand names before their 2nd birthday, believe commercials have values by age 3, and ask for the latest fashions by age 6 or 7. She discusses the issue of tweening and/or age compression, and how advertisers continually market goods to children at younger and younger ages, how children often exert more control over their parents (concerning financial purchases and such) than the other way around, how the latter has earned American children the title of “The Influence Market” by advertisers, and how parents often dole out “guilt money” to children in exchange for not being able to spend enough time with them.  She also talks about the concept of Pester Power, the persistent, nagging & annoying method young children use to manipulate their parents into buying them goods, regular everyday goods such as shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, and vitamins that are sold to children as trans toys, the idea of anti-adultism, where in which marketers/firms such as Nickelodeon and Disney convince young children that adults are the boring, lifeless, “enemy” (and “products, rather than parents, are on their side”), and lastly, the three basic human “needs” that advertisers use to entice kids into asking their parents for various goods: the need to succeed, love, and sensory stimulation. In addition, Schor also talks about the slang terms used in the world of marketing and advertising: targets (whom ads are directed to), collateral (printed material), and intercepts (impromptu interviews with consumers).

In chapter 4, Schor talks about the video game POX, and how it became very popular through the advertising method of “viral infection.” She talks about how marketers who held brainstorming efforts with “alpha pups/kids” (or those who were considered “cool” among their peers/students) paid the children $30 each and encouraged them to “infect” other children with POX (tell them to buy the game). She talks about how Chicago became a hotbed for POX sales, since it is considered a bad-weathered city where young children tend to stay inside and play toys a lot more than elsewhere (and a city where in which toy stores are mostly located nearby homes), the “buzz” method that advertisers use to sell their goods (which, according to Schor, requires the five techniques of authenticity, advocacy, experiential messaging, fusion of strategies, and visibility/virality through overt and covert actions), the “under-the-radar” method that advertisers use (which entails product placements such as that of Reese’s found in the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and that of AOL found in the movie You’ve Got Mail), “real life product placement,” and references to goods used in such mediums as deejay songs.

In chapter 5, Schor talks about the arrival of Channel One advertising in schools in 1989 (and, subsequently, how advertisement in schools expanded greatly during the late 1990s), the corporation infiltration of “incentive programs,” or sponsors (such as General Mills Box Tops and Pizza Hut)  who’d agree to give students discounts or free products if they stopped at certain stores or collected a necessary number of coupons, into schools, and “pouring rights,” where in which school districts would sign exclusive contracts with soft drink companies and let them advertise in their schools (an issue which apparently drew scrutiny from various school system officials). Schor also mentions Sponsored Educational Materials (SEMs), former Youth Marketing International employee Roberta Nusim who worked for an advertising firm and referenced such latter SEMs as Campbell Soup, Gushers Wonders of the World, and Revlon being used in schools, and the issue of companies, such as PBS and Scholastic, having “wholesome haloreputations.

In chapter 6 Schor discusses how marketers actually survey children and research what types of goods/merchandise they desire. She starts off the chapter by talking about advertiser Mary Prescott, a “naturalistic,” ethnographic data-gatherer who interviewed 5-year old Caitlin in her house (with her mother’s consent) and observed the ways in which she acted. She then further discusses how the latter is an example of oftentimes exploitive, sneaky methods that marketers use to sell their goods and make money. She talks about how companies utilize such research methods as filming kids in their daily lives (playing with dolls/games, eating breakfast, and brushing their teeth, etc.), the “traditional” use of telephone, online, and written surveys, focus groups, and mall questionnaires, Neuromarketing (or ZMET), a method used by the BrightHouse Institute For Thought in Atlanta, G.A. where in which, as they are given MRIs, participants’ brain images are documented in accordance to pictures of various goods they’re shown, and school surveys in their work. Schor discusses how advertisers use “natural” (such as exclusive, in-house interviews with children, neuromarketing, etc.) vs. traditional methods of research since the former is more efficient, and how often times child surveys that marketers perform are bereft of any good ethics (citing an example of schools who require parents to sign off that children are not allowed to take part in market surveys, and how the absence of a signature would indicate implied consent). Schor also discusses drug use research done on “tweens,” and how the message of “just say no” by adults has not only been misconstrued to mean “don’t grow up,” but has also distracted children away from the more important message that drugs don’t help you form your “real self.”

In chapter 7, Schor discusses the issues of malnutrition, violence in the media, and drugs affecting children. She talks about processed foods being at the center of child consumerism culture, how marketers are consistently selling “sugary food, fatty food, fast food, and solid, liquid candy” to kids, and the methods of dual-messaging (appealing to both parents and children) and kid empowerment /anti-adultism that marketers use to maintain a loyal, buying consumer force. Another issue that Schor discusses in this chapter is how “innocuous” products such as sugar and caffeine are being used by children in a way that resembles adult drug use (the necessity to stay awake, remain motivated, etc.), and how companies often advertise goods like alcohol and tobacco to “underage” events such as rock concerts and baseball games.

In chapter 8, Schor talks about the results of two parallel surveys she conducted in the Boston area in 2001/2002 and 2003. Her Survey On Children, Media, and Consumer Culture, which was taken by approximately 300 children between the ages of 10 and 13 (between those ages, she discovered, kids tend to develop their own individual consumerism ideas/patterns), was first done in the suburban area of Droxley in the fall of 2001/winter of 2002. The second was done in a mostly black and Latino-populated urban region of Boston in the spring of 2003. Overall, her results seemed to yield that, despite the differences between charts, materialism generally tended to be associated with low self-esteem, depression, bad parental relations, obesity, drug use/drinking, and antisocial behavior.

In class on Tuesday, the first, and most important, comment that someone made was that, while in the past the “Joneses” were people’s next-door neighbors, nowadays, the “Joneses” are TV characters, and that’s what greatly influences children’s consumerism habits. There is a prevailing message in the media that if kids don’t have certain goods, they won’t be happy or cool, and, as not only one student but also the book suggested, that has undoubtedly led to an increase in depression, ADD & ADHD, food sensitivity, obesity, and other afflictions of the sort in children. One of the main discussions we had was why certain parents buy their children toys in a store when the child throws a loud, disruptive temper tantrum in that store: do they do so just to get out of the place and not feel embarrassed? Do they feel like a bad parent if they don’t? And why do they reward bad behavior? Are they in control of their kids or vice versa? Someone also mentioned that another effect of advertisers on children nowadays (or, children who are now young adults) is the “entitlement” syndrome, where in which people who’ve been pampered throughout their childhood are shocked that they might not have a hot car, a snazzy apartment, etc. after college (and rely heavily on their parents), and that a sense of reward-based versus merit-based work has developed in America in the past few decades. We discussed the issue of parents being permissive enablers, viewing children as extensions of themselves (and thus, possibly for that reason, indulging their kids with all the goods, toys, etc. they want), the issue of age compression, and how sexualized Barbie dolls sold to young girls are, and the difference between unstructured and over-scheduled American children. On Thursday, we watched various clips, including a trailer for Mean Girls, which helped initiate a discussion on the problem of the “alpha girl” in schools, a Tonka toys commercial, which concerned gender-specific toys, and “Desperate Housewives” snippets where in which children were in more control of their parents then vice versa. On the matter of gender specification, we talked about how children not only are given these messages by marketers, but learn a great deal from their peers. However, it’s not terribly odd if a three year old boy dresses up in girl clothes (or plays with dolls). The overall question of the book and our discussions still remains: should advertisers market goods to people who don’t have the faculties of mind to understand that which they’re being sold? Or is that unethical?

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Jan 31 2010

America and the Global Economy

Published by under Reflection Blog

While the majority of Schor’s book talks about the average American and their spending habits, the conclusion of The Overspent American puts our wallets into perspective with America and the global economy.  Schor discredits theories that spending less will throw the world into depression.  She argues that if everyone (although she notes that it is impossible for the entire world to go along with this) spent less, they would need less, then work less, thus putting us into a normal routine again.  These are noble ideas, and I wish I could see them played out, but of course it won’t happen unless we’re all forced to do it.  And, I can’t help but think that even if everyone did spend less and everyone went down an equal number of notches in spending, working, and production, everyone would still be going down in equal numbers.  This means that the poor would still be poor and the rich would still be rich.  It doesn’t matter that the rich would be poorer, because they still have more money than everyone else.  The titles of “rich” and “poor” are relative terms that don’t have definite amounts put on them.  Even if this idealistic world of spending less existed, it wouldn’t matter if everyone did it.

Of course, the fact that many of Schor’s ideas are unrealistic didn’t stop me from looking into my own spending habits.  I am super, super poor.  This book definitely affected the way that I think about spending.  I unsubscribed from the e-mails from Gap, Old Navy, and Urban Outfitters.  I go into stores with a shopping list and think long hard about buying anything off of that list.  Friday night I went to the grocery store to buy rice milk (expensive but necessary for me), fruit, and something healthy to snack on (I ended up with dried apples).  I went out with those items plus batteries (which I needed but forgot to put on the list), and a softer lightbulb for my roommate’s light.  I felt proud of not being anything unnecessary and I am happy that we read this book because it is actually making an impact on my life!


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Jan 24 2010

Mary Washington Versus National Spending Culture?

In Juliet B. Schor’s 1999 book The Overspent American, she analyzes how Americans have changed the culture of consumerism into a “see-want-borrow-buy” mode, thus putting many in positions where they have to choose between debt or giving into a culture that states that material possessions make happiness.  This book is a fascinating look at an aspect of our culture that, for many, is a way of life.   Schor’s main argument explains that the mass media advertises to millions of people with a product that not all of those millions are intended to buy.  Because of this mass marketing, the poor yearn for products and lifestyles from television and advertisements that they see.  Schor argues that shift in the media brought about a new way of living.  Before television, Americans compared themselves to neighbors and friends, only bothering to keep up with the latest and greatest on the block.  But now that all Americans can see MTV’s Cribs and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, we compare ourselves to the people that more than us.  This negatively affects bank statements and financial futures of the those that buy into this new consumerism culture.

Before class discussion, Josh and Allison asked us all to write down our most recent purchases.  As someone pointed out, we all stated what we bought, but then gave immediate justification for why we bought it or what kind of a deal we got on it.  At first I wondered about whether or not this was an effect of the current economy and the way that it is hip to frugal these days, but I realized that it would have happened two years ago, too.  But not everyone in this exercise would necessarily try to downplay their purchases.  It’s a cliche example for this class, but it fits so well – the women on The Real Housewives Of… show would have no problem stating their last purchase, and probably even brag about how much money they spent.  I think that while we might not all be of the same social or economic class, we all do go to the same school, where there is a money norm. We’re “broke college students,” or at least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.  I’m sure that there are people that are not broke, but I definitely am. Therefore, to have started the class saying “I bought a seat cushion for my bike,” would not have worked for me.  I cannot afford a car; I’m paying for my own college and other expenses.  Therefore, my bike is how I get around on and off campus.  So, I have to end that sentence with “… my seat is really uncomfortable and I ride my bike around everywhere.”  When, really aren’t we feeding into consumer culture in a way, just by stating that we don’t?  We are all fitting a mold of frugality.  Like Schor said, shopping is advertised as a way to be different, but it really just ends up in people looking the same.  I guess that by us not spending much money we are actually more similar in our spending habits than at first glance.

As a final note, I want to share something.

In class we were talking about ways to not spend money, and someone mentioned “lifting babies as weights.”  At the risk of not being able to find it and also being that obnoxious kid that isn’t really on topic, I didn’t share this while we were in class.  However, here is a funny video from College Humor about the “Stay at Home Dad Workout.”  I’m not sure how to embed from College Humor, so just click here. No, but seriously. It’s funny.


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