Saturday, 11 May 2013

Child Soldiers of Madison Avenue

Today we expose another cross-section through the geological record of mid-century American advertising and consider the impact of child centred publicity. Few images are as potent in emotional appeal as that of the child and for advertisers it is one of the basic elements in the visual vocabulary. A well-chosen image can help to convince the public that they are buying from an essentially honest and benevolent business when these qualities are reflected in the eyes of an innocent and guileless child. If the product contributes directly to the welfare of children (medicinal, infant foodstuffs, hygiene) the image must be modified to maximise parental anxieties and engage with protective instincts. When the product is primarily designed to meet the desires of children (breakfast cereal, confectionery) the chosen image will show the child transformed in terms of energy, alertness, health and contentment. A fortunate few graduate to the status of brand characters and enjoy long lives in a state of arrested development. Gender stereotyping is everywhere – boys are adventurous and naughty while girls are sensitive and helpful. The unimaginative advertiser is most likely to resort to cuteness of countenance to overcome consumer resistance – what monster could deny happiness and security to such an adorable and ingratiating child? Most of the following examples fit into one or other of these basic categories but a minority defy any classification and seem to have been conceived in a perfect storm of conflicting ideas. These are the ones that give the greatest pleasure to the detached observer of human folly.

No comments: