Open Letter To The Advertisers

Dear Advertisers,

I am writing this letter in the capacity of a mother of a child at an impressionable age.

Open Letter To The Advertisers - Impact Of Advertising On Children

I don’t watch TV, and as a consequence neither does my child who is in my care throughout the day. [And thank God for that!] As a toddler, he is learning the ways of the world, a tiny step a day. I put in a lot of effort in trying to instill good values and good habits in him.

The other day, I happened to catch a few advertisements on TV, quite by chance. So, I will take this opportunity to share my concerns about this ad and on retrospect this ad too, but I would suggest you must take it as concerns of a mother about several such ads. These are just two of the many on TV.

The first advertisement shows a child making faces at fruits and vegetables, while the other one shows kids turning up their noses at milk. These may be real-life scenarios in several households, but not all. May be it looked like a wonderful idea to connect with mothers of children who shun nutrition by turning up their noses at fruits, vegetables and milk. But when I watch these ads, it feels extremely unsettling. I want to turn off the TV because I don’t want my child to watch these ads. I am relieved that he is fond of fruits, vegetables and milk but kids emulate other kids. It does not help that children in these ads are making faces at fruits, vegetables and milk.

I will neither throw statistics at you nor quote psychologists. I won’t even link strong public opinions on such ads or tread on how misleading ads can be. I just want to say, it is worrying for me, or any other mother like me, to let our kids watch these kinds of advertisements. It just negates all the hard work we do in making sure they favour natural food like fruits, vegetables or milk over packaged sweetened juice or milk additives laden with sugar or chocolate.

Today, my child is too young but tomorrow he may want to watch some TV. So, for me, the concerns do not end at how TV could be addictive for young kids; but I am in fact more anxious about the kind of advertisements on TV. Moreover, these days a lot of ads of products, which are not even directly related to kids, are targeting children. This is highly alarming. In a few countries around the world, there are strict regulations on targeting young children by marketers and it is highly unlikely we have anything noteworthy in India.

That is all I have to say. For now.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Mother of a 2 year old.

Reema Sahay is a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Freelance Writer, Voracious Reader, Passionate Blogger, Social Media Enthusiast, Internet Junkie and Ex-Marketing Communication Professional. She spends her days running after her very curious toddler, ‘the star’, and catching up on books when he naps. She writes about charms and challenges of life at Pen Paper and shares her passion for books at Recommend Books. She sometimes feels that her 5.5 years stint in Marketing Communication was in another life

  • Hi Reema,

    I must say I completely agree to what you said here…..I’ve myself commented about these 2 specific ads and there are tons others that are out there, sending out the wrong message to kids and almost completely negating the hard work that we mums put in to put the right ideas and values in our kids.

    I have a 5 year old daughter and till date, she has completely refused to drink any sort of cola, Pepsi Coke or the others, and prefers fruits and fresh juices and milkshakes. I’m not sure how long this phase shall last given the many temptations out there. She is a voracious reader who loves to read and likes home-cooked meals and the like, and still follows an allotted routine to watch TV – I hope it carries on for some more years at the least.

    Even we hardly watch TV, but when we do, there’s so much we have to screen out or have to explain that it’s not even funny – I’m talking about these ads and certain other that are entirely ‘adult’ ads but still are allowed in between kiddie movie slots!

    Don’t know how we can really do something about this, but I’m sure a lot of parents will connect to what you’ve written here….

    • Thank you Debolina. I am sure a lot of other parents also share the angst. When I first saw them, I thought ‘what were they thinking’? And I am sure those who made the ad are people who are not directly involved in feeding children, otherwise they would have known the better of it. I am scared of the time when my son would want to watch TV.
      But most importantly, there should be certain guidelines for ads too.

      • yes, that’s the scariest part – that are broadcasting system is still quite lax! Could you believe it – we took our daughter to watch the movie The Croods and guess what ad they showed in the interval – the condom ad with Sunny Leone! Our jaws dropped for un(obvious) reasons!

        • Gauri

          What the !!!!

  • No wonder TV was renamed ” Idiot Box” a long ago. It is such a powerful medium, just like Bollywood and what we are using it for?

    • Absolutely! And we are attracted to what they show on TV, getting sucked into a make-believe world.

  • Even the ads in cartoon channels try to instill jealousy and peer pressure – “Get the toy before your friend does” kind of competition !! Sigh!!

    • Oh my god! That’s horrific. Who approves such ads? My nephew is visiting and he watches a lot of cartoons. One of these days, I think I will have to post on the language used in cartoons, which I think even Prasad pointed out in of his posts earlier. But it is disappointing. I think we need to depend on DVDs 🙁

  • Reema,
    You hit the bullseye… why only these? There are other really disgusting ads too out there. Think about this, a guy wears a deo and girls fall all around him. What really is being portrayed here?

    And you are right about these two ads too, though like Debolina, the coke and artificial juice fad hasn’t affected my daughter either. Thankfully. And like her, I hope that it continues this way for at least a few more years.

  • Amen! You know, I shield my son from chocolates, packaged snacks, chocolate flavoured everything, sweetened everything and the likes. But how long can I be there hovering around him to protect his innocent, impressionable mind. You guys are lucky, your girls have not taken to these temptations but how long can we really be sure about young minds not being influenced by such mindless advertising!

  • Hi Reema,

    Landed on your site by chance and I am glad I did…I cannot agree more with you regarding this…the other day I was watching a tv serial and it was horrifying to see how they showed one girl abusing the other girl for being dark complexioned to the point the girl started crying, I don’t understand how such serials get so much of popularity….

    Swati

    • Hey Swati,
      Thank you so much. That is the sad status of the idiot box 🙁 I have stopped watching TV since last couple of years, but when guests visit and I do catch something, I am alarmed at the kind of messages they are feeding the young and the old of this country.

  • Dear Reema,

    A reflective article.
    Your fears are justified. My son watches television. Thankfully, he never picked up the bait that the advertisers set for him and kids like him although I do remember when he was little that he loved the free offers with certain products thing. My son refused to eat chocolates when I showed him his pre-school classmate’s black tooth. That scared him off chocolates or anything related to it. Today, when he is in his teens he says that he is beginning to enjoy the taste of white chocolate. The day is not far when he will want other things he sees on television. There is no age for temptation and these advertisers know it……

  • Thank you so much 🙂
    I think the only way to handle this is strict regulations for ads. Advertisers / marketers need to be stopped from playing with young minds.
    My nephew is visiting our place and he watches cartoons on TV. I have come across so many ads pushing some chocolate or some milk additives or some toys with the product. How is a child to know about these gimmicky!