Wowza: Youth Marketing & UGC, is it right?
Buy, Buy, Baby. CBSNews is doing a four-part series called Gotta Have It: The Hard Sell to Kids all about womb to tomb marketing, with kids being targeted in a scope we’ve never seen before.In this video clip, investigative journalist and Buy, Buy, Baby author Susan Gregory Thomas talks about the $20 billion being spent on the 0-3 “baby genius” products being bogus. (er, “scientifically unfounded”)
She amusingly talks about attachment issues, and how Gen X parents have turned a “shower or a grilled cheese sandwich into a high stakes proposition” as if the little tyke might be abandoned or deprived of “appropriate stimulation.”
Mind you, Harvard psychiatrist and author of Consuming Kids, Dr. Susan Linn, has been exposing baby media as an unmitigated sham for years, relentlessly championing the merits of free play and unbridled creativity over pre-programmed toy responses and plopping junior in front of swirling pretty musical mesmerization. (This new Canadian Press article says it could even harm brain development)
Susan Linn just pinged me back from my congratulatory e-mail on HER television appearance on the CBS show, where she nailed the Shrek hypocrisy, and pushed the “parents as purchasers” pitch right back into their laps, saying it’s “unfair and naïve” to expect outgunned parents to shield kids from this level of marketing firepower, embedded messaging, advergaming, and subversive guerilla warfare.
Wow. Amy (Shapingyouth.org), your brill at just getting to the heart of things. Zam, BOOM, hard facts. Lurve it!!
It’s what I was looking for the other day when I was rambling about UGC & Communities. Someone to really blast a hole in all the youth UGC & uber-marketing combinations going on. Why? Because I like differing opinions than my own. Life is about learning. You can’t make it all up on your own… sometimes it helps to listen to others and their various point of views. Yay, diversity!
Anyway, so coming from a unique brand perspective as my own (online community for a branded website catering to U13 kids and allowing opportunities for UGC), this is a “pickle” of an argument for me.
Then there’s the whole other angle that no one seems to
notice except those of us in the media business…Does anyone SEE that ad
agencies asking for “user-generated content” are getting people to do
their work for free?
Does anyone NOTICE these kids are being “pimped” for product sales and getting “paid” peanuts?
Marketing research like this costs MEGAbucks!
And yet…these children are EAGER to be ‘first on the block and in
the know’ meaning they’re being paid in emotional ya-yas, coolness
cache, and tchotchkes for their valuable field analysis…That’s nothing
short of a child labor scam if you ask me.
I think it can be easy to fall into this mind set. And I understand where it comes. Businesses open up instances for their audiences to provide their content… while reaping all the benefits and not giving anything back.
But what I struggle with (day in and down out) is the opportunity vs. disservice of UGC. When is it bad? When is it good?
User Generated Content in certain circumstances is allowing the user a voice… Giving some power back to the masses. Instead of the biz telling you what you want to see– giving YOU the opportunity to voice what it is you want to see, and even star in it.
I can’t discredit “emotional ya-yas”… I know it’s wrong & naive of me, but I can’t. Why? Because I was that kid that sent in pictures to Archie Comics— just so I might see my art proudly displayed on one of their digest pages. It made me feel validated. I never got “paid” in money to see it… but I was paid in confidence. Is that wrong? To this day I feel grateful. And that’s only ONE example of all the UGC-attempts I tried for as a kid (unsuccessfully, sadly).
I guess… in a way, I would rather have kids use self-created “coolness factor” as social currency instead of bought-cool-technology currency (ie. 9 year olds having cell phones simply to be cool).
UGC for kids allows them to be valued and acknowledged. “Look at what my talent did!”
The problem with UGC (aside from the reapers of the benefits) is when companies don’t give back to their audience/contributors. Respect, acknowledgement, empowerment, etc. And worse? When businesses steal ideas. That’s horrible.
There needs to be more thought put behind UGC and what it means to minors. What about the HUGE legality issues that haven’t really been explored in full? What happens when a child who provided UGC has their content publicly displayed, recieved minor compensation/credit/etc, and turns 18 years of age? Can they turn around and sue because they feel they were taken advantage of as a minor? <– This could very well happen in 10 years to the UGC kids today.
Amy makes some GREAT GREAT points about pushing kids & UGC into Brand Evangelists and then expecting huge compensation from the combination of the two.
8 to 12-year-olds spend $30 billion of their own money each year and influence another $150 billion of their parents’ spending…The Great Tween Buying Machine
authors put it around $50 billion a year, and the CBS interview quotes
the GIA exec in generalist terms as “a $300 billion market…so you’d
better take them seriously.”
Billions, schmillions, gazillions, here’s what I’M
taking seriously…Kids are being hammered with vapid values. Which ones?
Take your pick:
“It’s not about who you are but what you have”
“Sell out your friends for a buck”
“Don’t be who you are, alter yourself to what’s “hot”
“Don’t trust your peers, because they’re probably on the take”
There needs to be a GREAT amount of respect and time given to marketing & youths… technology has made it very easy to walk a shady, sketchy road to tread.
These aren’t just little walking billfolds… they’re adapting, changing wee handfuls of clay, easily molded by the society’s pressures. Time has not afforded children the knowledge needed to understand anything but what is directly presented to them, and they cannot fully understand what capitalism means until their in adulthood– some ten years later. Ten years.
Once again, this is why I’m glad I’m in the business. Why? Because I would rather be in the dirt, fighting the good fight… helping to shape the future of youth empowerment online & media safety (or at least spouting on and on about it) then just expecting someone else to do it. The time to ask questions and poke holes in loose theories is now— while the UGC explosions is early/young enough to shape & mold.
For as much as I adore the ground Mike Myers walks on (childhood hero), and love the first Shrek movie… Shrek has gone toooooo faaaaaaaar. I thought Pirates of the Caribbean was bad with their uber-marketing methods (and I love Pirates too… le sigh). Shrek creams PotC into sand. Every other commercial is Shrek oriented– from McDonalds to M&Ms to Cheetohs to toys to the Movie itself. I understand that advertising & marketing help get the “word” out… but doesn’t it feel a bit…. much? And the sad part? I heard this movie isn’t 1/3 the movie the 1st one was… that was unoriginal & a quicky fill in to extend the heck out of a property. I know, I know– I should wait until I actually SEE it, right? Indeed. But I can’t help but wonder… Perhaps the marketing machine has taken over? Have merrrrrcy.