Friday, January 12, 2007

Generation of Shoppers



Tonight I saw a commercial. Okay - I know, I shouldn't be watching TV. Actually, I want to get rid of it, but then I decided that I need to be able to respond to my students. I need to be able to keep up with the visual literacy of my students. So, I keep the TV and watch periodically and discuss commercials.

Anyway, I saw a commercial. This commercial showed a young boy at the checkout of Walmart. The boy had some technological gadget. He whips out a wallet and states "this should cover it, my man." He hands the clerk a gift card. The boy smiles smugly and walks out with his product. The line of adults behind him look at the child in awe and admiration. The tag line says "Be A Little Shopper." (Thank you, Sara for providing me with the correct statement!)

Walmart understands the "nag factor." They understand that advertising to children encourages children to nag parents to purchase things. Now these advertisements are no longer aimed at children in order to get them to ask their parents for things. Now these advertisements are aimed to get the children to shop for themselves. It is easy to use the gift card - as easy as if it was a credit card. They are shown that shopping makes them cool, gets them what they want, and gains the admiration of adults.

It seems reminiscent of the smoking campaigns which were aimed at teenagers. Hook them when they are young and they are hooked for life. To me is seems to be stepping over a line - manipulating children to become shoppers almost seems criminal! Let's give children credit cards. Ha.

Another commercial that recently got my attention was a "Life Takes Visa" commercial. The cogs of the shopping wheel are running smoothly as people swipe their cards. One person uses cash and stops the whole machine of consumerism. Obviously, the only way to make things work smoothly is to use a credit card. Hmmm. With advertisements like these it is no wonder that are consumer debt is so high!

31 comments:

martha said...

I've seen both these commercials and think they are the equivalent of evil brain washing. I don't like commercials that advertise a lifestyle, as if only that lifestyle is acceptable. Just advertise a product and be done with it!

Sara said...

You should have heard me *GROAN* when I saw this commercial. Oh. My. Word. The slogan they used was "Be A Little Shopper". Really disappointing. But, what do I expect from Wal-Mart? I'm sure most people will find it cute instead of offensive...which is so sad. It's amazing how TV "teaches" us how to think, act, and relate to others. Hmmm....great post.

BurdockBoy said...

"Be a little Shopper" I don't get it.

Chelee said...

I've seen both of these ads and am so disappointed that no one has said anything.
We have a no gift card policy at our house because I feel that it is credit card training. My family thinks I'm nuts but I'm sticking to it.

RAS said...

Emme, I found the Visa commercial to be not only an ad for Visa, but also an incredibly superb piece of psychological propaganda. In fact, it's so good that every time I see it I pick up new details that I missed in earlier viewings.

This is an advertisement not only for Visa, but for the whole consumer setup. Look at the commercial, it says plainly: this is the way things are supposed to be. Everything is humming along, people are spending money, getting lunch. The Machine is humming. Here comes one guy, who has to be different. And my God, he's paying in cash! He's slowing down the Machine, he's messing things up. You can't use cash -it's wrong, it's unpatriotic. Oh my god what a bad thing to do! Notice how every single thing slams to a halt, and everyone fixates on this one guy and gives him that Look. Then he's gone and everything starts humming again.

The message is clear: Be a Good Citizen. Buy your lunch. Use a card. Don't slow down the Machine.

Interestingly, the government is also promoting the use of cards now. Why? Well, they are apparently more "efficient". Also, they can be tracked. Every credit card purchase is recorded. Cash can't (yet) be tracked, though they are currently working to add RFIDs into the bills to make it trackable as well.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I was thinking of the visa commercial as I started reading your post. That commercial bugs the dickens out of me. Good one to use with your students---thats for sure. Definitely a "propagandist" style to it.

Evan said...

Wow! I am so glad that we got rid of cable and unplugged our TV almost 3 years ago. We do have one TV that we use for movies that we occasionally rent. My daughter already likes to run errands, she would go off the deep end, I think, if exposed to this.

Wendy said...

My skin crawled, too, the first time I saw this commercial. Just awful!

Dan said...

I agree with RAS's perception of the Visa commerical. I was paying for lunch last week and paid with cash and the cashier made a joke in reference to the commercial. Ugh, the pyschological tricks of marketing makes my skin crawl. Just as much as those small shopping carts that have the flag that reads "Little Shopper in Training".

plymster said...

I've also seen these commercials. Both are pretty irritating.

I don't understand gift cards. Just give cash - The gift card accepted everywhere.

As for Visa, I can understand the government getting behind credit cards. It costs more to make a nickel and a penny these days than they're worth. If you use credit cards, the Federal Reserve can continue to create money willy-nilly. This makes it less distressing than toting a wheelbarrow of cash around to buy bread, which is the logical outcome. I think we should call it Global Wiemaring.

RAS said...

Plymster, that's the whole problem: The currency is collapsing, and if they make you use plastic, they can hide it longer. Plus, they can track what you spend and you won't have anything of real value when the final collapse comes. When the former Soviet Union fell, yes, there were people who used wheelbarrows of cash to buy stuff. (Where such was still accepted of course.) But the smart folks who had kept coins were able to sell them easy -because the metal in them was still worth something. Eventually, paper dollars will only be good for starting fires!

plymster said...

Eventually, paper dollars will only be good for starting fires!
--ras


Only because they' aren't very absorbent. ;-)

SimplyTim said...

We live in the land of two mountains: Peak Oil and Peak Debt. "Go out and buy" - that is the strategy to keep everything going.

Three thoughts: 1.Buy less (and enjoy more.) 2. Pay off your debt. 3. At the cash register, ask if they would prefer cash or credit. If they say cash, then say: will you be giving me a discount? If they say no, then say you'll pay with credit. (By the way, don't waste your time doing that with a store clerk since they don't have the power to do that. Also don't forget to go home and put that cash directly towards paying off the next credit card bill when it comes in.

It probably won't change anything but you will at least be finding your voice and in a way creating a situation where you comfortably draw attention to yourself rather than being coerced with embarassment.

RAS said...

Woot! I knew I'd find it eventually.
Here's the link to the Visa commercial, for those who haven't seen it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDTDgVgQ9ic

plymster: I don't know. In a pinch they'd work. A twenty beats a handful of leaves any day!

Emme said...

This year my eldest daughter (age 13) received some VISA gift cards (worth $25). Wow - these could be used anywhere. Show her how easy it is to use a credit card and not worry about paying it off.

As a commercial I think the Life Takes Visa commercial is very effective. As RAS stated, the cogs of the machine slam to a stop when the person uses cash. Everyone stops and stares. The whole shop becomes a mess. The commercial reaches to younger generations - as the scene is reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss movie. The person who uses cash is an old fuddy duddy (middle age). "Who uses cash any more now, anyway?"

Ugh. I don't let my children use gift cards - they are intangible. I will take the gift cards from them for equivalent cash. I prefer that they know what money is actually worth.

SimplyTim said...

It dawns on me that the commercial is both shaping behavior of groups but also attacking with shame the group which is potentially the greatest threat to the "well-being" i.e., the continuation of the existence of the whole debtor system.

RAS said...

To be completely honest about my reaction to the Visa commercial, the first time I saw it I had a flashback to the Nazi propaganda commercials, which I watched in one of my early psych classes. (For those who don't know, the Nazis were the pioneers of video propaganda, and are still widely regarded as the masters of it.) I had to watch the commercial several more times over a couple of days to be sure the connection was sound. But I had to reach the conclusion that someone, somewhere, has done their homework. Which is incredibly scary.

Emme said...

Triumph of the Will is a Nazi propaganda movie. It is very interesting to see how much is used today. I agree - this commercial really does use some of those design tactics. I will be lecturing on this subject in a few months (teaching History of Graphic Design)... Maybe I should post about it at that time :)

Amanda said...

Personally, I find it easier and more convenient to use my Visa check card. I can track my spending and the money does run out - I can only spend what I have in my checking account. I think the key is education - kids need to learn how to manage money - whether it is a checking account or how credit works or how gift cards work. That's how we'll keep the future generation out of debt. Unfortunately, a lot of kids aren't taught the basics - especially about credit and they get out on their own and discover how easy it is to get a credit card and before they know it, they're up to their eyeballs in debt. Lead by example (and do a lot of explaining) and hopefully our children will follow that lead. Same with the commercials - there are so many great discussions that can happen from seeing these commercials. Even though the commercials are annoying and we may be aware of the advertising schemes, kids need to be taught to be critical thinkers. Emme, I think you're doing a huge community service by teaching your students to be critical thinkers. Maybe some of them have learned this skill at home but I suspect a great number have not.

Andy in San Diego said...

Credit card companies are skimming a percent or two off of a huge percentage of the money being spent (in the US and around the world). I saw a figure for how much money goes through these companies, and a percent or two of that is a staggering amount. This money is going to relatively few people. And I'm done contributing. I'm using cash for as long as it's worth anything whenever I can.

tracey said...

I have just finished reading a book that disussed television. It doesn't relate exactly to your post, however it discussed the disappearance of childhood caused by television. A secondary issue within the book discusses how our culture has changed from one that thinks critically to one that is passive and looks to be entertained. The content of the book can explain and easily be applied to the lacks approach our culture takes towards the environment. It is interesting to read about a different look at how culture shapes us and how we let a few people shape the masses. The book is entitled "The Disappearance of Childhood" by Neil Postman.

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