Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bias in Advertising

It has been said that advertising reflects reality. But, in many ways, it also serves to shape it, to manipulate expectations.

For instance, most ads for food products that kids like are directed toward mothers. A few years ago, a cereal ad had the slogan, "Kid tested, mother approved". More recently, I heard an ad, "Kid delicious, mom nutritious".

These ads reflect the reality that, in most families, mothers are mainly or solely responsible for supervising the eating habits of children. But more to the point, these ads subtly bombard people with ideas of how things should be.

After seeing such ads, one would think that fathers don't care what their children eat; it would be OK with them if their kids licked the dust from the floor and drank water out of the toilet.

The "Inept Dad" theme has also been done in advertising, which only serves to bolster the "Mom as responsible" idea. As an example, there was this one cold medication ad that showed Mom coming down stairs after several days in bed with a cold. She found Dad and the kids looking guilty in a room that looked like a tornado just swept through. In other words, home life goes to hell in a handbasket when Mom isn't there to supervise.

As one who raised a child alone and as one who was raised for part of his childhood by a single father, these ads kind of irritate me. How hard would it have been to make the ad slogans say, "Kid tested, parent approved" or "Kid delicious, parent nutritious"? Or shown a few bumbling MOMS?

But I have to admit, there's a Hardee's ad that fits me to a T. It shows a guy who's obviously a bachelor, with unkempt hair, unshaved, wearing only a shirt, underwear and socks, clumsily mopping up coffee from a coffee maker that boiled over. There's coffee all over the counter, running onto the floor, and he's dragging his sleeve through it as he tries to clean it up, half asleep.

Yeah, that would be me, all right.

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