WE WERE CONFUSED! Our well-spoken 3-year old started talking about automobiles. “Chick Hix is green and he is the fastest race car!” What?
Then we figured it out: The sequel to that first Cars movie was about to be released. The marketing for this movie had gotten to our home by word of toddler mouth. Our son’s peers at daycare had introduced him to some of the vehicle characters and names, and now he was bringing these new characters home to his parents. He’d been exposed to an encompassing franchise with endless items just waiting to be exchanged for our money. I am quite sure that many of the child’s conversations at school revolved around what types of automobiles they were, what their names were, and most definitely; which was the fastest!
As new parents in this situation we did not want him to be left out in the conversations and interactions that most of his peers were having, so on the next trip to the store we bought him some Cars-themed toys.
Since these initial toys were purchased we have now seen the sequel to the first movie in the theater, purchased more cars, themed tooth-brushes, puzzles, activity books, juice boxes and the sequel on DVD. We even hosted a themed party for the DVD release of the sequel. As someone who enjoys thinking that I have created a world that is immune to such direct attacks of consumerism I feel like a sucker!
This phenomenon happened very quickly – at one moment my son was talking about automobiles that he heard about from his peers, then within a short week many of our discussions at meals, in the car, and beyond centered on the characters and what happened in the movie.
The Cars were everywhere. I took pictures to prove to myself (and to others) that we were defenseless against such a barrage. I knew all this – but I bought the toys anyway.
Marketing to my child now sets him up to be an active consumer as an adult - I understand this. I also know that as much as we try to shield him and his brother from such sophisticated marketing plans we cannot fully protect them. Having this example of how quickly these methods are put into motion has made me more vigilant about recognizing when we are under marketing-attack again. This experience has shown me that I need to educate myself more about media literacy so that I can in turn help him cope with the constants of marketing in our lives. This one is now on my ever-growing Top Priorities list.