The Power of Commercials

How I noticed their true power

This post is really about my son. As I watch him grow up, I am finding new insights into the world. It’s amazing to watch him as he grows and changes. These changes often lead me to insights about how our minds work, and how the world is. The strangest things stick with him, and the power they have often catches me off guard.

My wife this evening said in front of him, and in response to a sour stomach, “oh man I’m dying.” He did not take that well. It was just a pop off statement, but the little guy really took it to heart. There was a lot of crying about death, and it really threw me for a loop. Besides the empathy I felt for my boy, I was struck by how a simple comment that any adult would barely register, was so important to him. Just to be clear, I have said the same words, as such language is part of my wife and my lexicon.

So about them commercials…

By now you must be thinking, um isn’t this titled commercials? It is, and I’m getting to it. The thing is that such statements are really the power of suggestion. They get you thinking a bit more about something that you are already thinking about. Commercials cost a lot of money, and advertising in general really is a large industry. I’m not a psychologist nor an advertiser, but I have to think that it exists because it works. That means that short conversations, short triggers, are enough to get you thinking about something just like when my wife an I mistakenly say the “D” word.

That event is not what got me thinking about this post, although another event with my son is the trigger. We cut the cable TV cord over a year and a half ago. Here’s a link to a previous post on our setup. We are huge fans of it. My son has never, in his memory, watched broadcast TV. We have Sling, but he never watches it. I do for the Yankees and for Discovery; I’m loving The Curse of Oak Island, but I digress. My wife also has a few stations. I’m not sure the Yanks are worth $25 a month, but we will see. I did not watch enough games this past year to justify it, and my wife has watched it less and less. In truth, we all watch Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube much more often.

Introspection…

What I noticed in myself is that I have had less and less of a need to buy things. It’s interesting. I am not sure if it’s because I have a home, and I spend stuff on that. I’m not sure if its because I have a child and I’d rather spend time with him than money on things. I’m not sure if it’s my growing desire for FIRE. I am sure those are all factors, but I am also sure that simply seeing fewer commercials has made me want to buy fewer things. I just don’t think about the next thing, even with my hobbies. I think about using them, and things like that.

The reason I am sure is what happens with my son. Kids, I think, again I am not a doctor, are like all impulse. They feel things and just run with it. I think that is what happened tonight.

My observations when my son watches commercials…

My son’s favorite show is a YouTube channel called The Axel Show. The channel is mostly a father and son playing with toys. They really are great, and make a point about people using their imagination. They are also clearly sponsored by Lego and various other toy manufacturers at times. I am totally OK with that, and I don’t think they lay it on too heavy. In fact, their primary message is about being creative and getting kids out of doors. These are good things. I should add that “mom” and “little sis” also are often on the shows.

That all being said, every toy that my son sees this duo play with, he wants me to buy. It’s quite remarkable. Regardless of what he saw yesterday, and it’s not quite every toy, but still it’s many of them. We let him watch TV while he eats breakfast while my wife and I get ready in the morning. That’s our routine. Now what he watches tends to vary over weeks or days, so that makes this a good experiment. Some weeks he’s into Netflix shows, some YouTube. There is variation on channels and content. The only one that has toys for him to play with, though, is the Axel Show. It’s only then that he sees commercials; the YouTube commercials that he sees are not kid toy commercials.

It’s that variation that brought it all to mind. About two weeks ago, he got back into watching the Axel Show again, and lo and behold he started talking about the toy of the day. That is what brought this all to mind, and if it works on him, it must be working on all of us. I found a link that said the global advertising market is north of 500 billion USD! It has to be working or they would not be spending that kind of money.

My Conclusions…

What this all tells me is that cutting the cord can save you money in indirect ways by pulling advertising from our lives. I think my wife and I may have stumbled on a way to help our son by lessening his exposure to advertising at these young ages. Who knows, we could be making it worse by not inoculating him against it, but I don’t think that is the case. After all, advertising worked on the Greatest Generation, and TV was invented during their lifetime. My thought there being that TV was the most powerful form of advertising, and while advertising existed before it, TV took it to a whole other level.

These are just thoughts that I had over the last few days, and I hope you all find it interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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