Monday, December 03, 2007

Kids on TV / Santa Claus - best before ?

About an year ago a Journo friend of mine raised an issue about if it is morally right / wrong to show Kids in Ads. Its one of those so many things that I have never really thought about. But when I did sit down to think, I realised I frankly enjoy watching kids in Ads. They are much more entertaining and convincing than adults. I go cootchie koo each time I see the Huggies Ad. Or that Maruti Ad some time ago where a cute-as-a-button serdy kid goes: papa petrol khatam hi nahin hunda.

I don’t take TV too seriously and I hope my kids will inherit my absolute irreverence for anything ‘advertising’. But I think TV plays a unique role in imparting messages to kids and on my once-in-a-blue-moon TV audience it was truly appalling to watch a program on one of the popular Hindi channels which showed heroic feats like people lifting stuff with eyelids and the like. The episode featured a 4-year boy driving a car with proud papa sitting next to the driver’s seat. This was last year and I noticed my then - five-year-old daughter make intense mental notes. And though she is such a wimp I am sure some other gutsy five yr old would definitely try the heroism if he accidentally found the car keys hanging in mom’s car. Specially since there was such applause from the make believe audience at the show.

The TV also creates stereotypes...I have always wanted Ruhi to have long hair and till a year and half ago, Ruhi had an obsessive crush on Superman ( in his Christopher Reeve avtaar) and wanted a hairstyle just like him with that one lock curled up in the front ! It was an unresolved difference between us until I started showing her all the pretty little girls in television commercials and their long flowing hair. I think it’s conditioned her enough and since then she has kept quiet about her hair thanks to some good old Advertising. Wonder if that’s good or bad ?

To give credit where it is deserved - she learnt milk is good for her from the Bournvita Ad. She is a teeth-brushing champion because of all the toothpaste advertising she watches. I think by and large Indian Advertising around kids is fairly responsible advertising with feel good messages about the girl child etc etc ad infinitum. And I feel gratitude towards any advertising that shows happy kids enjoying eating mommy’s cooking even if it is Maggie noodles! Its more convincing than me telling her the Popeye story night after night.

Except for that "Princess Fairy Barbie' Ad on Cartoon Network that I so absolutely hate because I cant bear to spend another hard earned rupee on YET ANOTHER Barbie doll, I can’t remember feeling unhealthy about kids in Ads. My husband used to go all mushy whenever he saw the last Raymond man with that pretty little thing with blue eyes…I think kids touch chords in everyone’s hearts and by and large they create good advertising.

There may of course be exceptions but then I hardly watch any TV. And yet I am the eternal Ad Cynic. I mistrust ALL advertising. Having worked in ad agencies for a long stretch in my career, the damage is irreversibly done.
But I do not yet teach my children to mistrust advertising messages yet since they are too little to understand that the TV is trying to ‘sell’ something to them. I'd rather Ruhi believes she will become Rupanzel by using X hair oil or Rayyan could become 'Krishh' by drinking Y drink. Its part of the fairytale that I want their chilhood to be. I am sure in a couple of years I will have to handhold them out to the real world !

Incidentally Ruhi announced 2 days ago that she 'knew' there was no Santa Claus and that its me who keeps gifts in her socks every X Mas. I was dumbstruck and heartbroken. How much I was loving my plans for this year's X Mas surprise and it had all already gone down the drain ! I told her that was utter non sense and that if there was a Tooth Fairy and the Ghost who she is convinced comes by her window every night then how dare she say there was no Santa Claus. She said the maid had told her that Mama keeps the gifts under the pillow. I told her that the Maid knew nothing since she never went to school and that I would educate the maid. Ruhi was delighted. She promptly summoned Kirti didi and demanded that I explain to her that Santa Claus was indeed that nice old man with a white beard and a reindeer.....

I wonder if the Fairy Tale expires next Christmas when she turns seven !