Kim Penstone

The mother of all ads

2004-11-16 07:57

In his latest column on News24, Chris Roper condemns Fear Marketing - what he describes as "selling a product by appealing to our fears and insecurities".

He picked particularly on Netstar, with its "Get your own back" slogan, which he believes sells the idea of revenge - a very dangerous thing, in anyone's language.

He wrote: "...if ad agencies are going to sell products based on the satisfaction you can get from being part of a violent society, the logical consequence will be an increasingly violent society".

(Of course, Netstar would no doubt take the defence that the slogan is not about revenge, but simply about 'getting your own property - in this case a car - back'.

And it could be argued that Mr Roper, who condemns the violent nature of this slogan and the "us and them" mentality that he believes it perpetuates, is himself perpetuating the cycle - albeit innocently. After all, he chose to interpret the slogan thus...)

But I digress. The bottom line is that, the Netstar ad and the open interpretation of its slogan aside, Mr Roper is right.

There's no denying that advertising has an effect on society, and directly affects people like you and me.

This got me thinking about my current bugbear in the advertising arena - ads aimed at parents, especially first-time parents, which prey on their insecurities about their children's future.

There's one in particular, for a multi-vitamin type product, which claims to increase concentration levels (thus yielding much better crayon drawings - a very scientific method by which to measure concentration levels, I'm sure).

Now I understand, from my many first-time-parent friends, that competition is intense among parents.

Clapping at a certain age (forgive me for not knowing the exact month - I'm still eyeing that particular lifestage nervously and with much scepticism) is indicative of a genius in the making.

By implication, those one-foot, bright-eyed gurglers who fail to aim their two hands towards each other correctly, and instead dislocate their small fingers with near misses, are simply "average" (and end up with strange, misshapen fingers, I guess).

It's enough to throw any new parent into a paroxysm of panic and self-doubt (or so I'm told).

After all, we're proponents of the nurture generation - nature and genes do not a child make - parents, on the other hand do.

Which is why I find these ads so reprehensible. New parents have enough on their minds without having to worry about what damage they're doing to their progeny by not buying the latest and greatest vitamin.

All over the world, policy makers are at great pains to ban advertising to children - because they lack the understanding to differentiate between a sales pitch and the truth.

Have you ever seen a mother of a three-week old child, who's breast feeding every three hours, sterilising bottles in between and reading every self-help book ever published and available at Exclusive Books to make sure she's bathing the poor child correctly?

Now there's someone who's ability to make sensible judgements is somewhat impaired (no offence to any new-parent friends, of course!)

Perhaps it's time those policy makers left the toddlers to look after themselves and turned their attention to their mothers?

  • Kim Penstone's friends are all producing progeny. They've all displayed excellent parenting skills, and their minds remain in tact. Most of them can still hold a conversation without referring to the colour of their child's fecal matter. She's in awe, which is why she feels so strongly about this particular matter.

    She's also somewhat tired of being so serious about advertising, so is going to use this column to look at the lighter side of the creative industry. Love it, hate it, let her know. She's sensitive, so she'll take it personally...

    Of course, if you're interested in the more serious side, you can find that on

    Send your comments to Kim

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