By David Glenn Cox
Hey Fishing Buddy! by DGC
It was early in the morning when I pulled the box out of the cupboard. I had purchased it a day or so before at the grocery store and didn't pay any attention, but there it was big as life. The back of my cereal package was in fact a billboard for of all places, Walmart. Normally I don't pay any attention to the back of cereal boxes but Walmart? What does Raisin Bran have to do with retail mega marketing?
For generations the back of cereal boxes had been the province of small children, full of puzzles and games and cartoons, but no more. "Catch All Your Family Memories at the Walmart Photo Center!" Beneath this rather curious headline are pictures of adults and children, preschoolers were in the majority of the photos with fishing tackle. Now I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I have been fishing and I have raised preschoolers and this I much I do know. Fishing requires patience and quiet and someone to bait the hook and preschoolers will have none of that.
Why the very idea of trying to find a five year old that is both quiet and patient while baiting their hook with a red wiggler is pure comedy. Why at best you might get two out of three but without the full trifecta any attempt at fishing will come to naught. Beneath this collage of adolescent anglers and their dads was an official 4x6 Fishing Buddy Card complete with a picture of Tony the tiger. "Grab your own Fishing Buddy Card and get ready for fun!"
Just cut around the buddy card above, place a wallet-size photo over the cartoon (optional), and take it to your nearest participating Walmart Photo Center to laminate."
Sure, I'll get right on that. At the bottom of my fishing buddy card it advises, "For entertainment purposes only. Not an Official State Fishing License" How many of you out there at home had already guessed that? I did, as I've said, I'm not a fisherman but even still, I felt confident that an official state fishing license wouldn't have a picture of Tony the tiger on it. I also doubted that you could obtain an official state fishing license, good nationwide, on the back of a cereal box. Over on the side panel of the box is still more advertising "Get everything you need for fishing at Walmart; Fishing license, bait, tackle and more!
This is followed by corporate logos of bait and tackle companies and underneath is a picture of some goober in a NASCAR style jacket holding up a big trophy bass. He might be a famous stock car driver or famous angler. Do professional fishermen wear NASCAR style jackets with sponsor's logos on them? We'll yes they do! That jacket really ought to help the cache of the sport.
Advertising is the art of selling ideas, the products the advertising sell become secondary and almost unimportant. I saw an advertisement for Las Vegas the other day and this young chiseled guy is standing waist deep in a swimming pool surrounded by two beautiful women in bikinis. What is the message? Las Vegas is fun? Las Vegas has swimming pools? What about the Las Vegas strip or the night life or the gambling? The subliminal message is that Las Vegas is full of hot chicks and you might get lucky. This is how advertising operates; they aren't selling the product but the image of the product.
So what image are they trying to sell on the back my serial box? Fathers and children doing an outdoor activity together, but where is mom? No women on this cereal box, just dad and the kids having fun together. Maybe mom is snapping the photos or maybe this is more about appealing to the desires in children who only see their fathers two weekends a month. A cynical ploy with a subliminal message for children that everything you need to make your family whole again is at Walmart. My dad and I can do things and be together and we can be happy, if we just shop at Walmart.
There are 12.9 million single parent families in the United States and 80 percent are headed by women. Twenty two million children or around thirty percent of all US children live in single parent homes. Can't mom take them fishing? Is their some part of this activity which requires vast amounts of testosterone? I've known some fine women anglers; my Aunt Clara could catch a mess of fish with a piece of scrap wood and some kite string. My father couldn't land a fish with a car and a map to Red Lobster but this cereal box is selling ideas to children.
It is aimed directly at the longing of small children and for that; the copy writers, Kellogg's and Walmart can all go to hell. This cereal box is not unlike the fishing they are promoting, by selling the idea that fishing is a way to get dad to come around more and then baiting the hook with a fishing buddy card that you can get laminated at your participating Walmart Photo Center. Now what hard hearted father, seeing his child with a laminated fishing buddy card wouldn't want to take that small child fishing?
It is an appeal aimed at parental guilt and adolescent longing. It is a mean spirited, cynical and underhanded marketing approach. This is the worst of Capitalism and these are the ideas its advertising sow into your children's heads. Rather than just selling you a breakfast cereal or selling you on the idea of the fun and adventure that you can have fishing, the advertisers tap in a child's sense of loss and a father's sense of guilt.
Children have been used for generations to sell garbage to the public. McDonalds used children's small hands to make their hamburgers look bigger. Then it was Ronald McDonald on Saturday morning TV encouraging children to tell their parents that they want to go to McDonalds. Compared to my cereal box, this promotion, makes Ronald McDonald seems amateurish and simplistic. Kids get hungry and parents get hungry too. Parents want someplace inexpensive and fast, so the children's vote becomes the tipping point to buy hamburgers.
Ronald McDonald wasn't about instilling a sense of loss into children. Nor was he about appealing to a parent's sense of guilt at not being present in each day of their children's lives. This is about indoctrinating small children into thinking that the answers to life's problems can be solved by shopping at Walmart. That through shopping our parents can be made to love us more. We can become happy with new fishing tackle or with a big hamburger.
If your child watches TV or social media they are bombarded hundreds if not thousands of such messages. They must be cool and must conform to a corporate image that is being created for them with cell phones and ring tones. Corporately created celebrities who are all selling the message of consumption, superficiality and commercialism. Who is the Secretary of State? I dunno? Where is Libya located? I dunno? Dumbed down in a corporate plutocracy where knowledge and intellect are unimportant. Where knowledge isn't power, a new 4G phone is.