COMMENTS: Sales Force

What do these six things have in common? Child Obesity. Eating Disorders. Precocious Irresponsible Sex. Youth Violence. Underage Drinking. Underage Smoking?

Whew. According to psychologist Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood they are all behaviors that tend to increase following childhood exposure to consumer marketing and advertising campaigns--that is in addition to the obvious behavior of buying stuff. That was what Linn told CBS' Katie Couric as Couric kicked off a feature series dubbed Gotta Have It on the hard-sell marketing techniques corporations direct at children.

Couric gave free publicity to the book Buy, Buy Baby in which author Susan Gregory Thomas argued that the consequence of TV for toddlers relying so heavily on easily recognizable characters--like Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street's Elmo or Teletubbies' Po--is that the next time children encounter them "is in a scenario in which that character is trying to sell them something--backpacks, Bandaids, toothbrushes."

Dr Linn's special ire was directed at the Department of Health and Human Services for teaming up with DreamWorks to use Shrek to publicize its anti-couch-potato campaign. Having made Shrek seem salubrious, Couric explained, DreamWorks proceeded to sell tie-ins to 70 packaged foods "some healthy, some junk." The punch line was a clip from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report: "That is why Shrek gets an additional tip of my hat for finding other ways to spread his message of health through joint ventures with Snickers, Pop-Tarts, Skittles, Cheetos."


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