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The Boys From Marketing Strike Back! Poetry Time

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by ChiTownScion, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    My daughter, at age 5, is all around a good kid. She understands that some people in our country have very little. She cam be very generous-- she raised $38 for her kindergarten class' adopt a family for xmas from family. Last year she emptied out her piggy bank to give to the salvation army bell ringers. She asks for only small gifts from Santa.

    She also can verbalize advertising is trying to get us to buy stuff we don't need. We are not minimalists, but new toys only come into our lives on xmas or birthdays, unless given by others.

    Despite all of this, I have to heavily regulate her use of television shows because of ads. She will see something advertised and want it, planning for xmas or her birthday, even if months away. It is typically cheap plastic junk. Right now she wants a watch that plays games she saw on television two months ago for her birthday in February.
  2. EngProf

    EngProf A-List Customer

    Warning: Heresy Ahead
    I have a dissenting view on the proverbial "Boys" and their marketing in the '50's.
    It may be a case of gender and age, but I'm still grateful that the advertisers told us (leading-edge - late 40's - Baby Boomers) about the Mattel, Hubley, Daisy, and other products that were available for Christmas and birthday presents.
    How else would we have known about the "Fanner-50" Colts, "Shootin'-Shell' Winchesters, and "Tommy-burst" submachineguns that we all wanted?
    We wanted to play Army and cowboys and they provided the tools to do just that - in style.
    As for quality, in both appearance and function, they were first-rate and I still have a few of mine that still work.
    1950's cereal toys: Those were first-rate, also. I remember getting submarines and frogmen that dived under water and then re-surfaced. Also, they had missile launchers that fired authentic-looking rockets.
    They had kid-sized Army sergeant and corporal stripes that came in *very* handy for playing Army.
    Last but not least, they had the best small green Army men that you ever saw. Long after the fact, I think the dies for casting the cereal-box Army men were made by WWII vets, since the weapons and gear that they had were dead-on authentic. (none better...)

    All this was (obviously) from the male perspective of a certain age, but it's the only one I have.

    As for TV, by the time we got old enough to watch "kid's" programming, we were too old for Romper Room and Ding Dong School. Those were for the "Babies" (pronounced sarcastically) - our younger brothers and sisters. None of our gang EVER watched those.

    By the time Mr. Rogers came along we had already graduated from high school and were either working or in college. Mr. Rogers wasn't a good option for me when I was worried about passing calculus and thermodynamics. (You had to pass those or fail out of school and get drafted to Vietnam (!!).)

    Having lived then, I don't give the marketing Boys any credit for creating the demand for what we wanted. It existed naturally... However, I do them give credit for providing the goods to us and informing us about them. (partial credit?)
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The interesting thing is that direct marketing of toys to children at that level was exclusively a product of that era. During the radio era, while there were kids' programs on the networks sponsored by food manufacturers of various kinds, there were none sponsored by toy companies. Not a single one. Toy manufacturers reached their markets thru print advertising and direct displays in stores.

    But the advent of television gave the Boys a chance to really amp up their game with direct-to-kid advertising, and with no regulations to stop or limit them, they went into it with, so to speak, both barrels blazing from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s. To watch, for example, Buffalo Bob Smith, with his relentless vending of any product that would put some coin in his buckskin pocket, was to see the worst of it, but even Dr. Horwich had to play by the Boys' rules to stay on the air -- when she balked at doing a vitamin commercial that sold the "pretty red pills, so easy to swallow" directly to kids, Bobby Sarnoff of NBC met with her personally and laid down the ultimatum: sell the stuff, or you're gone. And she, to her lifelong shame, sold the stuff. Not long after, Daisy Manufacturing tried to buy into her show to sell BB guns, and she again balked -- but this time, when Bobby Sarnoff showed up, she stuck to her -- ah -- guns, and NBC cancelled her program.

    Fred Rogers worked in the production department at NBC in the early 1950s, and got to see a lot of this type of thing first hand -- which reinforced his view of the perniciousness of advertising to children, and how it also couldn't help but end up morally debasing the people doing the selling.

    Of course, you look at those commercials now and they're crass and vulgar and corny and quaint in their slam-it-right-in-your-face approach, right up there with cigarette ads and "I'm Dora, Fly Me!" But the advertising directed to kids over the internet today is far more sinister, because it penetrates directly into the wiring of their brains at an age where their brains are far from fully developed. I wouldn't give a kid a smartphone or a tablet if you held a gun to my head. It's bad enough what the internet does to adults.

    As for gender differences in how advertising was taken by kids, I think the Prof is absolutely right. The Boys, and the psychological consultants who prostituted themselves to Madison Avenue to collaborate with them, fully understood how to manipulate those sorts of things even in the 1950s and 60s. I had no interest whatever in the gun/violent toy ads I saw on TV in my early childhood, but I was absolutely fixated on the soap and cleaning product ads I saw on weekday TV -- I can remember throwing a fit because my mother wouldn't buy me a bar of Camay soap, such as I'd seen pitched on some game show or daytime drama, and there used to exist in the family album a snapshot of me riding a teeter-totter with my cousin while clutching a bottle of Top Job. I hate the Boys as much as I do in part because of what I know what they tried to do to me when I was too young to know any better. If messing with a kid's mind before they're capable of sapient thought isn't immoral, nothing is.
  4. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Chicago, IL US
    Soldiers world-wide are disrespected if not outright disdained,
    but in the southern United States and out west north to Montana
    I found a more indigenous cultural acceptance of the uniform.

    Kipling's rhyme christened James Jones' From Here To Eternity:

    Gentlemen rankers out on a spree, damned from here to eternity,
    God hath mercy on such as we,
    Bah ya bah!
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
    ChiTownScion likes this.
  5. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

    Midwest America

    Wiffenpoofs be damned: Kipling wrote it first and best in "Gentlemen Rankers:"

    TO THE legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned,
    To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
    Sings a gentleman of England cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
    And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.
    Yea, a trooper of the forces who has run his own six horses,
    And faith he went the pace and went it blind,
    And the world was more than kin while he held the ready tin,
    But to-day the Sergeant’s something less than kind.

    We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
    Baa! Baa! Baa!
    We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
    Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
    Damned from here to Eternity,
    God ha’ mercy on such as we,
    Baa! Yah! Bah!

    Oh, it’s sweet to sweat through stables, sweet to empty kitchen slops,
    And it’s sweet to hear the tales the troopers tell,
    To dance with blowzy housemaids at the regimental hops
    And thrash the cad who says you waltz too well.
    Yes, it makes you cock-a-hoop to be “Rider” to your troop,
    And branded with a blasted worsted spur,
    When you envy, O how keenly, one poor Tommy being cleanly
    Who blacks your boots and sometimes calls you “Sir”.

    If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,
    And all we know most distant and most dear,
    Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,
    Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer?
    When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
    And the horror of our fall is written plain,
    Every secret, self-revealing on the aching white-washed ceiling,
    Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain?

    We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
    We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
    And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
    God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
    Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
    Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
    And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
    And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.

    We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
    Baa! Baa! Baa!
    We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
    Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
    Damned from here to Eternity,
    God ha’ mercy on such as we,
    Baa! Yah! Bah!
  6. EngProf

    EngProf A-List Customer

    The reaction to commercials you describe was classic Mars/Venus. We boys endured the advertisements for Betsy-Wetsy dolls and Easy-Bake ovens with groans and eye-rolls - COME ON, let's get on to the important stuff - Winchesters and TommyGuns.
    If the toy people spent any money on psychologists to get us to want those sorts of things, I think they wasted their money.
    Considering the era, I strongly suspect that a number of the toy-company people were WWII and Korean War veterans. They had built-in focus groups at home and in the neighborhood - us - the kids they thought about having when they were overseas.
    They thought we would sit on their knees and ask what they did in the War - which is exactly what we did. I don't think they planned ahead enough to realize that they really couldn't tell us about the worst of it, so we got a heavily censored version of the reality. However, they did tell us the amusing and benign stuff and that was good enough for us kids.

    As to the original idea about marketing to us kids, I think the toy people made what their own kids would like and to some extent what they would want themselves. At a minimum they made what they were personally familiar with from their own military service.
    I mentioned previously that the little green Army men that came in the cereal boxes had every detail perfectly molded, from helmet nets to double-buckle combat boots. Their M1 rifles had proper sights, gas cylinders, op rods, etc. That sort of detail did not happen by accident.

    If the Boys thought they were actually convincing us to buy those things, it was a classic case of someone running to the front of a moving crowd and pretending to lead a parade.

    Personal examples: "I can remember throwing a fit because my mother wouldn't buy me a bar of Camay soap..."
    I can remember pitching a similar fit because my parents wouldn't buy me a cowboy gun and holster set. It wasn't Christmas or birthday time, so I wasn't "due" for such. I was screaming "I WANT IT! I NEED IT!" over and over in the store parking lot. My Dad was easy-going 99% of the time, but that was too much, so I got a good back-hand and was instantly looking up at him from the pavement.
    Later it became one of the family funny stories and all her life if I said "I want ____", my Mom would adopt a high-pitched kid-voice and say "I want it! I need it".
  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Most of the influential Boys of the early postwar era were quite a bit older than the WWII generation -- there were certainly Junior Executives with ruptured ducks in their lapels, but most of the people pulling the strings in the marketing business were men born in the 1890-1900 era or earlier. Some of them served in uniform in both world wars, but those who did were officers and dollar-a-year men, not average GI types. The WWII crowd really took over in the sixties and seventies, by which time they'd clearly absorbed the lessons of their masters.

    The most important figure in motivational-research marketing of the postwar period was an Austrian psychologist named Ernest Dichter, born in 1907, who came to the US just before WWII, and started implementing his theories of how advertising could be used to manipulate the mind of the consumer beyond a simple "here's what's for sale, look at it" by appealing to subconscious anxieties in the target. His theories took the advertising business by storm during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and if you really look at postwar advertising with a critical eye, you'll see it's far different in its psychological depth from the simple "reason-why" ads of the prewar era.

    Advertising to kids in this era was no different from that targeting their parents -- it wormed its way into the minds of young people and maniupulated the fears and deep insecurities about identity that all children have as a part of their natural development. Ads full of guns targeting little boys were, on the surface, were just selling merch -- after all, even if they don't have actual toy guns, boys will run around waving sticks or pointing fingers. They did this long before WWII, and they still do it today, even those whose parents assiduously protect them from guns or gun imagery. *Why* do they do this, the Dichterites wondered, and how can we exploit that? Dichter, following common Freudian theory, believed and taught his followers that most little boys go thru a stage where they are extremely insecure about the integrity of their bodies -- they have a subconscious fear that certain parts will fall off, and their fascination with gunplay, of pointing and thrusting and brandishing toy guns or gun-like objects, is an expression of that phallic anxiety. Dichter believed that this fear remained latent in the subconscious minds of all males, and Dichterite marketers understood and manipulated this to great effect. Look closely at the specific way so many of those innocent toy ads were composed and staged to emphasize the projection and the thrusting of the gun. We can still see that influence in expressions of modern-day American gun culture.

    It's also interesting to note that Dichterian influences weren't just found in advertising -- the actual program content of much of 1950s television was based in motivational research theories. The same manipulation of subconscious imagery that was found in ads directed at kids could also be found in regular programs, especially the wave of filmed westerns that swept the networks over the latter half of the fifties, a genre of programs -- highly popular among young boys -- that literally exploded with phallic anxiety:

    If old Dr. Freud had lived to see that, he would have said "Ja, zometimes a rrrrifle iss chust a rriffle. Budt nodt zis time."

    One thing I'd like to see that I've never come across is a cradle-to-grave study of how a lifetime of television exposure has affected the lifelong cognitive development of the first generation to go from childhood to senescence under its influence. Quite a few studies were being done in the late fifties and early sixties on TV and kids, which raised a lot of serious questions -- and it would be fascinating for some researcher to take up the those studies and try to track some of those same kids over the course of the rest of their lives. The average 70-year old American has viewed something like 90,000 hours of television over the course of their lifetime, and there's a lot that still isn't really understood about how the medium affects brain functioning for good or ill over that long of a span. Another reason to be more careful about slapping kids down in front of a screen.
  8. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    New York City
    ⇧ I'm going to leave all the psychologic analysis with you and untouched :), but one thing was clear to me as a kid and my opinion hasn't changed one bit as an adult - the Rifleman intro video you posted was the singularly most excess phallic symbolism ever put on TV - ever.
  9. Lean'n'mean

    Lean'n'mean Call Me a Cab

    Looks like the rifleman was prone to premature ejaculation, no wondor he suffered from 'phallic anxiety' :D
  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender


    I could make a joke here, but it's way too lappy for me.

    There's actually been a whole book written touching on the Freudian elements present in "The Rifleman," which goes on to point out that the famous opening sequence of Chuck Connors' later show, "Branded," was a textbook depiction of castration anxiety. Better poor Chuck should have just stuck to baseball. After all, (oh, hell, just go for it) he obviously had the wood for it.
    tonyb, Zombie_61 and ChiTownScion like this.

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