My review of this book dates back to early 2009 and it was published in Tribune magazine. I found it again and thought, seven years on, the commercial grooming business is more rampant than ever with apps and other technological gadgetry for this, that and the other. You might find it interesting.
“CONSUMER KIDS: How Big Business Is Grooming Our Children For Profit”
by Ed Mayo & Agnes Nairn
This a heady work railing against the growing menace of junk mail, junk food, junk drink, junk entertainment and junk culture. The no-nonsense agenda for the book is illustrated on the front cover – a child behind a barcode designed to look like a prison window – and the book itself makes no bones about its intentions to expose the many commercial practices that see children from very young ages to teenage years as crucial players in a gold-rush marketing battle for their hearts, souls, minds and money. In a thoroughly researched and argued thesis, we are steered through the influences of pester-power and peer-pressure and the opportunities therein for marketing manipulation that exploits kids’ desire to be cool and exposes the weaknesses of parents who give in too easily to their temperamental, demanding children. To marketing campaigners children are wonderful sales people, powerful conduits to other children. When the children’s market is estimated at £99 billion, companies, or “child catchers” in the book’s terminology, want to feast on lucrative slices of this profitable cake.
The paraphernalia of technology – mobile phones, internet, MP3 players, multi-channel television - and slick reality, fashion and lifestyle media output give advertisers many pipelines to young people in particular. It is a marketing world spiced up with sexual connotations and the creation of desires to be as rich, successful and perfect as the stars of movies, television, music and sport. Kids are suckered into it and companies in their quest to win more customers and to increase market share, see the young market as a legitimate target to capture for business security and longevity.
The book is littered with alarming information. For example, children’s bedrooms have been transformed from places to sleep into hi-tech, intensive media bedsits. It is said that about a quarter of each child’s day is devoted to switching on and interacting with machines from mobile phones to TVs to computers, and that the commercial world dominates children’s time more than ever. The enticing worlds of fashion, sugar-rich foods, social networking websites, gadget obsession, celebrity exposure and product endorsement, and life itself, as a kind of eternally happy theme park, are, it seems, ripe for exploitation. Kids are vulnerable, companies know it and see endless opportunities.
This is an important book to be read with an open mind but it might be impossible for business managers not to feel a little soiled and guilty after such an intellectual drubbing. “Consumer Kids” gives us something substantial to chew on and pokes away at our collective conscience, giving us the choice to surf along with consumerism, to sink beneath its relentless tidal wave or to fight it tooth and nail in the interests of future generations’ responsibility and salvation.