You Better Not Pout, Kids. Ads Are to Blame.

“I turn on the tube and what do I see? A whole lotta people cryin’ ‘don’t blame me.’”

That’s the opening line from the Eagles song “Get Over It.” It’s one of those songs whose lyrics are always apropos. That’s because people always blame someone else for their troubles, and so there always will be the need to tell these same people to “get over it.”

Case in point: Monet Parham, in case you missed the news, is a mother of two from California who, along with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is suing McDonald’s for deceptive marketing. Per news reports, she feels the fast-food chain bombards kids with “slick advertising” and causes them to “pout” when told they can’t have a Happy Meal.

Yes, pout.

Remember the big stir Charles Barkley caused a while back when he proclaimed, “I am not a role model. Parents should be role models”? The context is different, but the message is worth noting.

“Parents should be role models” are words that Parham and the CSPI should be made to write 500 times on the nearest blackboard, in particular CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner who proclaimed, “McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers.”

As a parent of a 6-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, I am completely appalled by that statement. Why not just come out and say that children are merely brainwashed adolescents awaiting their next order from their master, who is obviously not their parent?
 
In an ironic twist, Parham is a children’s nutrition advocate for the state of California. Her job is to be an advocate for children’s nutrition, i.e., making sure the food they eat is healthy, yet she feels pressured to take her kids to McDonald’s, home of the omnipresent Happy Meal.

In one news report, she was quoted as saying, “I can tell them ‘no’ all day long, but then they see commercials that convince them [they’ve] really got to have this.”
Apparently the word “no” doesn’t have the same effect it had on me when I was a child.

This statement from Parham is equally appalling: “I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”

Right. It’s advertising’s fault. Hey, Ms. Parham, I see commercials for a new Mercedes and BMW. Can you buy me one because, you know, I really have to have it.

Just consider the ramifications of such a lawsuit actually succeeding. Parents could sue Jobs & Co. because their kids pouted after not getting an iPad for Christmas. Or they could sue Disney because their kids pouted after seeing all the ads promoting the Magic Kingdom and they didn’t get to go.

If this lawsuit is allowed to proceed and ultimately is ruled in favor of Parham and the CSPI, the consequences are staggering. Forget about that whole “You better not pout” from that Christmas song, kids. In fact, forget Santa Claus and his dumb old list. You go right ahead and pout.

Of course, advertising is being blamed for more than just making kids eat unhealthy meals. Last year, Adweek had an article called “Let’s Blame Advertising.” The piece tells us that one-third of survey respondents blame ad agencies and advertising in general for the “current economic crisis because they encouraged people to buy things they couldn’t really afford.”

You know what just occurred to me? The next time my wife gets on me for not taking the trash out or not doing the dishes or not doing a whole host of other things, I will calmly turn to her and say, “It’s not my fault. Those damned ads I keep seeing on TV, on my phone, on the Internet, they made me do it! Or in my case, not do it!”

Steve Olenski is the creative director of digital services for The Star Group. He can be reached at solenski@stargroup1.com.