“Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”
Stephen Leacock

When our son Will was in his preschool years, PBS was the only television he was allowed to watch. Like most kids he was a big fan of Sesame Street, etc. We figured that cartoons wouldn’t do him any good at that age.

When he was three, with Christmas approaching, Cherie asked him what he wanted Santa to bring him. Will’s face lit up with excitement and he answered, “A Fisher-Price Three-in-one tournament table!” That’s how we discovered that he had learned to change the channels.

Of course it was that way when I was growing up too. Does anyone remember Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots? Or Battling Tops?

The commercials for those toys made them seem so wonderfully fun that millions of kids begged for them (as we did). Once possessed, sadly, they’re weren’t much fun at all.

Will’s all grown up now, with a daughter of his own. When we asked what she wanted for Christmas this year (a day that also happens to be her birthday), he wasn’t sure. It’s hard to know, he said. Because she doesn’t see television commercials, she doesn’t know what to ask for. Because she wasn’t being bombarded with ads, there weren’t many things she wanted.

Of course it’s the prerogative of grandparents to spoil a grandchild. We would have enjoyed buying her some trendy toy that she would have cherished for at least as long as I loved my Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. But without the commercials to prime the pump, she wasn’t interested.

So we got her books instead.