“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.

28 comments on “Advertising

  1. shoreacres says:

    We didn’t have a television until I was seven years old, so my acquisitive tendencies were shaped more by the Sears catalog: my generation’s “wish book.” I’d spend hours and hours looking through its pages, reading the descriptions. It was great fun, although Santa never just brought things from my list. There always were surprises, and most of them were better than anything I would have chosen for myself.

    Not until this very minute has it occurred to me that my habit of looking through every single page of catalogs for places like the Vermont Country Store may be grounded in that early childhood experience. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I well remember the Sears Wish Book, thumbing through it and wishing. I have a massive Sears catalog from 1936 that I found here on the farm. It’s in near perfect condition. Looking at it now I’m surprised at how few pages there are for toys.

      Liked by 1 person

      • allisonmohr says:

        When we lived in West Seattle, WA, the three houses down the hill from us were built from Sears kits. Think about that. One could actually order a complete house from a catalog. Some assembly required.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue says:

    I remember my son being thoroughly convinced that sugary cereals were good for him–because he heard it on tv. And think of any trend or fad or fashion. Same thing.
    I find it funny now, looking back, on how ridiculous many of my “wants” were. Now I look at people that follow all the latest trends in fashion and home decor as being lemmings. What ever happened to having your own style!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dani says:

    And what better gift can grandparents give their grandkids if not the pleasure of encouraging them to broaden their horizons, and allowig their imagination free reign whilst burying their nose in a book. Wonderful 🙂


  4. Laurie Graves says:

    You can’t go wrong with books 😉


  5. bobraxton says:

    age 8 1/2 reads chapter books (attends Montessori school) – age 4 1/2 does not yet admit to reading (except maybe a few things).


  6. Books sound pretty good to me. Get her lots.


  7. Dearest Bill,
    Had to laugh about your son passing on exactly the same as what you instilled in him! So far it worked but I guess it will make for a healthy foundation.
    Yes, our society is so much driven for spending and consumption of all sorts of things. Often not needed at all.
    Both my husband and I have often asked ourselves what we do have in our home that we got from watching commercials. NOTHING! So it doesn’t work for us…
    I was already a teen when we had TV first, being the eldest of seven.
    You opted wisely for buying your granddaughter books!


    • Bill says:

      We don’t have to worry about TV commercials influencing us, because we don’t watch TV! But even 40-50 years later I can still recall by heart lots of the commercial jingles from my childhood! Those ads are like worms that crawl into your brain.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I’m glad to see your return to the blogging world. I missed your daily posts with mind challenging subjects and comments. It looks like a lot has happened while you have been away. I hope your sabbatical from the media was a refreshing uplifting time. This last week has been a time of much less social media for me because I’ve been out at Terra Nova Gardens getting ready for the gardening year. I still have to plug a few holes in the six foot wooden fence. Half of the mulch is down around the three raised sweet corn beds. One more load of mulch and I will be starting on the erection of the inside the wooden fence chicken wire fence. I call the sweet corn area for this year the sweet corn fortress. Once the chicken wire fence is up, three electric wires will be attached to the fence at six, twelve, and eighteen inches. It will be a battery powered electric fence. Two live traps baited with marshmallows with be set near the fortress. If those pesky raccoons get through all that, next year it will be a full on totally caged sweet corn area. I’m determined to defeat the rascals. Yeah, it’s not about the sweet corn any more but totally about who is going to win. 🙂


    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. It was a refreshing break. 🙂

      I hope you have a bumper crop of sweet corn this year. I’m looking forward to going through another gardening season with you.


  9. No TV until I was in high school… past the age of advertising influence. Or, at least of the age I could apply a more critical eye. Books were always my favorite gifts. Still are. Mainly they are what we give the grandkids, who have fortunately developed a love of books. –Curt


  10. Great quote, Bill! He was quite the guy, our Stephen… Have you ever read his “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”?
    But Oh my, with a birth date like that, she has my deepest sympathy (being nigh on to Christmas, myself) and, for that exact same reason, I’m betting books are a big hit; )


    • Bill says:

      No, I haven’t, and I can’t recall where I saw the quote. But it called to mind this story.

      Rayne says she likes having her birthday on Christmas Day. But I had a friend growing up whose birthday was in December and he always complained that he got cheated on presents as a result. 🙂


  11. Although my sister would provide me with a mile long list of trendy toys every Christmas and birthday for her children – I ignored them and bought books instead. I figured everyone else would be supplying the cheap plastic toys du jour and I was always rewarded with requests for bedtime stories when I visited.


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