CCFC Gets With The Blog Mentality

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has wonderful resources and works to maintain their site, but while doing research for my senior project, I was frustrated by their outdated fact sheets. Today, I saw a CCFC Facebook update directing me to their \”Commercialism Corner\” Blogspot! Hooray for CCFC’s new and efficient updating technique!

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Media Literacy Message

Media literacy is the foundation of my work with children’s media, but I rarely get a chance to focus on what media literacy actually does for a child. One of my favorite media educators, Antonio López, runs a site called World Bridger Media, and offers resources for youth in media production, Latino culture and culturally specific marketing, and other topics under the wide umbrella of media literacy. His interpretations and discussion of media literacy are some of the most effective and articulate. 

“Keep in mind that media construct realities. As long as you live in a corporate dream world, you are living in someone else’s future, one that doesn’t necessarily represent your aspirations or needs. Reclaim the present; take control of the reality of your consciousness. Be media savvy, be media literate!”

López’s approach to workshop education is very direct and comprehensive. Check out his worksheet on advertising hooks and the tricks used by marketing here (PDF).

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Getting inside the head of the “enemy”- Marketing Strategies Made Known

In order to really tap into the methods used by marketing agents, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching advertising agencies and marketing corporations. There are many companies who make no effort to hide their intentions; they want kids to buy products, and they will do just about anything to find new/more effective ways to market and advertise. 

The GIA (Girls Intelligence Agency) is an organization that uses “real” (as in normal, seemingly innocent) young women as plants, to further “the business of girls”.

“Girls Intelligence Agency is a unique organization comprised of approximately 40,000 ‘Secret Agents’, ages 8-29, living all over the United States. GIA communicates with these Influencers daily, seeking out their opinions, ideas, motivations, dreams and goals and translates that information to help hundreds of corporations in the U.S. to strategically reach and connect with the female youth market. GIA uses a variety of means- from texting to sleepovers-to tap into the business of girls.”

This quote is taken directly from the front page of the GIA website, and the emphasis is their own. This may seem unbelievable, but it is all too real. There is no disputing the ferocity, boldness, and down right creepy nature of their mission statement. And they aren’t bending the truth, either. GIA has the ability to infiltrate slumber parties through the use of an Alpha Girl, or Influencer- a pre-teen agent who is sent a box of never-before-seen products to share with her sleep-over pals. The girls rate the products, listen to demo CDs, and give there veto vote to up-and-coming styles. 

Lauren Groppe, president of GIA, says that she’s empowering young women by “giving them a voice.” There are ways to empower young girls, but teaching them to spy and using their reactions as fuel for product development does not give young women a voice. 

Though the GIA is not at all secretive about their motives, their website is very private and is not user friendly. In 2004, GIA was featured on 60 Minutes. This video is only available on the GIA website, and though it does not put an entirely positive spin on the work done by GIA, they give Groppe an awfully large amount of air time. Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College, is the only expert voice of reason in the segment. When asked about the outcome of the GIA “$lumber” parties, Schor says

“What is that host girl being taught? She’s being taught that her friends are an exploitable resource. She needs to get those friends over there, get that information out of them. It’s an instrumental use of friendship.”

The GIA is just one example of many, many marketing groups who directly target children for their own profit. We may be surrounded, but as long as we keep our eyes and ears open, we may be able to remain critical of the children’s marketing machine. 

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Major Player in the Children’s Media Game

In my short time as a student in the realm of children’s media, I’ve been exposed to some brilliant minds via their research and resources. I have a lot of admiration and respect for these media-awareness educators who have devoted an enormous amount of time to making media literacy and children’s media criticism a legitimate field of study.

One of my favorite media gurus is Dr. Susan Linn, the director and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. She is the author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood (2004),  the first book that I picked up on the topic of advertising to children. This approachable yet detailed analysis covers a ton of material and was a great entrance point that made me want to continue my research. I have yet to have the chance to pick up The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World (2008), Linn’s newest book, but the reviews have been wonderful.

If you would rather watch than read, you should check out the documentary partially based off of Linn’s work on childhood and consumption created by Media Education Foundation. Watch the trailer, and while you’re there, browse the rest of the Commercialism section (and the rest of the site, MEF is one of the best resources for radical media!). 

If this really sparks your interest, you can watch all of the Consuming Kids documentary on YouTube.

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Continuing the conversation with resources!

If the documentation from my gallery show has left you wanting to read up on the national movement towards kid’s media-awareness and critical media consumption, look no further! I will be posting updates with my favorite resources and info sites regularly. There is some incredible work being done in this field, and it seems to be growing larger every day!

Check out the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Marketing Facts Sheet (PDF), for a (semi-out-of-date-but-still-informative) straight forward picture of how much is spent on children’s advertising and how deeply marketing influences a child’s life.

Media Smart UK is an initiative supported by RAC (Responsible Advertising and Children) that promotes media-literacy through online games for kids and educational programming for teachers and parents.

“Launched in November 2002, Media Smart® was designed for primary school children aged 6-11 years old and is the first UK media literacy programme to run inside the classroom and the home using broadcast and written educational materials. The materials are developed by independent media literacy experts. Advertisers pay for the materials, advertising agencies create the broadcast creative pro bono and the media give the airtime to promote the initiative. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture is represented on Media Smart’s Steering Committee. “

Though this program has been launched in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, and Germany, it hasn’t been on the radar in the US.

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Gallery Show- Buy Me That!

This gallery contains 2 photos.

BUY ME THAT! : HBO and Consumer Reports, 1990 “In 1990, HBO, in a collaboration with Consumer Reports Television, aired the first of three half-hour specials about children and advertising. The programs pulled back the curtain on many of the … Continue reading

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Gallery Show- Concerning Collection

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CONCERNING COLLECTION: Collecting is a very intentional type of consumption. It is a hobby for some, and an obsession for others. Is it possible to be too invested in a collection? These collectables were popular in the 1960′s, 70′s, 80′s, … Continue reading

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