Kid’s cereal. It’s the advertising we never talk about.

September 29, 2008

While half-watching cartoons with my girls, I found myself staring at a familiar face: The Trix Rabbit. Although CGI, he was just as animated as I remembered, pimping a different kind of Trix, but still the same “silly rabbit.” After his attempt at stealing Trix from the kids was foiled another “critter” bombarded my living room. And another.

And then it hit me. How come we never hear about “critter” advertising in the trades, at awards shows, in the blogosphere and, most conspicuously, from the agencies creating them? It is as if these commercials, and all their colorful animated stars, exist in a vacuum, never-never land, like they were made in Bollywood not Hollywood.

I know absolutely no one in our industry that works on these accounts. Do any of you? What agencies are making all this work? Do they put it on their credentials? How deep does one have to go to find a Fruity Pebbles case study on the agency website?

Early on at Leo Burnett, I recall doing time on Kellogg’s cereals, though mostly for adults. Once, however, I was tasked with creating a new campaign for Apple Jacks. Remember those? While ostensibly made with apples and cinnamon, the cereal tasted wonderfully like neither. Our job was to define that taste and make it relevant for kids. I still remember my line: Apple Jacks tastes like what you like. Brilliant, right? It never got out of the agency.

Anyway, that was the last time I contemplated advertising (for) children’s breakfast cereal. Until I had children. Until just now.

As practitioners of the craft, we never “go there.”

There’s no category for it at award shows. (Is there?) Granted, the universal crappiness of the genre (if genre is the right word) precludes these sorts of creations from short-listing anywhere but on mom’s grocery list. But you get my point. Advertising for children’s cereal is a non-topic. Aside from occasional regulatory blather about advertising to kids, we (as an industry) neither criticize nor promote it. Scroll your blogroll. Check the archives. Try and find one story. Of Sir Martin Sorrel or Howard Draft there are hundreds. Count Chocula and Tucan Sam. None.

Is it a conspiracy or just the opposite, nobody cares?


5 Responses to “Kid’s cereal. It’s the advertising we never talk about.”

  1. I have a friend (former Portfolio Center classmate) working in NYC at a place called Uproar! that does toy commercials. I can’t seem to find out anything about the place online, so I don’t know if the place exclusively works on ads for kids.

    Perhaps the fact that I can’t find any information on the shop is testament to the point you’re making. I don’t imagine the work is “good” in the way that we’d measure it. Much like pharma work isn’t something I’d put in my book, but there are obviously a lot of people working on that stuff. And honestly, who of us hasn’t gotten that call from a headhunter about a ridiculously high-paying job at a pharma agency?

    Perhaps ads for kids, or for kid’s products should have its own awards category, or even its own awards show. We’ll call it the Booger Awards or something. What an impressive line item that would be on a resume. “4 Gold Boogers, 3 Silver Boogers and the Ankle-Biter Best of Show.

  2. Jason Fox said

    Uproar! is HQ’d in Dallas and is a division (or spin-off) of Tracey Locke. It specializes in kid-targeted advertising. Website:

    I believe TLP (Tracey Locke) spun them off when they were doing (and still do) a massive amount of work for Hasbro. I only know this because a director friend of mine shoots a lot of their stuff.

    If you want to read a book about why advertising to kids really isn’t a fair fight (for the kids), my uncle (an English prof. at Mizzou) wrote a book entitled “Harvesting Minds: How TV Commercials Control Kids.” And even though he and I tend to disagree about all thing political, I think this book was pretty spot-on. He researched kids who watched Channel One in school and came to the conclusion that kids can’t tell the difference between news and advertising, so they believe pretty much whatever they see.

    Of course, the book was written a few years ago. Perhaps today’s kids only believe what they see on YouTube.

  3. SRP said

    You Tube is very big in kid’s lives, no question, yet the classic 30-second TV spot is alive and well on Saturday morning!

  4. Voice of Reason said

    Lots of big agencies quietly make lots of money churning out these sugar-filed commercials. They don’t publicize it for two reasons: It’s controversial and it’s crap. But I’m betting it’s the Golden Goose for many a firm, especially when so many other sectors are cutting back and changing agencies.

  5. Mike Coffin said

    A 4 year old Fred Savage.

    A sappy jingle.

    A 5 second tag.

    Shine on Neon Leon. Shine on…In the dark!

    Remember the good times, partner!


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