Save money the passive-aggressive way: Hide marketing from your kids

Last week, I went to an event here in Portland where Wieden+Kennedy (famous for coming up with Nike's "Just Do It" campaign) former creative director Jelly Helm was speaking about marketing and conversation. He declared that advertising was dead. No one, he said, looked at advertising any more and said, "I want to buy that!"

I didn't have a chance to shout out from the audience "huh?" He obviously hasn't been in a living room with my children. He hasn't watched TV while a perfectly noxious-sounding ad comes on -- the one parents tune out -- and my boys, all the way from the 17-month-old to the six-year-old, start jumping up and down with excitement over Horton Hears a Who or that game where hippopotamuses eat marbles. He hasn't seen them seated rapturously on the floor with a Target or WalMart circular, playing "I want that!" and fighting over who, exactly, gets to want the Spiderman/Power Rangers/Pokemon what-have-you.

And he would be shocked, and I am not proud of this but I have been known to lose my self-control when faced with the increasingly-frantic "can I have this PLEASE!?!" for the end-of-the-aisle displays in the grocery store, or the seasonal aisle in the drug store.

I finally found a solution that is both passive-aggressive and elegant in its simplicity. It works, and it saves me tons of money and (if one is possessed with far more will-power than me, you might be saving money but are losing this) sanity.

Here it is in four easy steps:

  1. Don't go shopping with your children. Shop online, shop after bedtime, shop when you have a babysitter, shop when your partner is around to watch the children. Or avoid grocery stores and drug stores altogether and get your food from farmer's markets and your backyard.
  2. Don't go to superstores. Target, WalMart, Costco: you may enjoy one or more of these great modern inventions in one-stop-shopping, but they are cleverly devised to engage you in wanting something you didn't realize even existed. You think you're saving money on toilet paper, when in fact, it is costing you two DVDs, a cute seasonal t-shirt, and four pairs of festive socks.
  3. Don't watch TV, and if you must, watch it online, with DVDs, or TIVO. When I'm out, my husband calls me every time there is a commercial for McDonald's asking for chicken nuggets. My response? "Turn off the TV, honey."
  4. Recycle the advertising circulars before bringing your newspaper inside. We now have one of those roll-away recycling bins. When I get the Sunday paper off my front porch, I go clad in my rainboots so I can dump all the ads into the bins before the kids can lay eyes on them. Presto: less wanting!
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