November 10, 2010

Ad Hock

Because in the Cactus-Fish household we are now fascinated with all things Star Wars, the kids and I sat down the other evening and watched an episode of The Clone Wars. I hadn't DVRed any so I relied on my old buddy On Demand. Of course, On Demand episodes of popular shows come with a price - the inability to fast forward. Undeterred, we sat there and watched. r And then the commercials started. I grew horrified as the first mandatory advertising break ran for - no shit - five minutes.

After the first minute, I stopped watching the TV and started watching Mia and Owen's faces. It was hilarious...and kinda scary. They were rapt. Their attention was unwavering. I could have juggled knives and crapped a clown and no one would have noticed. And in the aftermath of this marketing onslaught, they wanted all kinds of crap that they would normally have no interest in. Advertising people are geniuses.*

I know. Quit yer bitchin' Chris. The most simple solution is just to leave the television off and avoid the whole issue completely. My kids watch - tops, 45 minutes of commercial-free TV a day. Mia usually gets the raw end of the deal since she only manages one show a day what with school and all. As a result, I think our kids are somewhat shielded from all the marketing. But watching it bothered me. It seemed sleazy, like offering up a bottle of booze to an alcoholic. I started feel really defensive and protective. And I wanted to kick some toy manufacturing ass.

When I was six or seven, I was convinced that I wanted nothing in life more than this silly helicopter toy. It came mounted on a wire that was, in turn, hooked up to some sort of base with a landscape. You turned it on, it flew around in a circle, and you could raise or lower it with a little wired remote control. I looked forward to Christmas - anticipating that it would be under the tree - for months. And it was. After about five minutes, it was the most boring toy ever. That disappointment was, perhaps, worse than the disappointment I would have felt had it not been under the tree at all.

What was the most sought-after toy when you were a kid? And do you think it lived up to the hype?

* Speaking of which, did you see that my brilliant mystery-writing buddy Marshall Karp (formerly an advertising genius himself) just announced that casting for the TV pilot that's being made from his first book is underway?

Posted by Chris at November 10, 2010 6:48 AM

I wanted a Rub-a-Dub Dolly - it was a doll you could take in the bath. Problem was, after it went into the bath, I couldn't play with it for days because it would leak water everywhere it went. Definite toy fail.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 10, 2010 8:27 AM

A Magnavox Odyssey 300: one of the original Pong games. I was so excited that we were going to be able to play games on the TV. Right on the TV!! However, only being able to play one game got old rather quickly. My older siblings weren't thrilled when I took it apart to see how it worked...

Posted by: J at November 10, 2010 9:08 AM

When I was a kid, some cereal company was giving away a detective set with three proofs of purchase. One of the kids on the block had one, and I HAD to have it, so I begged my mom, and ate the cereal I didn't even like until I had the proofs of purchase, and this kid on the block was all about his set, and we played with it, and I dreamed of having one. But by the time we mailed it all away, and I actually GOT the set, all the kids had moved on and it was old news and no one wanted to play with it anymore.

I hate marketing.

Posted by: Martin at November 10, 2010 9:42 AM

What kind of On Demand do you have that you can't fast forward? And that has so many commercials? Weird!! Ours is always fast-forwardable, and they show at most one commercial during each commercial break.

Anyway... When I was little, I wanted Milky the Cow. I apparently asked for it for three Christmases, and Santa finally gave in. Milky could drink water (you had to pump her tail to do so... no joke!), and then you could milk Milky. It worked remarkably well! I think it did live up to the hype, and it was very messy. My Mom hated it, but it made my brother and I laugh every time. :-)

Posted by: Sandy at November 10, 2010 9:47 AM

So somehow I missed that one of Karp's detectives was black. I guess I must've skimmed over a description at some point. Obviously it doesn't matter but it's just funny in my head. I just want to see who plays Big Mike haha!

Posted by: Heather at November 10, 2010 10:16 AM

"Crap a clown". Oh my dear lord, I'm gasping for breath between my laughs.

My On Demand is fast forward-able. Sounds like you're getting the shaft.

Posted by: Erin at November 10, 2010 10:30 AM

Truly dislike commercials!

Posted by: Maribeth at November 10, 2010 10:57 AM

Please crap a clown for me.

Posted by: lumpyheadsmom at November 10, 2010 11:09 AM

For my 7th birthday I *really* wanted a stuffed tabby cat toy. I didn't see it on TV though, it was in the store. It cost $42. For a cat stuffed animal. But oh, how I longed for it!

I did get it for my birthday and it was my favorite thing for a long time. I took it everywhere. In fact, I still have it! (these days it stays home though) It has seen better days and probably needs to be washed but i kinda like the fact that it has my 7 year old self permanently etched into it's fur. :)

Posted by: jessica at November 10, 2010 11:13 AM

I wanted a Merlin electronic game. I think I was 8 or 9 and it totally lived up to it's expectations. It kept me entranced for hours. I just found one on ebay for $2.99, I might have to buy one for kicks.

Posted by: Sherri at November 10, 2010 11:19 AM

I don't remember any monstrous disappointments, other than my bike getting stolen about three days after Santa got it for me... Not the bike's fault, though. Santa was pretty fucking pissed.

Posted by: alektra at November 10, 2010 11:34 AM

Definitely my Cabbage Patch Doll. I had "generic" Cabbage Patch Dolls, and they were all right, but I really, really, really wanted the real thing. My parents told me if I saved up my money (I received $1 a week at that age - I think I was 6) and got HALF of the cost of the doll, they would pay the other half and take me to buy my very own.

And I saved.

And I did extra chores.

And I did my siblings' chores and they paid me.

And my brother is 11 years older than me and he talked me into buffing the chrome rims on his car - for HOURS.

And I earned that $24 (I had to pay for half the tax, too, of course!)

And I went to the store, and picked out my doll, and took her home.

I don't know what I was expecting.

But within 30 minutes, I knew I had just wasted all of that time and energy and hard-earned cash.

It was JUST a doll.

Posted by: Mindy at November 10, 2010 1:37 PM

Toy wise, it was a laser pistol that made cool sounds; I never got it, but the dreams I had of it powered many an imaginary world. In fact, one of my most expansive "internal story" worlds is based on that toy. So great ROI on that. Toy disappointment wise I think anything labeled "educational" was a bust for me. Except the chemistry set, which I made a test tube explode and then got kind of scared of it, but wow, that was cool.

As a side note, I agree with others that you are getting the raw deal on the On Demand; Time Warner has only a couple of commercials, and totally fast forwardable.

I disagree with you on the whole "protecting the kids from media" thing, but I think it is based on my old Poli Sci days studying memes; I've drilled into my kids for years that the television is lying to them, that it is all there to bring them, the product, to the real audience, the advertisers. We're taking different tracks on this, and my hope is that I'll have some media savvy kids. Of course, I may also end up having delivered them to Madison avenue with a pretty bow. Time will tell, and hope survives.

Posted by: metawizard at November 10, 2010 2:39 PM

All I wanted was the Barbie Dream House and when I got it, I played with it forever!! My aunts and Mum Mum furnished it for me (but that's another story altogether) and when I sold my Barbie collection (at age 29) I sold it to a guy with 2 little girls who wanted Barbie stuff for Christmas, but he had just lost his job. He offered a decent price with the promise of a phone call to let me know how his girls liked the collection. I expected the call a week or so after Christmas, but he called on Christmas morning so I could hear his daughters' excitement! That was the BEST Christmas present ever!! My Barbie stuff had a second life. :-)

Posted by: Krush at November 10, 2010 2:43 PM

All I really wanted was a Cabbage Patch Doll. And, just like Mindy said before me, it was just a doll. Once I conned my childless uncle who was in the navy and felt really guilty about not ever seeing his adorable niece into giving it to me for Christmas, I very rarely played with it. It was not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated!!

Posted by: NGS at November 10, 2010 2:58 PM

I wanted a Chatty Patty when I was a kid. I loved her, though she was hard plastic so not a real cuddly doll. I think my Mother recently gave it to one of my nieces :)

Posted by: Rose @Dozenroses13 at November 10, 2010 11:46 PM

Lite Bright. OMG.

Posted by: Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey at November 12, 2010 6:48 PM