Commercials, Kids, and Materialism

Right off the bat, let’s take a peek at this “wonderful” new commercial by Toyota:

I was pointed to this ad by longtime reader Beth and the AutoAdOpolis blog.

If you’ve been reading The Simple Dollar for long, you’ll know that this ad takes a swing directly at a lot of different ideas I’ve shared over the years about parenting, money, materialism, and other things. I thought I’d run through them again in light of this ad.

First of all, if you’re a parent, your kids shouldn’t have any influence over your buying decisions. This commercial only really works if you believe that your kids should have any significant input over what automobile you purchase. If you’re letting your child have that much power, particularly in an effort to not seem “lame” to them, you’re abandoning your ability to actually be a parent to them.

Buying a car really can be a teachable moment. You should absolutely discuss why you’re buying a car and what your buying criteria are. However, what a child thinks of as a great criteria for a car (it’s shiny! it’s got a DVD player!) should have little or no direct bearing on that purchase.

At the same time, why is the father washing the car all alone out in the driveway while the kid is sitting inside alone? My kids – even my three year old – would have been out there washing the car with me. Why? That type of thing is the perfect opportunity to build a positive relationship with your child, the kind that fosters long-term trust and rapport.

I can understand parents and children both needing some solitary time. A child sitting alone inside while a parent is outside washing a car, though, is a perfect family time.

This, of course, might point to why the kid thinks his parents are “lame” – he doesn’t have a deep relationship with them.

The child also has no idea why their family has an older minivan or why that has value. Obviously, the family is saving money on a vehicle here – no payments, low insurance cost, and so on. That vehicle is obviously going to last for a long while because it’s being maintained.

That has value. That’s $500 a month that isn’t going towards payments on an expensive new car, let alone the insurance.

There’s no reason not to spell that out for your kids. The inherent value in buying and owning used things is because, quite often, their purchase price and maintenance costs are lower. That means you have money for other things, like a family vacation or the house you’re living in.

Yes, children won’t be able to fully understand that, but they should at least be aware of it so that such ideas are like an oversized glove that they will eventually grow into.

One last thought: if my child had a routine habit of calling the things we did “dorkiness,” referring to us as the “Geek family,” or directly calling his parents names, that child wouldn’t be headed out for a fun afternoon with his friends.

There are a lot of things you can’t control in life: your income level, the bad things that befall you, the financial largesse of the people around you, and so on. However, you can control your day-to-day choices, and among them is how involved you want to be as a parent and how involved you want to be in parenting your child (and parenting doesn’t mean “being their pal”).

Good parenting means teaching them not only how to behave, but how to be responsible and sensible with their money and time.

Some might say that I’m thinking too much about this commercial. However, the commercial is just loaded with things that would point a family away from good financial planning and parenting and towards some pretty awful choices. When such things are considered par for the course on television, there’s no wonder that some people consider it to simply be the way things are.

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90 thoughts on “Commercials, Kids, and Materialism

  1. Cheryl says:

    I have to say we do not watch ads. We record the programs we’re interested in and watch them after they are over so our child doesn’t get exposed to this idiocy.

  2. Matt says:

    Keep in mind, Trent…. California is apparently OK with this commercial, but they’re banning McDonald’s Happy Meal toys…

  3. Melinda says:

    We do not have cable, preferring instead to watch Netflix and leave others to the commercials. However, hubby is a sports fan, so we watch football on the weekends, and when I saw this commercial, I said, “Well, no Toyotas for us when it’s time.” Let’s hope Honda doesn’t follow suit.

  4. Tim says:

    Trent, I think you are right on target here. My son isn’t old enough to see this so that’s not my concern. My concern is that this is targeting a large enough portion of America to make it worth putting on the air. I love my old car. Yes, we have enjoyed stints in rental cars that are more plush, but ours does the trick.

  5. jim says:

    Yes you are thinking too much about a commercial. Its a TV commercial. It is pretend.

    It is supposed to get Toyota’s name and the Highlander image in front of us. The kid is intentionally obnoxious and not meant to be a role model of good old heartland America working ethic values. Its a pretend kid selling a car.

    In general though I certainly agree that if any real kid acted like that it would be a problem.

    “if you’re a parent, your kids shouldn’t have any influence over your buying decisions”

    Amen to that! What car you buy is not up to the kids.

  6. Josh says:

    I thought I was the only one who loathed this commercial, for EXACTLY the reasons you listed, Trent. I have taken to muting the TV and opening mail/reading during breaks. I don’t watch much TV as it is, but this helps make it through the commercials.

  7. Michelle says:

    Uhm…I find that companies trying to sell me new things do not make commercials exaulting the value of keeping old things. Instead they manipulate me into thinking I need their new thing, like if I don’t get it my kid will turn into a brat who thinks I’m a dork (if I had a kid). Does it work logically, no…does it work emotionally? For many people, yes. And that’s what an ad does. I’d say it’s a good ad – it gave you an emotional reaction and made you pay attention to the product.

  8. anne says:

    I think most television ads are disrespectful in general. Your points here are 100% valid!

  9. Christy says:

    My thought the first time I saw that commercial was, hey mom and dad don’t have a gigantic car payment, and that is a spoiled brat.
    I am with you Trent, great post! I hit the channel button as soon as that commercial comes on, loath it, loath it.

  10. karishma says:

    My husband and I have a (not 100% but pretty close) rule that we basically do not buy anything that we see advertised on television.

    In other words, if we were thinking about a particular purchase, and we then see a commercial for that product, our likelihood of buying it goes down.

    Which is why I’m glad we got our Sienna before those silly “swagger wagon” commercials came out.

  11. Mister E says:

    To be perfectly honest it’s junk like this that should have parental advisory warnings.

    IMOHO of course.

  12. Annie Jones says:

    Like you, my husband and I were put off by this commercial. I think I’ve only seen it one time, but that was enough for me to think the kid character is a brat and the parent characters are big pushovers if they fall for his lines.

    Jim (above) said “It is supposed to get Toyota’s name and the Highlander image in front of us.”. The commercial surely did do that, but not in the positive way I bet they were hoping for.

  13. TeacHer says:

    I’m a high school teacher and the first thing I thought when I saw this commercial is: this is why so many of my students have the entitled attitudes they have by the time they reach their teenage years. And it’s also why they think they can talk back to me and in the same snotty, bratty tone that this kid uses in the commercial.

    Everything you mentioned in your post is totally spot-on. I can’t stand this commercial and, if I was in the market for a new car, would be totally turned off to this one just because of how horrible it is.

  14. chacha1 says:

    @Matt #2, why the heck do you think “California is apparently OK with” this stupid ad? And what the heck makes Trent’s commentary on it a great excuse to bash California? I suppose any excuse will do.

  15. Julie says:

    I live in Southern California and I found the commercial repulsive in every way. I plan on letting Toyota know that I am NOT OK with it.

  16. CalifGirl says:

    I’m a Californian and I really dislike this commercial. Not all California people are granola-heads!! :P

  17. femmeknitzi says:

    This ad crawled all over me for several reasons. You just gave me several more! I was mostly offended at the idea that having older items was “geeky.”

    And that it unabashedly implies that being a geek might be one of the worst things in the world. At a time when bullying is finally getting some deserved attention, it seemed insensitive.

    I also found it’s over-the-top appeal to our materialistic nature insulting. Have we really become that stupid and that attached to our possessions and our status that this commercial will work? Egads.

  18. It’s a commercial. Commercials are designed to sell products. People buy products for emotional reasons, this commercial plays into that. Marketing genius.

  19. Maria says:

    I despise this commerical for all the reasons listed, and I feel sorry for the little boy in it.

  20. Julie says:

    I just called Toyota at 1-800-331-1331 and let them know that I find their commercial offensive and in poor taste when we are in the midst of a recession. The CSR said he personally has received a number of complaints about the ad. I would ask that any readers who feel the same also give Toyota a call. If you have a Toyota, they will register your complaint next to your VID#. I have owned 5 Toyotas and currently own one now. This commercial alone could keep me from considering a Toyota when I need a car…and I let them know that. There are plenty of other choices.

  21. DeeBee says:

    I can’t stand this commercial either. It just feeds the typical stereotype that kids and teenagers have to feel that their parents’ generation is “lame”. Ridiculous.

  22. Beth says:

    Totally agree! Glad I’m not the only one who has noticed that kids are portrayed as somehow smarter and cooler than parents or teachers in the media.

    To some, it might be “just a commercial”, but when you’re faced with that attitude in real life it’s entirely different.

  23. Hope D says:

    I hate this commercial. It is not marketing genius because it is upsetting people. I believe this will be pulled soon.

  24. J.O. says:

    @ Steve@hundredgoals.com – your comment:
    “It’s a commercial. Commercials are designed to sell products. People buy products for emotional reasons, this commercial plays into that. Marketing genius.”
    This commercial may play into the emotions that some people have, but clearly not all. Marketing mistake.

  25. J.O. says:

    @ Steve – your comment:

    “It’s a commercial. Commercials are designed to sell products. People buy products for emotional reasons, this commercial plays into that. Marketing genius.”

    This commercial may play into the emotions that some people have, but clearly not all. Marketing mistake.

  26. kristine says:

    I have seen this ad, and found it appalling. It reinforces the most negative trends in both parenting and consumerism. The child is rude, disrespectful, and spoiled.

    I hope this backfires. The script is so utterly repellant that I would do anything NOT to emulate this family. Sadly, kids will mimic this. Worse, kids in old vans have been made to feel embarrassed.

  27. Tom Denver, CO says:

    You are thinking too much about this commercial. Commercials are designed to sell. I used to be in advertising. Our job was to spend money to make money by getting people hooked on something, whatever our reason in a particular ad. Toyota is playing up the stigma about owning a minivan, and yes, they’re dorky.

    That aside, I’m very frugal and perhaps because of my ad background, I’m more skeptical about commercials. My stepson often asks after a commercial, “Is that the kind you use?” He already has preferred garbage bags, lunch meat and salad dressing. Ah, ad industry, you’ve done your job. I remind him constantly that I use brand X because of Y value and that leads to other (Z) rewards later.

    I think the ad is brilliant. It accomplishes what Toyota wants to accomplish.

  28. kristine says:

    Thanks for the number Julie.
    @TeacHer- I am also a HS teacher, and DITTO on that! Well said.

  29. Nancy says:

    My oldest daughter would complain monthly about driving a 1991 LeBaron to high school because her friends had new cars.

    She knew the spiel; “It’s what we can afford, insurance, you’re not a good driver. Do you want to go to college??”

    She just graduated with two degrees debt free, and asked to borrow the LeBaron until she has a full time job! (It still runs great!)

  30. kristine says:

    Toyota complaint number correction:

    1-800-331-4331

  31. Johanna says:

    I thought the minivan was supposed to be a sign of “geekiness” because it’s a minivan, not just because it’s older. SUV makers have been trying to push the “minivans are for nerds” message for *years*. It never did make any sense.

    Yes, the commercial is awful, but I just can’t find it in me to be so outraged over it, since there are so many other commercials that also use the “You’re a loser if you don’t use our product” approach. (The fact that I have neither kids nor a car might be part of it, too.)

    The thing is, commercials do not have to be this way. They can associate the product with positive emotions (instead of associating not having the product with negative emotions), or they can get your attention in an upbeat or funny way, or they can (gasp!) tell you about the product and what it does, and let it sell itself. I guess the “You’re a loser” approach must work on some people, or else advertisers wouldn’t use it, but I wonder about it sometimes.

  32. Randy says:

    I just finished reading your book and loved it.

    I agree with everything you said 100%.

    But dude, it’s a commercial. Chill.

    Your kids will think you’re a dork and geeky no matter what you do. My suggestion: when they turn 13, lock them in a room and don’t let them out until they’re 25. (Ok, not really. But sometimes, I felt that way).

  33. Interested Reader says:

    Commercials are not to steer families toward good financial decisions or to promote “family values” or anything like that.

    Commercials are designed to sell as much as possible and to do it by playing on whatever emotions that they can.

    There’s no motivation about why the kid thinks his parents are lame. It’s fake and it’s a script written to play on the emotions and sell ads.

  34. Doug says:

    See, it’s crap like this that makes me happy I don’t watch television.

    What do I do instead? Visit my blog to find out. Or I could tell you I make miniature terrain for my miniature soldiers to fight over. If minivans are for nerds and geeks, I guess I’ll be buying a minivan next. Used. With cash.

  35. jim says:

    I’m more offended by creepy talking babies in ads myself. *shrug*

  36. Riki says:

    Another DITTO on the comments made by high school teachers.

    I am consistently shocked and saddened by the attitude my students think is appropriate and I spend a great deal of time teaching them that attitude is not ok with me. I don’t know what has happened to parenting . . . but if I spoke to my mother like that (even now), I would have regretted it. Zero tolerance.

  37. Riki says:

    And . . . FANTASTIC post, Trent. Spot on.

  38. wren says:

    I’m in the minority here, but that may be because I don’t have to deal with kids (and, even if I did, their opinion wouldn’t play into my buying decisions any more than my opinions played into my parents’ buying decsions.) I agree with almost every point Trent made, but compared to some other ads out there, I don’t find this one as overtly and obnoxiously offensive. Now, you want to talk about the “Axe Ball Washer” ad, THAT ad I find offensive on almost every level.

  39. wren says:

    BTW, “Geek” is a term of endearment and considered a compliment in our household.

  40. Julie says:

    This ad is offensive because not only is it mocking the frugal who chose to drive an older vehicle, it is mocking the poor who have no choice in the matter.

  41. Marsha says:

    I loved your post about this. I have already contacted Toyota to let them know we won’t even be looking at their vehicles because of it. We are planning to buy a new family vehicle early next year. Guess what–it won’t be a Toyota. We’ll vote “no” with our dollars.

    I hope the brilliant advertising minds at Toyota read your post and all the comments.

  42. Mari says:

    I think it’s OK to listen to the kids’ opinions about a large purchase, as long as it is clear it is not some sort of vote. It’s healthy to learn how to evaluate a purchase and argue your case — and to understand the person who pays has final say.

    and agree, i own a toyota but can’t imagine this ad would work. earth to ad agency…

  43. getagrip says:

    I think they should do the commercial in Japanese and see how it works in that market. Bet that would get a real good reaction.

    I guess I’ll call Toyota and tell them I was thinking of buying their Sienna minivan, but I don’t want my kids thinking I’m a Dork or a member of the Geek family by buying a minivan. So since I have to go with an SUV over a mini-van, and I can’t afford the Highlander with the Bluetooth gizmo, I’m going with the Hyundai Santa Fe. It may not be perfectly Dork Proof, but it’s an SUV which has got to be less Dorky per their advertising campaign than their Sienna.

  44. cv says:

    Yeah, the ad is annoying, but I can see where the marketers were coming from. They’re not hoping kids will see the ad and act this way and then the parents will buy the car. They’re talking to that voice in the back of come parents’ heads that felt uncool because of their parents when they were kids, or have some ambivalence about giving up things they liked and used to have when they were single, like a car that wasn’t just practical and boring. I think it’s trying to convince adults to make buying decisions based on their own inner child and an emotional reaction, which is pretty typical marketing strategy, really.

    But yeah. It comes across as pretty bratty.

  45. SwingCheese says:

    @Wren: My husband and I also hate ALL Axe commercials. He saw the Axe Ball Washer commercial one night after I had gone to bed, and he told me about it the next morning, in a tone of amazement that something so tasteless would be put on the air. And while he’s not the target age demographic for Axe (I’d imagine) he’s only about one age group away (so he’s not an old fuddy-duddy) :)

    I also have participated in several conversations about this commercial – a lot of people find it obnoxious, self included.

  46. sheila says:

    The commercial wasn’t the greatest, but Toyota is no worse than other car companies.

    I remember when Ford was marketing a sporty coupe to women, and some bright bulb in Detroit decided to call it a “Probe.” Brilliant, that one, it reminded all of us gals about visiting the gynecologist. Not one of us ever considered buying one, and I wouldn’t even look at a Ford for years because of it!

  47. LoriBeth says:

    Add me to the list of people that dislike this commercial. I never had a problem with what my parents drove. It didn’t bother me to hop into the farm truck with chicken feathers all over it, mud up to the door handles, and hay tines attached to the back. I actually had a classmate in high school mock me for my little 89 S-10 (this was in 98). I saw him a year after we graduated, and asked what happened to his fancy sportscar that his parents bought him for graduation. They couldn’t make the payments and it went back. So much for appearances, huh? (by the way, my S-10 is still running, my Dad drives it now since I have too many car seats for it!)

  48. StacySix says:

    I’m so glad it’s not just me! This commercial filled me with revulsion. It’s everything I hate about modern, mainstream culture: bratty, horrible child, mindless materialism, disdain towards responsible choices.

    I hated it so much upon viewing, I didn’t even note which manufacturer it was advertising! Mission accomplished, Toyota.

  49. kristine says:

    OK, the Axe ball-washer- it reminds me of Benny Hill. I was shocked to see it on during the day. After 10pm, in between programs like Madmen and Rubicon, watched almost exclusively by adults? Fine. Like it or not, no big deal, turn the channel. But this is NOT an ad that should be mainstreamed and viewed by children. 13 yo boys is the market for Axe, so yes, the ad may resonate with them, but it is tasteless to be so overt when targeting kids. There has to be some level of jokes that are considered “adult”. It used to be a right of passage, when a kid was finally old enough to hear adults talk candidly, and see late night TV, and movies like Animal House. There was a magic in what remained behind the curtain, which is slowly being replaced by making the vulgar mundane. Too bad.

  50. Amanda B. says:

    I just looked up the axe commercial and I thought it was pretty funny. I think there is a difference between something that is clearly farce and enuendo and a bratty kid trying to make people feel bad. But then again, I’ve never been accused of being sensitive.

  51. Jason says:

    I haven’t had time to read all the replies, but I think you’re dead on with this posting. I agree with you 100%. It’s funny to me that the kid sees his parents van as “lame”, but his nice leather jacket, and games he’s playing in his room show that his parents are trying to save money to purchase things that he may enjoy. Now is it just a commercial, sure. However, there is always a little truth when it comes to satire like these commercials. Nice post!

  52. SP says:

    I hated this too. But seeing it here was the first time i saw it.

    (And i am from california, and maybe even a bit of a granola-head)

  53. Alyson says:

    the commercial(s) that makes me cringe EVERY time are those credit card one (chase I think) where the family is super excited to pay way too much for the oven/washer – we can choose how long it takes to pay off! GAH. Talk about those.

  54. I don’t usually watch TV, but when I was away with my husband this weekend, I saw this commercial on the treadmill TV. My initial reaction was similar to most of yours, and my goodness, if my kid ever had an attitude like that, I’d look long and hard to find out where my parenting was failing.

  55. Callie says:

    To #43. I think that you have a point and I think that at some point in the past this ad would be okay. Nathan would have just looked like a precocious brat. But right here right now; Nathan is a representative of the epidemic of entitlement. I’ve seen way too many children like this and ads like this one just fuel the fire.

  56. Brittany says:

    I love this post. I don’t always agree with you Trent, but when it comes to your paradigm of parenting, I’m with you all the way.

  57. KC says:

    I don’t like this commercial and I don’t even have kids! But I find the kid to be a bit of a smart a–. I know, I know, he’s just an actor and reading from a script, he’s probably a good kid in life. But something about it just rubs me wrong and now I think I know what it is. If I buy a Highlander it won’t be because my kid thinks it’s cool. It’ll be cause I think it’s cool – LOL! Actually I have looked at these cars – good gas mileage, features I want, good price and good reputation. But this commercial makes me want to consider this vehicle less. Maybe I do need an uncool mini-van – it’s probably more practical since it isn’t cool.

  58. Luke says:

    I agree 100%, Trent. Excellent dissection of this commercial.

    This is not *just* a commercial, as some have said. From my experience, kids *are* affected by what they take in visually/audibly/etc. So, is it any wonder that many kids today seem to act disrespectfully/entitled/etc, when this is the behavior that is placed before them constantly as being ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ by mainstream media?

    We got rid of our cable (in part) because of the corrosive attitudes shown in ‘normal’ family interactions there. Parents are portrayed as idiots that could not possibly manage to exist were it not for the guidance and correction laid upon them by their kids. Ridiculous.

    Keep up the good work, Trent!

  59. kimberly says:

    I thought it was kind of cute – yes, I agree with your analysis for the most part, but, understanding that it’s a commercial that is trying to sell me something, it’s cute for what it is.

    I thought the subtext was that *you* (the adult) are represented by the kid – the kid is you, not your kids.

  60. Kathy says:

    The first time I saw this commercial, I turned to my husband and said, “Oh yes, we have the right to be lame. We earned that right. We had to endure our lame parents when we were kids; therefore we earned the right to be lame to our kids. And when they grow up, they will be lame to their kids. It’s the circle of life.” LOL

  61. Laura says:

    I am SO glad you posted this. I saw this commercial the other day with the guy washing his probably paid for mini-van and thought “WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU BUY SOMETHING ELSE?” I wish society would get to the point where it is cool to NOT have a car payment and drive a paid off vehicle!

  62. Claire says:

    Trent, I think those exact same thoughts every time I see that commercial. For some reason, it seems like today’s parents have the tail waggin’ the dog!! As my dear Grandma used to say, they have it “bass ackwards”!
    There are many commericials and “reality” shows that depict children and badly mannered young adults and it is disgusting. No wonder we hear so many screaming children at the grocery store or in a restaurant. The way I was raised, we would never DREAM of acting that way, it simply was not acceptable.

  63. Dana says:

    I didn’t see this commercial, but there’s another one in this series that shows the kid leaving from school and talking about how happy he is that his mom has a cool car (unlike the station wagon some other kid is ashamed of). I turned to my husband and said, “This is why we need to get rid of the TV before we have kids.” I found it absolutely repulsive.

    Pretty much the only TV we watch around here are football games and the weather report on the morning news. I’m beginning to think that even that is too much.

  64. AniVee says:

    I LOVED this post, Trent. And, being one myself, I totally agree with all the High School teachers about the sense of entitlement in so many students today. I see way too many parents terrified that their kids won’t “love them.” And way too many kids whose upbringing is way down on the list of priorities (after “my career” and “my social life”) of two working parents, and who are handed off to (often) uncaring and uneducated caretakers for long, long periods of time.

    The ad writer may have wanted the kid to be “intentionally obnoxious” but why would that benefit the brand or product? Toyota is now having “safety factor” image problems, after years of being considered a very superior automobile. Better they should concentrate on that issue, no “nerdiness”, no?

  65. Dee says:

    Fifty or so years ago there was a commercial with a bratty kid being given a spoonful of awful medicine. The kid shoved the spoon out of the parent’s hand. My dad’s reaction to that commercial was all I needed to hear to tell me that behavior like that would never be tolerated.

  66. Victoria says:

    Heck.. I remember begging my parents to NOT get a new car when I was a kid. Why? I did get teased a couple of times thanks to our old hunk of junk, but I thought my parents couldn’t afford a new car with all our medical bills. And they couldn’t.

    The car commercial I really hate is the one with the young entrepreneur who is running a cake business where she has to deliver the cakes. She doesn’t have a car, so she’s forced to deliver the cakes via public transit while she’s been saving for “months” for a brand new “somebrand” car. Why does a small business owner need a shiny new car to deliver cakes? She could have bought a used car months ago.

  67. Angela says:

    I totally agree with you. We use Netflix in our home partly because I don’t even want my kids to watch commercials. My 8 year old would definitely pick up on this boys attitude. Kids are so impressionable. And yes, it’s our job as parents to help be their filter. I already hear so many comments from my 8 year old about what all his school friends have that he doesn’t. It’s a constant teaching.

  68. Karen says:

    @ Kathy #59 – so true so true. I don’t have kids but I remember pretending like I didn’t have parents for several years!!!!

  69. Roberta says:

    Love the post, LOATHE the commercial, and agree with many of the excellent comments made above. The name calling, the kid sitting playing video games while the dad washes the car, the ingratitude and spoiled attitude of the child who should feel lucky to be driven around in a vehicle at all. Everyday I see kids and their parents waiting at bus stops in the hot sun for transportation. Yes, my son sometimes gripes about our financial limitations, but he also feels secure knowing that he has a home, reliable transport, food, utilities, time to study and play music because of our frugal lifestyle.

  70. guest says:

    Yes this commercial is a loser, as is most programming when it comes to positive family values. Cartoons and other “family” or “child friendly” programming invariably features invisible parents or fathers who are complete idiots who must be taught by their wise children. Even the award winning Berenstain Bears has that doofus Papa Bear. Censor media in your home if you have children, if you can’t make time to participate and discuss.

  71. Janice says:

    Great post, great comments. I would love to read your thoughts on more of these ridiculous commercials. Thanks for writing about this.

  72. Susanne says:

    As a first-grade teacher, I deal daily with children allowed to speak to their parents in this way. Early each school year, we discuss tone of voice and word choices- we call it “making each other’s day better.” Some children look at me shocked and confused because they’ve never been expected to speak politely. It usually doesn’t take long for them to understand my expectations, and try to change. Most children, that is.

  73. Lisa says:

    I find this ad utterly disgusting, and contacted Toyota customer service to tell them so. Everything about it is loathsome and smarmy; if that little moppet were mine and had that kind of attitude, his butt would be tingling and he’d be having trouble sitting on one of those deluxe comfy Toyota seats.

  74. Leah says:

    To me, this is one of your bests posts in a really long time. I completely agree! I definitely don’t want my kids watching commercials for precisely the same reasons. Sure, the commercial is kind of funny. But like the teachers here said, it’s not funny when kids think they can act this way in real life. Heck, I teach college, and the number of entitled kids at some of the colleges I’ve taught at? woah.

    #71, Susanne, you are awesome! I hope my (future) kids’ teacher is as good as you. What a fabulous thing to teach your students. You’ve improved their skills for life, I hope.

  75. Riki says:

    The unfortunate part is, if teachers didn’t have to take the time to work on manners and other skills PARENTS should be teaching, we would have so much more time to teach literacy and critical thinking and numeracy and other skills that make for well educated citizens.

    The sense of entitlement has significant and far-reaching impacts on our children and our society.

  76. kristine says:

    Oh, and may I add, for goodness sakes- don’t let your kids watch i-Carly! What a snotty sarcastic bunch of spoiled brats to show kids daily. It is horrible. Just because it is on Nickelodeon does not mean it is something you want your kids to watch- they want to be popular with kids, not necessarily good for kids. It’s the new trend- mean as funny. Sarcasm in place of manners. Contempt de riguor. ICK.

  77. Commercials don’t make kids feel entitled, bad parenting does.

  78. Todd says:

    No need to single out any one commercial. Parents are portrayed as dorks in many commercials, and sit-coms, and kids’ shows on Disney and Nickelodeon. So are spouses, neighbors, grandparents, and anyone who doesn’t have the product advertised or, in the case of the shows, a “normal” American consumer life. The entire business is designed to portray a hip (meaning cynical and sarcastic) consuming society.

  79. Jeff says:

    Todd-I agree with you about 90%. It’s most Dads that are displayed as the complete idiot. You watch the commercials and you have to wonder how the Father was smart enough to get out of bed to earn the money that pays for whatever the family has.

  80. Although I think there’s a bit of over-analysis here, the whole thing can be solved by limiting your kids’ exposure to commercials in general.

    And by that I mean, limit their TV time!

    I insist on “outside time” with my son every day, and I’d say we watch less than an hour of TV per day. Most of the time, much less than that

  81. Lenore says:

    If it’s a pretend kid, is it OK if I smack his pretend face?

  82. Rachel says:

    YES! I commented on this commercial in one of your previous posts. I totally agree!

  83. Amateur says:

    The commercial did not really bug me more than the other stuff out there targeted at kids. There is that general theme:

    1. Kids are in charge, parents are uncool
    2. Authority stinks, change the rules
    3. Learning is hard and tiring, don’t forget some sugar packed cereal or breakfast bar
    4. Answer every adult with sarcasm and eye-roll

    Hopefully kids do grow out of that stuff and become older kids with concern for their family’s and community well-being instead of being overgrown brats. Many people were exposed to this type of advertising and programming while young, and many of us turned out to be decent adults.

  84. almost there says:

    Trent perhaps you can do an entry on why and how commercials work. I recommend you watch “Century of Self” a video series that can be found on freedocumentaries dot org. “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests? Episode 1 discusses how Freud’s theories started the industry of public relations. I think there are 6 segments. Good viewing and food for the blog.

  85. Rebecca says:

    This is a big reason why we watch things on netflix and DVD. That said, I have a teenager, and he’s really, really hoping I get a new car when I graduate college in May- because he wants the (paid for) one we have now. Of course he knows we’ll be saving up for a car first- he won’t be old enough to get his license until next fall. He also has plans on how he’s going to pay for gas and insurance without it impacting his grades.

  86. MB says:

    I don’t watch TV, but I’ve been seeing this ad constantly on Hulu recently. Lots of commenters are saying that the point of ads is not to encourage frugality, but I find this ad to be particularly noxious.

    I don’t know what kinds of TV shows this ad is playing during, but there are kids who are going to see this and think that the child is a character to emulate. All I can do is hope that the young children that I deal with regularly will manage to miss this one.

  87. Landon says:

    Kids are stupid.

  88. Tom Denver, CO says:

    #86 Landon – Amen. It’s our job to make them less so each day.

    The irony is, kids are truly “dorky”. Awkwardness is the hallmark of childhood, so I like the irony of a kid with a moppy head and teeth too big for his face calling adults geeks.

    Still, this commercial has sparked a debate that carries on. Good job, Toyota ad team.

  89. Frith says:

    Thanks for posting this. I hate this commercial, both on the surface and for what it says about market research into what motivates adults buying choices. Scary and sad. And that kid is awful.

  90. Des says:

    This reminds me of something not QUITE related. The other day I was watching television and this car advert came on. It was truly awesome with urban breakdancers and a sweet soundtrack, and I remember my first thought being, “but none of this tells me anything at all about the car.”

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