Advertising for Grown-Ups

Grappling with cartoons, logos, and labels

Words by Bernice Go

I’ve always marveled at how kids could be so affected by the simplest advertising. 

My nieces and nephew were enthralled with plastic eggs, juice cartons, and even water bottles which were perfectly ordinary except they had special cartoons on the packaging. The kids would pester me until they got their Frozen apple juice, or whichever cartoon they liked at the time. I was both amazed at the brilliance of the advertisers, and slightly impatient, waiting for my nieces and nephew to realize they were getting the same water and juice even if they got the cheaper versions without the special packaging.

Fast forward to Spring 2020: Stuck at home in social quarantine, I decided it was a perfect time to start decluttering. I sorted through my room, shelf by shelf and drawer by drawer. But as I did, I found myself hesitating to throw away certain items. I’d think “it's a branded pen” or “it’s a special purse.”

That was when I realized that I was struggling with the same problem as my nieces and nephews. They were told that their water bottles and juice cartons had extra value because of the presence of certain images on the packaging. Was I not similarly being told that my possessions had extra value because of the presence of certain logos on them?

I instantly heard myself saying to the kids, “Look, it's the same water and juice—having a cartoon on the front doesn't change it.”

Well, dear self, “This is just a notebook, just a purse, just a pen. It functions just like any other notebook, purse, and pen. Having a special name or logo (or lack thereof) doesn’t change it.” 

And so, with the immortal words uttered by that same Frozen princess on the juice carton, I say, “Let it go…”

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