Commercials! There was a time that watching commercials had an excitement factor almost, but not quite, the equivalent of seeing the previews before a movie at the theater. In the eighties and part of the nineties, children were once considered a viable demographic worth a reasonable marketing budget. Unfortunately, presently the fast food industry is the only one that really seems to hold the belief that children are a valuable marketing resource. The way everyone keeps complaining that childhood obesity is up, the fast food places must be on to something.
When was the last time that you turned on the TV and saw a couple of boys playing with some cool action figures and vehicles in an impossibly awesome back yard that is part forest, part desert, and part Jupiter?
When was the last time you saw a cereal commercial that the main reason to buy it is the toy inside?
When was the last time a hugely popular toy line sparked the idea for a Saturday morning cartoon?
The answer is probably a long time ago. I remember having a Saturday morning routine bouncing from one channel to the other every thirty minutes to watch my favorite cartoons. Now, there really are not any Saturday morning cartoons.
There was a time when cartoons were like commercials with plot lines. On GI Joe, when Cobra developed a new vehicle and GI Joe responded with a new weapon, you knew that toy was coming soon. If the Ninja Turtles met a new mutant, you knew there was a cool new action figure coming.
So then begins the anticipation of waiting for this toy to hit stores, so you could see it in person(not actually get the toy because I never got anything I wanted, see my other article). You wait until the commercial break that shows you that it is not just a drawing anymore, it is real, made of plastic, and is at your local store. So after waiting, anywhere between 1 to 2 minutes, you forget about the toy because you are experiencing this fora couple hours almost every single day. Not only are you waiting for new toys to come out that you see in the cartoons, you are seeing commercials for the new toys you were already waiting for from previous cartoons and toys you never even dreamed of.
Oh what commercials they were! If it was for a GI Joe boat, then you see two kids playing with it as it worked practically on its own in a river in their back yard! The vehicles almost appeared to drive themselves, as the kids tried their hands at voicing their favorite characters the same way you would if you were awesome enough to have all of those action figures to go with the vehicle.
I watched those commercial kids play with those toys with envy/hatred(for the kids) and adoration(for the toys) flooding every cubic inch of my brain and heart.
Then after that 30 second ad was over another would come, and it would start all over. This time it could be for cereal, and it was directed at me. How did I know that? The ad was not for the cereal in the box, but for the toy in the cereal. It could be an ad for Captain Crunch Dark Chocolate Butt Nuggets, but if it had a cool enough toy then that is what I would ask for when my mom went grocery shopping. When I was a kid stores did not have a cereal aisle, they just had the other toy aisle.
It really was a brilliant concept. It is like a pirate adventure crossed with a happy meal. You get food and you have to fight for(possibly if you have siblings) and dig up the buried treasure. You come out of breakfast with a full belly and a plastic robot that would smell like chocolate or artificial fruit flavoring for the next few weeks.
It makes me sad now to walk down the not the other toy aisle. Cereals do not even try anymore. If they want to stand out they add sprinkles or a new marshmallow for a few months or they will really go all out and add an educational game to the back of the box. Really, it might as well be all Total, Grape Nuts, and hay since they took away the toys. I hope there is a special room in hell for the one that took the cereal toy away.
Even more, I hope there is an even worse room for the guy that expected kids to mail in so many UPC labels for the prize.
What do kids have to look forward to today? The Saturday cartoons are pretty much gone, toys have gone with the cartoons, and cereal is just breakfast. I guess, judging by all the fat kids that you see everyday, that fast food and the cheap toys and awesome playgrounds that come with it is all that they have left. Thank you fast food industry for not giving up on the children. Thank you for speaking directly to them and giving them something to look forward to.