Video by Kevin Thornton and Darrel Kavanagh
Brilliant letter from Trever
I'm writing to let you know a bit more about my number one daft idea
this season. You may have heard me pontificating on the subject
'Leave Our Kids Alone' is a global campaign to ban children's
advertising. Using the same slick visual vocabulary of the modern
adman. And funnier lines (Abie!).
Enclosed in confidence are some reflections on the subject, by way of
background... Let me know if you'd like to lend your name, thoughts,
help or complaints to the project.
There are 300 girls called Armani in the United States. McDonalds is
the largest private operator of playgrounds in Australia. And alcohol
companies have colonized sports fields throughout the developed world.
None of this is surprising to anyone who knows how marketing works.
First we get your kids’ attention. Then we sell you stuff they don’t
The under-16 market in the UK alone is now worth £30 billion a year.
The credulity of children is routinely exploited by companies with the
ethics of a playground bully. Marketing messages shape the way kids
see themselves and the world: how they learn, what they eat and how
they play. Values, aspirations, health and self-esteem are all
undermined by cynical pleas to the immature mind. The immediate
effects include emotional problems, eating disorders and behavioural
issues. Apparently it’s what happens when you try to create a race of
We have become numb to the cynicism of such marketing. It is so deeply
ingrained in our culture that we rarely stop to unpack capitalism at
its creepiest. Advertising is a powerful tool, potentially
transformative, but there is something essentially deviant about most
commercial propaganda. Only if you buy this car today will your life
be complete. Let me give you diabetes. Are you sure you don’t want
Advertising is a symptom as well as a cause. Our consumerist culture
is predicated on the idea that winners get all the latest products.
You hear people talking about built-in obsolescence and you know
they’re referring to a telephone. But the flipside of consumerism is
that if you can’t afford that new iphone, you’re just not worth it.
Mammon offends common sense as expressed in every major faith and
none. It is not simply that the man who knows he has enough is rich.
It is that people who spend their whole lives trying to buy more stuff
are bound to be utterly miserable. Money can buy happiness to a
certain point, but there is little, if any, psychological benefit to a
very high income. (A far better indicator of happiness is how you fare
in relation to your neighbours.) Yet our culture privileges wealth at
every turn. Never mind the delusions of Donald Trump or the
self-styled grandeur of Wall Street. Life is the preparation of a
delicate soul for the polite refusal of a loan. The indignity of being
turned away for being too poor.
It is a truism that children grow up fast these days, but we rarely
stop to explore what that means. One study found that half of English
four year olds did not know their own name, but 69% of three-year-olds
could identify the McDonalds golden arches. The lack of a level
playing field makes efforts to stop the rot improbable. Every pound
that the British government spends on promoting healthy eating is
matched by ninety nine pounds in advertising for the top ten food and
Many millions of people now recognize the pernicious effect of
marketing on children. They have natural allies in the family,
churches, charities and schools. The Lancet medical journal has called
for a worldwide ban on the advertising of food during children’s
television programming. In California cigarette companies are obliged
to subsidise the production and publication of anti-smoking ads. It is
agreed that the enemy is well armed, but truth is also a powerful
weapon, and politicians are beginning to recognise that teaching
people how to over-consume may not be the smartest thing to do right
If we are witnessing the birth of a global anti-consumerism movement,
let us admit that the Scandinavians got there first… as usual. In
1991, Sweden legislated to restrict advertising to children. There are
no advertisements aimed at children under 12 at any time, and anyone
who appears in a programme for children may not appear in any
advertisement. It’s as if the Swedes asked themselves a simple
question: what are the circumstances in which it’s okay for a stranger
to manipulate our children? One day the answer to that question will
be heard around the world.
Leave our kids alone.
#Shrove Tuesday Pancakes
Chef Kevin Thornton popped into the Morning Ireland studio to make pancakes.
Kevin Thornton's pancakes