Wal-Mart elves: Crass commercialism, interactive ‘tude

bratzWe’re barely back to school, it’s not remotely close to Halloween, yet the mass muck of Christmas consumerism is filling the aisles, as marketers turn up the volume on pester power to target parents relentlessly.

Wal-Mart is leading the techno-begging frenzy with a whimsically cheerful interactive toyland site of smarmy back-talking elves with attitude.

These obnoxiously sassy lil’ fellas spurt out kid-speak like, “puhhhleeeze” and “very funny…NOT!” Is there really a need to further incentivize annoying voices? Power shopping prepubescents? Cartoon icons that talk with ‘tude?

We’ve already created a Born to Buy culture that’s Consuming Kids and pounding parents in every direction…(those two books are my ‘positive picks,’ by the way) Yet somehow, this Wal-Mart holiday promo reaches new lows in blatantly cajoling kids. For starters..

Wal-Mart’s wish meter uses subversive, taunting techniques.

Each time a child clicks ‘yes’ to crate a toy and add it to their storage, kids receive thundering applause. If kids click no, the elves tease each other about how they could be out of jobs! Then they immediately counter-market to kids saying they can always change their noggin to pull it out of their dumptruck trash bin. And kids…

“You can make your list “longer, faster, stronger, we have the technology!”

Gee, thanks, Wal-Mart, nice values there. Sound off, parents. This is ‘click-n-consumerism’ of the worst kind.

“We’ll help plead your case,” and “blast it to your parents.”

Could we blast away the concept that it’s hip-n-happening to have crass cartoons direct-marketing toys to kids instead? Yes, parents are the end users on the accountability chain, since they’re the ones that would need to cough up the coinage and set limits, but teaching kids that nagging is an artform, and consumerism buys happiness is damaging and misguided.

Plus, Wal-Mart’s in-your-face virtual wishlist goes beyond ‘must-have’ mania.

Their utilization of pop up windows, sophisticated talk-back mechanisms to counter-propose, and triple-figure pricing ($279 for a gas guzzling Fisher Price Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade to fuel the planet’s problems and establish brand preferences from the get-go) are all disturbing.

Some toys are lesser priced, but equally poor choices, like the trashy bare-bellied Bratz dolls…(ugh-can’t have wee cuties miss the latest “make-over-magic”/pole-dancing craze)

Bleh. Bleh. Bleh!!!

Which reminds me, great new blog from the authors of Packaging Girlhood that gives a quick snapshot of the Bratz vs. Barbie bit…

“While Bratz dolls sell a lifestyle associated with sexy teen pop star fashion and have been criticized for dressing like little ProstituteZ, and hanging around hot tubZ with bratz Boyz, drinking little alcoholic-like drinkZ, Barbie, we think, contributed to the problems associated with internalizing an idealized impossible body image.” –Sharon Lamb, Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D.

Don’t even get me started on the vapid values of certain toys & product choices, I’m just looking at the marketing side of consumerism via wish lists for now and seeing:

We’re hitting the low blow scale of offensive corporate conduct.

If you’re seeking techno-clever virtual wishlist opportunities…I’ll take the lower-key, “Norad satellite tracking Santa” virtual effort anytime…

Norad’s new site is not up ’til November (someone’s observing some holiday logic) but who knows, it could have changed into just another sponsorship vehicle too. Highly doubt the North American Aerospace Defense Command would sell out to Mattel. But then, ya never know…if national parks become “brought to you by…” I suppose anything is possible.

p.s. When I retreat to the Colorado Rockies next week I’ll try to leave my cranky pants behind, but the sheer volume of drek fostering kids’ poor behavioral cues is a bit daunting.

I’m working on a new round-up of positive picks for environmental ed that use “online to get kids offline” and jazzed about nature vs. ‘packaged goods,’ so ‘stay tuned’…

Here’s a ‘teaser’ as they say in the biz. Check out Roots and Shoots, GiggleMoose, Action for Nature, Green Dollhouse, and more…


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