Banks County Opinions...

DECEMBER 18, 2002


Editorial

By: Kerri Graffius
The Banks County News
December 18, 2002

Seeing orange in the toy store
A few weeks ago, James and I were in a local toy store looking for a birthday gift for my two-year-old niece. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were actually spending more time playing with the toys than finding her a present.
We wandered through each themed aisle: one for educational toys, another for countless Barbie dolls, several for small toys just asking to be forever lost in between couch cushions and a whole glassed-in department just for video games.
We remarked at how large the toy industry had grown in the decade since we frequented the toy store; we couldn’t stop laughing at the John F. Kennedy PT 109 G.I. Joe doll (yes, they make that) and we couldn’t help but notice how the awaiting adult forms of entertainment and industry where already being marketed to children.
One of those aisles at the local toy store was covered in orange, as in The Home Depot orange. Orange power tools, orange chain saws, orange hard hats and tool belts, orange hammers, everything was just orange. One item, a talking children’s workbench, even featured a voice reminding youngsters to return to The Home Depot.
I couldn’t believe these toys were being so shamelessly marketed to children. It wasn’t the toys themselves I had a problem with; it was the fact that The Home Depot was clearly “hitting the market early” to establish its name brand among children. That’s too early, I believe.
After I expressed my outrage to James, he said, “Oh, come on, Kerri. You don’t think we weren’t heavily marketed to as children?”
And he’s right.
It’s a well-known fact in the advertising world that children are a multi-billion dollar industry. Advertise on Nickelodeon (or MTV for the pre-teens) and just wait for the bucks to start rolling in, they say. The level of purchasing power among children is phenomenal, but it can be even higher if you can establish your name brand among youngsters (when their minds are more impressionable) than trying to establish your name when they’re adults (when they often second guess products).
Just look at how many credit card companies target college and older high school students. It’s not their money they want; it’s their first-time business with a credit card company. People often stay with their first credit card company, and it’s a competitive and creative industry that tries to hit those students early with flashy promotions.
Advertising in general has had to become more creative when it comes to children.
Several decades ago, parents began to complain that too many commercials during their children’s cartoons were directly targeted to children. So, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established limited advertising time during children’s programming and told advertisers to watch how they were selling their products to children.
And how did the advertisers get around making the commercials the main event for children? They made the cartoons themselves the commercial.
Does anyone from the 1980s remember Transformers? How about HE Man, Rainbow Bright, Thunder Cats or Smurfs? If you were like me, your room was probably covered in toys from those television shows (and so was your best friend’s room). My room was drenched in Strawberry Shortcake décor, Rainbow Bright had her own shrine in my closet and I often carried my Care Bear wherever I went.
Besides television, advertisers are further attempting to market their products directly to schoolchildren. Programs that encourage education and business partnerships still have some advertising elements, no matter how watered down the partnership is by the school system’s standards. Despite the money and expertise these partnership programs bring to schools, businesses still want to get some recognition.
One such story goes that several years ago a beverage maker, who was a school’s partner in education, wanted the students to wear the company’s logo on T-shirts during a choral program (no other logo or even the school’s name would be printed on the shirts). Needless to say, quite a few parents objected to the beverage maker’s proposal.
I’ve said that I wouldn’t allow my children to be brainwashed with such marketing. But, it’s almost impossible not to with the endless creative efforts of the advertising industry. Ironically, James and I later bought a Christmas gift for his goddaughter at the toy store— a pink Care Bear, with a complimentary promotional video. Oh, we’re giving up already.
Kerri Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com.

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Column

By: Bill Shipp
The Banks County News
December 18, 2002

Our new man in the Senate
Saxby Chambliss probably wishes he had skipped Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. But he didn’t. So now the Georgia senator-elect is asked to do much more explaining than he intended.
“I didn’t think anything about it. It just went right over my head,” Chambliss said in recalling his first reaction to Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott’s assertion at the centennial soiree that the nation would have been better off if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948.
As Chambliss looked on as an invited guest, Lott marched to the podium as one of a substantial queue of speakers who paid tribute to Thurmond. “Some of the others said much more outrageous things,” Chambliss remembers. The party was more like a roast or a bunch of guys standing around saying funny things; it just wasn’t serious. That’s the way Sax remembers it.
So he says he was shocked a day or two later when Lott’s speech made headlines, and several of Lott’s senatorial colleagues demanded that the Mississippi Republican resign as majority leader.
Of course, Chambliss was not prepared last week to denounce Lott or even gasp at the long-ago segregationist rhetoric of the old firebrand Thurmond. “I’m a Harry Truman man,” Chambliss explained. Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat on a segregationist platform against Truman in 1948. Chambliss was five years old at the time. (Though Thurmond captured several Southern states, Georgia was not one of them. Thurmond’s Dixiecrats failed in their mission to throw the presidential election into the House, where they hoped to bargain for an end to the Fair Employment Practices Commission, the Civil Rights Commission of its day.)
But Chambliss had not come to this Buckhead meeting of several journalists (members of TV5’s talking-heads show, “The Georgia Gang”) on a cloudy and cold day to discuss Sens. Lott or Thurmond.
Chambliss was here to comment on his future as a U.S. senator from Georgia and to try to put behind him the bitter campaign between himself and incumbent Democrat Max Cleland.
He says he has even forgiven fellow Sen. Zell Miller for calling him a liar in a campaign commercial for Cleland. Whether Cleland has pardoned Chambliss for flashing pictures of Osama bin Laden next to Cleland’s face on TV is yet to be determined.
Still, Chambliss is the new senator, and he appears to be off to a fast start.
He conferred last week with former Sen. Sam Nunn on how Nunn became so influential in international affairs and national defense topics. He hopes to model his Senate career on Nunn’s.
But Chambliss and Nunn are dissimilar in many ways. The new senator possesses several assets Nunn did not have when he entered the Senate.
- Chambliss goes to the Senate as a redshirt freshman. He already has eight years seniority as a result of his service in the U.S. House as a representative from South Georgia. In the House, he served as chairman of the subcommittee on Homeland Security and Terrorism. Nunn came directly from the Georgia Legislature to begin his career in the U.S. Senate as a “pure freshman.”
- The new senator expects to receive choice committee assignments in the Senate: Select Intelligence, Armed Services and Agriculture. (No wonder he didn’t want to bad-mouth Lott, the main guy in charge of handing out plum committee assignments.) Nunn became an expert on international affairs, but his base of power was the Senate Armed Services panel.
- Chambliss has close ties to the White House. President George W. Bush came into Georgia four times to help Chambliss win the election. Since Nov. 5, Chambliss says, Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, has asked Chambliss’ opinion on several legislative items. (That’s a switch. During the campaign, Rove - who doubted Chambliss could defeat Cleland - reportedly said out loud that the congressman from Moultrie was running a dumb campaign.) Nunn was often at odds with sitting presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.
- Tall and white-haired, Chambliss looks like a senator. By contrast, bespectacled and balding Nunn strikes some as a stand-in for an unsympathetic IRS examiner. Chambliss speaks casually and often in the Southern vernacular (“ain’t” seems to be his favorite verb). Nunn is a cautious and sometimes cold conversationalist. His grammar would earn him a place at the head of any English class.
Despite their differences in style, speech and appearance, Republican Chambliss is a good bet to carry on the tradition of Democrat Nunn, who made his mark as an expert on international affairs as well as a champion of money-generating defense installations in his home state.
Chambliss’ public agenda will suit most Georgians - national defense, homeland security, Social Security reform, economic stimuli, prescription drugs for Medicare recipients, etc. He just needs to steer clear, at least for the time being, of birthday parties for old-timers where too much spirits may be consumed and too many tongues are set loose about the not-so-good old days.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com.

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