Remember when cigarette companies advertised to children? Man, old-timey people sure were some unscrupulous, backward mustache twirlers! There's just no way our enlightened modern society would ever do anything like that, right?
#4. Toys "R" Us Convinces Kids That Science Isn't Worth Their Time
Last October, Toys "R" Us found no better way to advertise its toys than by comparing them to things like science and the environment and declaring that shit totally boring. How so? Well, the commercial starts off with a guy dressed as a park ranger giving a sleep-inducing lecture about various leaves as he and a class of children ride a school bus to a supposed field trip to the park.
We're shown the extent of their agony with various scenes, like so:
Toys "R" Us
Just another dull day in a school bus filled with cameras.
But then the "park ranger" takes off his shirt and unveils his bright red uniform, saying, "We're not going to the forest today ... WE'RE GOING TO TOYS "R" US!"
Toys "R" Us
"Mom, Dad, it was awesome! He ripped off his clothes and offered us toys if we went with him!"
Balloons and confetti literally drop on the children, who've been saved from the perils of an agonizing field trip in the forest with the sun and the trees and real goddamn nature.
Toys "R" Us
"We will never be this happy ever again!"
Finally, we're left with the wonderful message ...
Toys "R" Us
"And our dream of taking their money."
So the next time your kids are resentful of you because you decided to go for a nature walk instead of a trip to the mall, just understand that to them, you're literally choosing not to make their wishes come true.
#3. Moneylenders Are Advertising to Kids, Making Debt Look Fun
If we told you that there's a series of ads in the U.K. where three goofy puppets talk about hip-hop, discuss how report cards suck, and witness things like awesome monster trucks or engine-powered skateboards, what would you think this campaign would be advertising? An exciting toy? Some high-fructose brain nostrum? Nope: How about a money-lending website, Wonga?
"Sign your parents up while they're asleep! They won't even notice!"
According to Wonga's critics, the company's ads are brainwashing children into believing that borrowing money is a fun and easy thing to do, and -- if you're ever lacking cash for absolutely anything you need -- all you have to do is log on to the friendly Wonga website and borrow a few bucks, interest rates be damned. Yup, apparently predatory lending practices are the new Pokemon.
#2. Disney and Oil Company Sponsored Ad Campaign to Teach Kids to Love Oil
Last year, Radio Disney went on a 26-stop tour of schools and fairs across Ohio, pumping kids up about the wonderful and fun world of ... oil. They played games like building pipelines out of straws and dancing to their favorite teen music while everyone cheered for the precious liquid.
The parents welcomed whatever opportunity let their kids listen to that shit somewhere that wasn't their car.
The campaign -- funded entirely by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program -- was shut down by Disney after 80,000 parents realized that teaching the next generation to love oil the same way they love SpongeBob probably isn't the best idea. Not that they went so far as to make a cartoony mascot to front their bullshit, of course.
Unlike the state of Illinois, with their smiling lump of coal.
Illinois Coal Education Program
"We just added a hard hat to an old potty training mascot we found."
#1. Gatorade App Tells Kids Gatorade Is Better Than Water
For a while, food activists have been accusing soda companies like PepsiCo of using their considerable advertising bucks to make kids think water is the enemy. PepsiCo responded to these accusations by saying "Yep, that's pretty much what we're doing" and releasing a mobile game to drive the point home. Players control Usain Bolt (who sponsored the anti-water game, by the fucking way) as he runs across a track, making certain to avoid the water droplets, which, if touched, will slow them down.
McDonald's is working on a ripoff where fruit shrinks your penis.
The game had 2.3 million downloads, 87 million plays, and reportedly 820 million brand impressions to the key demographic of 13- to 24-year-olds, teaching them that water is shit. After the controversy, the company explained that they were simply trying to "position Gatorade as the hero helping drive better performance and higher scores with water as the enemy that hinders performance." On the other hand, it's refreshing for a big company to just admit to being evil like that. Progress!
The third part of XJ's epic science fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Leave a review and he'll love you forever. Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.