The XX Factor

Commercials that Target Parents, and Marketing That Reaches Us

An Advertising Week Panel, “Moms and the New Zeitgeist,” named the four commercials  most effective in reaching parents and their “2.3 billion dollars in spending power.” Some of those 2.3 billion dollars are mine, so I wondered how many of the commercials I’d seen, and how many you could say “worked.” (Watch them all at the Washington Post link above.) I did like Volkswagon’s Darth Vader child, but I haven’t seen it since the Superbowl. I’m amused by Toyota’s “Swagger Wagon” couple. I haven’t seen the commercials for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Olay’s “Younger Skin,” or if I have, I don’t remember either—pretty much the definition of not working.

And since I only use one of the four products (Kraft Macaroni and Cheese), and I buy it regardless of advertising (at least I think I do) all of that “humor and insight” seems to have been wasted where I’m concerned. Judging by the advertising I have seen lately (mostly for video games) the advertisers are a little unclear on what I’m actually watching (the season premiere of South Park). But I did just see one piece of, not advertising, but marketing, that made me at least consider looking at a product that I wouldn’t normally have thought about twice.

Monster High, a line of “fashion dolls” from Mattel (fashion dolls is the non-Barbie way of saying Barbie) has linked up with the Kind Campaign, an anti-bullying movement created to offer “an empowerment solution to bullying.” The Monster High brand offers dolls, books, a website, a clothing line and a TV special, and new stories and “webisodes” will be infused with an anti-bullying message, including one featuring Kind Campaign founders Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson as themselves, bring a Kind Campaign assembly, complete with “truth booth” for reality-TV-style private, filmed confessions, to Monster High.

Now, that’s marketing that’s smart and effective. It appeals to the parents with the pocketbook, and very clearly fits in with the product (the dolls are described as imperfect teenagers with freaky flaws). I haven’t gone out and bought a Monster High doll (I can’t help but notice that despite that brand description, they’re still long-limbed, impossibly perfect girls, albeit with oddly colored hair, obsessed with clothing and accessories). But if my daughter were to put them on her holiday list, I’m be far more inclined to go for it now than I would have been before I saw this campaign. That’s what marketing is for. And I’ll bet it cost a lot less than a Superbowl commercial, with the proceeds going to a good cause as well. Mattel wins this round.