Making the most of a new life

It might be a comic, but it is not funny.


It is rant week on ChangingDad, and I’m getting those niggly things about parenthood that irritate me off my chest. These are not things that are, in the final analysis, important but bother me nonetheless.

Today I want to talk about children’s magazines. These are the things we get hassled for in places such as supermarkets, railway stations, motorway service areas and pretty much every convenience store. There is no escape from them, and no wonder considering the profits that must be made from them.

In order to make them more attractive to children, as if having their favourite characters on the front were not enough, they usually have some sort of plastic toy clamped to the front. When I look at these all I see is some crappy thing that is going to break as soon as the average child gets hold of it. To my boys they look like the gold at the end of the rainbow, the nirvana of their shopping expedition.

And so the pestering begins, and goes on and on and on. More often than not we resist the temptation to give in, but perhaps one time in ten we are just too tired or in too much of a hurry to go through the whole process of steering the conversation elsewhere; usually a reasonable lengthy process.

So we end up with one of these comics, open up the treasure and, more often than not, it falls out either broken or breaks on impact. If not then it breaks within five minutes of being played with, with predictable consequences, meaning that the discontent has only been delayed from shop to home.

I find this to be a very cynical policy by the makers of these products, and the worst kind of marketing. They play on the desires of the children, and they play on the fact that the magazines are sold in situations which are often stressful for parents who will give in rather than being embarrassed in public by their children. In fact the only playing that is not done is the children with the toys. We are played by the marketers every time.

Any trip through a supermarket with a child will tell you how effective marketing is with well known characters staring down from the shelves on anything from yoghurt to clothes, from birthday cakes to kitchen roll. A Lightning McQueen yoghurt will taste much better than a properly healthy one, and a Pooh nappy is much more comfortable than a biodegradable one with a generic animal on it; and while I find this frustrating it is no where near as bad as those crappy magazine toys.

In the end though I do not think that these strategies work as well as they could because, despite what the marketers may think, children actually are not that stupid and soon come to realise that they are being sold a pup (but that is a whole other story).

This is what really gets my goat. What marketing practices annoy you? Do you think that our children are targeted more than the rest of us, and is this ethically wrong?

3 thoughts on “It might be a comic, but it is not funny.

  1. Ah, I can actually shed some light on this as I used to work with BBC Magazines. All research shows that kids’ magazines sell much better with a toy on the front (and certain types of toys sell better than others, for instance stickers on preschool magazines are a sure-fire hit). There’s also a balance between the need to make a profit and putting on a toy of suitable value/quality – the publisher’s actually restricted because magazines are VAT-exempt and can only remain so if the value of the cover gift is no more than a certain percentage of the cover price, which obviously restricts the quality. (Plus all the plastic toys are manufactured out in the Far East to keep costs down, which means quality control is effectively non-existent – they’re all made for literally only a few pennies per unit.)

    Yes, it’s a cynical marketing ploy, of course it is. But, sadly, it’s also one that’s proven to work. And after a while you work out which titles and which types of toy to steer well clear of to avoid the broken toy experience, It is a bit of a shame, though, as the educational/entertainment content of what’s inside (all the BBC children’s magazines were overseen by a full-time educational editor who was a former head teacher) is often easily worth the cover price alone, in my opinion.

    It’s a good rant, though. Some magazine/toy combinations *are* an absolute rip-off.

    • Good to have the inside track on this. I certainly do not have problems with stickers in magazines as they usually give plenty of value in terms of playing time, and yes the contents are usually quite educational. I just find it perverse that magazines that aspire to be educational have this, frankly, rubbish on the front. One exception to this is the Cbeebies Art magazine which has lots of creative stuff on the front. This clearly only costs a couple of pence as well but adds real value to the magazine, we always try to steer the boys towards Mister Maker if we can.

  2. Pingback: What’s eating me today? | ChangingDad

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