Friday, December 07, 2012


What is with the national Irish obsession with RTE's The Toy Show?

Even if I try to suspend my cynicism and pretend for one minute that I'm a kid again excited about a programme stuffed with more toys than Santa's grotto, I still think it's a pile of pants dressed up in sparkly tinsel and an army of precocious brats.

Yet it was the most watched programme of 2012, with 1.3million viewers, who all seemed to love it.

I sat with my nearly 5 year old watching the beginning of it last Friday (feeling the pressure to ride the 'national treasure' wave) but he was as baffled as I was and said he was bored after half an hour and took himself to bed. I switched away, glad I didn't have to sit through any more of this cringeworthy commercial TV. I've seen other segments since - and it seemed the whole thing was one big advertorial.

Surely there's a law against how much advertising you can have on public service broadcasting?

I lost count the number of times that Cheesebrudy suddenly adopted a robotic marketing tone and read from a script about how wonderful a product was - in the middle of the programming? Is this legal?

Interspersed with brands and advertising galore, it just seemed too much. And this is aimed at kids?! Where was the content? This was no better than QVC - it wouldn't surprise me if RTE starting selling the crap on the show, just to make even more money from the advertisers.

And what about the people in the audience, shamelessly begging for freebies but otherwise looking bored in enforced fun Santa hats.

Everyone has called me "and old cynic" this week, and said it's such a traditional part of Irish christmas. I'm definitely in a minority in thinking it's evil commercialism around these parts. People will be baying for my blood after I publish this blog post!

Just as I was getting over the trauma of the Toy Show I read a brilliant article in last week's Examiner called Just Say No! It talked about how Irish children are the biggest consumers of TV advertising in Europe. How alarming.

Does anyone know how dangerous it is for young children to be exposed to so much advertising?

Most kids believe everything they're told - and so when grown ups are telling them that Vodafone is akin to Santa by giving hundreds of the mums and dads in the audience smart phones, they buy into the branding hook line and sinker, desperate to be part of the show of so much excess.

Because the lines  between programming and content are blurred beyond recognition, the kids don't know what to believe. This is more than product placement because Tubridy is telling kids that Vodafone has a great product, and then we cut to an ad break and there is Vodafone again with some tweety-pie birdy phones. Oh aren't they sooo cute?! Aw look at them, isn't Vodafone so special.

Vodafone then stays with them for life - a strong positive memory is forged. Job done for the marketing director at Vodafone.

I grew up in the UK where advertising is seen as evil and we all believe that paying a licence fee entitles us to advertising-free TV and radio. Brands are not allowed to even appear on TV. And no mention whatsoever. You get used to this luxury so that's why I find it such a massive shock to be bombarded with advertising on public service broadcasting over here in Ireland.

I hate listening to the radio over here for merely that reason, that and the constant jibber-jabber of people and very little decent music.

I'm astounded that the Irish public service broadcaster RTE can get away with two hours of incessant advertising aimed at kids?!

It is all very scary stuff!

I was checking out the Commications Code aimed at Children and from what I gather, the only issue the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has with advertising aimed at children is that it has to be "appropriate for their age", eg, it can't be alcohol, fatty food likely to promote obesity or contain sex or violence.

So the bombardment of two hours of advertising messages is alright then, because it's "appropriate"?!

I'm not convinced. It sits very uneasy with me. Do we really want our kids to be victims of the most advertisments in Europe?

Two words: Pester and Power!

I've given up watching advertising - I record everything off the telly now and fast-forward through the ads. My kids don't have a clue what ads are - and I hope to keep it that way.


But seriously, I think all advertising should be taken with a healthy pinch of cynicism. Especially at Christmas.

Bah Vodafone Humbug!



Gwendy said...

Agree 100%! I, too, never "got" the toy show. I was bored and disappointed by it. Our kids are 7, 5 almot 3.5 and a toddler. the older two watched maybe a half an hour of it and then wandered off. Up until 2 months ago, they were watching netflix on the computer as we didn;t bother with a telly. The telly appeared, big huge smarttv (lost on me too!!!) and all of a slap they are asking for all sorts of stuff.

Loo said...

I'm with you Amy, I just don't get the toy show, it's horrendous made worse by that fool turbidy!!!

Wendy said...

As a Canadian who has recently moved to Ireland I hadn't heard of this show. But I can assure you that I won't be watching it next year! Sounds awful.
We don't have cable tv and have used Netflix on the TV instead for about 2 years now. It allows them to watch children's programming without being marketed to. For us it's a good alternative.

Joanna O'Sullivan said...

I didn't watch the show and think that at a time when people apparently have no money it's not fair to suggest to children that there are countless expensive toys available to them. I also agree wholeheartedly with you on the advertising.