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Market holiday toys to kids? Oh no, YOU DIDN'T!

Alana Semuels
LA Times
November 14, 2008

Times are tough, and the last thing most parents need is for their kid to see some ad for a talking princess throne and beg for it, even though the parents can't afford it. With that in mind, the Campaign for a Commercial- Free Childhood sent a letter to the CEOs of 14 toy companies asking them to market to parents, not kids, this holiday season to save parents some grief.

"It is particularly egregious to foment family conflict by advertising toys and games directly to kids that their parents may not be able to afford," said the letter, signed by CCFC Director Susan Linn and Alvin F. Poussaint, a member of CCFC's steering committee. CCFC also asked parents to write their own letters, excerpts of which can be found here.

The Toy Industry Assn. of America didn't like that idea, though. It responded to CCFC with a statement of its own, saying it "beg[ged] to disagree" with the CCFC's request. "Children are a vital part of the gift selection process and should not be removed from it," said the statement from Julie Livingston, senior director of public relations for the Toy Industry Assn.

What else did the toy folks have to say? Keep reading...

Further points from TIA included:

-If children are not aware of what is new and available, how will they be able to tell their families what their preferences are?

-While there is certainly greater economic disturbance going on now, families have always faced different levels of economic well-being and have managed to tailor their spending to their means.

One company, Jakks Pacific, mailed a copy of the statement to parents who had written letters.

This was not the right way to get the parents in Jakks' camp. "When I get blatantly condescending emails like this it makes my decisions just a little easier, wrote one parent, who only left the initials A.P.

Another wrote, "To me, a toy maker afraid to advertise to the parents is only admitting they have nothing of value to sell to my family and need to resort to tricking my children with fancy graphics and false promises."

And yet another wrote: "If you would just simply come out and say 'we have a right to market and we will continue to market to very young children...BECAUSE it is easier and more effective,' then I would respect you for your honesty."

The back and forth illuminates that many parents are concerned that this holiday season will be tough, and that toy makers are worried, too, that if they can't market to kids, they'll be left behind. But it still makes you wonder: In tough times, should toy makers be restricted from marketing to kids to avoid disappointment, even if that leads to slow sales?





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