Mum, please buy me a snow leopard

English: A snow leopard (uncia uncia).

English: A snow leopard (uncia uncia). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Landlord’s insurance, washing detergent, endangered animals: is it fair, or economical, to punt these on prime-time children’s television? 

CENTRAL SCOTLAND: There’s an old adage in marketing circles that goes something like this: get them while they’re young and they’re yours forever. The UK’s advertising fraternity has evidently taken early adoption strategies to a new league of silliness.

This was brought home to me when, soon after we signed up for a comprehensive satellite TV package following a long entertainment drought in China, six-year-old Tim asked me what landlord’s insurance was. Erm, where did he hear about the concept?

On Cartoon Network, during one of the many commercial breaks punctuating the exciting adventures of Ben 10 and his alien aliases. My first reaction was: Whew, thank goodness Tim hasn’t broken through the parental controls and made it to the adult viewing section.

Then, I wondered: what on earth would make a company decide to spend money flighting an ad designed for financially sophisticated adults on a daytime kids’ channel?

I figured the insurance company’s media planners must have ticked the wrong box or got a free ad slot among the cartoons. Ben 10 is a firm favourite among five- to 10-year-old boys, not many of whom are going to rush over to their parents to beg for landlord’s insurance ‘for less than £1 a day‘ — surely?

Perhaps I’ve got it wrong and Tim isn’t actually alone in his fascination for landlord’s insurance. Making the investment in air time worthwhile for the insurer, there could be thousands of Ben 10 fans nagging their parents for this type of cover.

Little boys all over Britain could be probing their parents on whether their own families have decided to invest in second properties and then protect their bricks-and-mortar assets with this niche cover. They could be just as enthusiastic about landlord’s insurance as they were about joining the Ben 10 teams of boy builders working on getting into the Guinness World Book of Records, at St Enoch Square in Glasgow or the other eight shopping centres around the UK.

Clearly, targeting children to get to parents’ pockets through TV is an effective strategy for many products. I plead guilty, for example, to popping a specific brand of laundry detergent  into the shopping trolley on the say-so of my eight-year-old, Nick, who told me he’d heard it was particularly good at removing stains from grubby children’s clothes.

‘300 washes out of every bottle, Mum,’ he said authoritatively about a liquid dishwashing soap also advertised on TV. He was very pleased to see that specific brand nestling among the groceries.

I draw the line at sponsoring a snow leopard, however. Call me uncompassionate, but I didn’t succumb to Tim’s pleas to contribute funds towards one of the mere 35 that allegedly remain on earth.

Yes, even endangered animals have inveigled their way into the many cartoon TV commercial slots. For a modest sum, our family could save the leopards and receive a fluffy toy in the post, implored Timmy.

I tried to explain that none of the money we would donate would make it to saving these beautiful creatures. After all, someone had to pay the staff hired to collect the money and make the toys — and that’s before we’ve even thought about the costs of producing and broadcasting a TV commercial.

But dear little Tim wasn’t buying my arguments. ‘By the time I’m 20 they’ll be extinct,’ he said sadly, as though it would be all our fault and using a new big word he’d picked up courtesy of the save-the-animals people.

‘Mama, please, please let’s sponsor a snow leopard’, he implored. I felt my resolve weakening, but only just a little before Tim was confronted with yet another new financial possibility courtesy of children’s daytime TV.

‘You can get these at Sainsbury’s,‘ he said, perking up. He called me over to the telly to look at a new range of plastic Spiderman paraphernalia.

Landlord insurance providers may know something I don’t when it comes to targeting their advertising at an appropriate audience. But they’ve got one thing right — young boys are highly receptive to what they see on TV, even if their parents don’t fall for the spin.

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