OPINION: MILLS ON ... CALVIN KLEIN AND THE BEANO

The Mills household likes the Beano. It arrives every Wednesday, regular as clockwork, and never fails to deliver its timeless combination of fun, daft jokes, japes and a special kind of innocence - not to mention fart cushions, covermounts and the like. It’s childish, of course, but also childlike in a way that Sony PlayStation, South Park and The Simpsons (all of which are also popular in the Mills family) aren’t.

The Mills household likes the Beano. It arrives every Wednesday,

regular as clockwork, and never fails to deliver its timeless

combination of fun, daft jokes, japes and a special kind of innocence -

not to mention fart cushions, covermounts and the like. It’s childish,

of course, but also childlike in a way that Sony PlayStation, South Park

and The Simpsons (all of which are also popular in the Mills family)

aren’t.



So it was with some surprise that I opened last week’s issue to find a

full-page ad for Calvin Klein kids’ jeans facing Dennis the Menace and

Gnasher - a curious juxtaposition. This was the same ad you might see in

She magazine or the colour supplements - targeting the parents of the

kinds of seven- to 11-year-old boys who comprise the Beano’s

readership.



At this point, readers (and particularly parents) can probably guess

where I’m going with this column. No, I don’t mind the ad (no anorexic

five-year-olds in their underwear) but, yes, I am horrified at the

presence of such an ad in the Beano.



Naturally, this is a complicated issue. On the whole, I believe in the

right of advertisers to target children. I think the Swedes and others

who wish to ban children’s advertising on TV are living in an unreal

world. By and large, children today are pretty sophisticated when it

comes to decoding advertising.



Most enjoy it, too. And to over-protect them from advertising is to do

them no favours at all in the wider world.



But the freedom to advertise to children also carries responsibilities

which is why, for example, I believe that schools should remain ad-free

zones, even though children only have to leave the school gates to be

exposed to advertising.



So where does a CK ad in the Beano leave us? Well, this is not a blanket

objection to ads in the Beano (pounds 3,105 for a page, according to the

ratecard).



Ads for A Bug’s Life, sweets and games are fine. They are the kinds of

things children buy for themselves with their pocket money. Most

importantly, they don’t involve pester power.



This brings us to the nub of the problem. As most parents can tell you,

even seven-year-olds are label-aware. CK certainly knows this, which is

why it is placing ads in media such as this. But that doesn’t mean it’s

a clever piece of targeting. Far from it: the prospect of my

eight-year-old son pestering me to buy expensive brand-name clothes he

will quickly grow out of is not a pleasant one. It is even more

intolerable for parents with little disposable income - whose children

are just as likely to read the Beano as those with richer parents. The

placement of this ad does not discriminate between those who can afford

to buy their children CK clothing and those who can’t. It is, in short,

an immoral piece of media buying.



Responsible advertisers are those who know how to exercise

restraint.



Calvin Klein has every right to advertise its children’s products - not

to children, but to the parents who will pay for the products.



I won’t be cancelling the Beano but I certainly won’t be buying any

Calvin Klein products - children’s or adult - either.



Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).