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1188 Advertising to Children

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,188 – Advertising to Children.

This is English as a Second Language podcast episode 1,188. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit ESLPod.com – on the Internet, of course – and become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode that contains a complete transcript of everything we say.

This episode is a dialogue between James and Vicky about television ads for children. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

James: Look at that! It’s commercial after commercial. It’s terrible how advertisers are going after kids.

Vicky: They’re just doing their job, marketing to a lucrative demographic.

James: But just look at what our kids are bombarded with: toy commercials and junk food ads!

Vicky: Children’s television is no different from any other type of programming. Commercials are a fact of life.

James: But don’t you think it’s wrong to manipulate young viewers with these commercials? Aren’t they more susceptible to false advertising?

Vicky: Shh! That’s our company’s product commercial. It really gets your attention, doesn’t it?

James: Yeah, it’s grand, just grand.

[end of dialogue]

James begins our dialogue by saying to Vicky, “Look at that! It’s commercial after commercial.” A “commercial” (commercial) is a commercial advertisement. The word “commercial” refers to making money in this case, or businesses. However, we use the word “commercial” nowadays to mean the same as an “advertisement,” which is some sort of announcement on television, radio, or nowadays YouTube that tries to get you to do something or to buy something – usually to buy something.

James is talking about all of the commercials on television. He says, “It’s commercial after commercial,” meaning first there’s one commercial, then there’s another one. He’s complaining about how many commercials there are. He says, “It’s terrible how advertisers are going after kids.” “Advertisers” are the people who pay for the commercials – the ads or advertisements. It could be a company – it usually is – but it could also be an organization.

Advertisers, according to James, are “going after kids.” “To go after” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to try to influence a particular group of people or to try to get your message to a particular group of people. In this case, the group of people are “kids” (kids). “Kids” are children. Vicky says, “They’re just doing their job.” She’s referring to these advertisers. These advertisers are “just doing their job.” In other words, they’re not trying to do anything bad. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do.

And what exactly is their job? According to Vicky, it’s “marketing to a lucrative demographic.” “Marketing” (marketing) comes from the verb “to market” (market) which means to get people to know about your product or service, usually so that they will buy more of whatever it is you’re selling. “To market” isn’t exactly the same as “to advertise.” “Marketing” refers to anything you do to get people to become aware of or to know about your product or service. “Advertising” is one way that you can market your product or service.

Advertising refers usually to paying a television station or a website to put some sort of announcement – an “ad” – about your product or service. So, advertising is one way of marketing your product to get people aware of your product. Vicky is talking about these companies “marketing to a lucrative demographic.” “Lucrative” (lucrative) means very profitable, something you can make a lot of money from. You might describe playing professional sports, like professional baseball or professional soccer, as being “lucrative.” You can get a lot of money doing that.

A “demographic” (demographic) as a noun refers to a section or group of people who have similar characteristics. It could be a group of women. It could be a group of children. It could be a group of people who are all learning English. Those are all examples of “demographics” – groups within a larger population. Children are a “lucrative demographic” according to Vicky, meaning that companies can make a lot of money from them. Of course, they’re really making the money from their parents.

James says, “But just look at what our kids are bombarded with: toy commercials and junk food ads.” “To bombard” (bombard) can mean to drop bombs – explosive devices – on a certain area, but it’s used more commonly nowadays to refer to the act of sending lots of different messages or images to a certain group of people over and over again – so many that this group can’t pay attention or think about anything else.

You might say, for example, that advertisers “bombard you with emails” to get you to buy things from them, or that you are “bombarded with requests” from people at your company to help them with their projects. Notice we use the proposition “with.” You are “bombarded with” something. Well, in this case we’re talking about children who are “bombarded with ads” – advertisements – advertisements for toys and junk food.

“Toys” are objects designed to entertain and amuse children. “Junk (junk) food” refers to food that doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value, that tastes good but usually isn’t very good for your body – things like McDonald’s hamburgers, for example. Vicky responds, “Children’s television is no different from any other type of programming. Commercials are a fact of life,” she says. “Children’s television” refers, of course, to television programs or shows that are made for children.

“Programming” here refers to the kinds of TV shows or movies that are shown on a particular channel or a particular station on television. “A fact of life” is something that you have to accept, something that is very common and you can’t change. Usually we use this expression “a fact of life” when we are referring to something that isn’t very pleasant, isn’t very nice, but that you can’t avoid. If you live in Los Angeles, traffic – lots of cars on the road – is “a fact of life.” If you want to live here, you just have to understand that and put up with it. You have to tolerate it.

James says, “But don’t you think it’s wrong to manipulate young viewers with these commercials?” “To manipulate” (manipulate) means to change or influence someone, but usually in a negative way by using some sort of secret or hidden approach or tactic. If someone “manipulates” you, that person is trying to get you to do something, say something, or think something by, in a way, tricking you or not telling you that he’s trying to get you to change your mind or to think in a certain way.

We don’t like to be manipulated by other people. We don’t like other people to try to get us to say something or do something by a way that isn’t honest, that isn’t open. James thinks that these advertisers are “manipulating young viewers” (viewers). A “viewer” is a person that views or watches, in this case, television programs. If you are listening to the radio or to a podcast, you are a “listener.” For a television program you would be a “viewer,” even though of course you’re also listening to the television program as well as watching it or “viewing” it.

James asks, “Aren’t they,” meaning children, “more susceptible to false advertising?” “To be susceptible” (susceptible) means to be easily influenced or affected by someone or something – influenced in such a way that something negative will happen, something bad will happen to you. James is worried that children are “susceptible to false advertising.” “False advertising” would be advertising that tells lies, which some people think refers to almost all advertising. But that’s not true, of course.

Vicky says, “Shh!” She’s telling James to be quiet. “That’s our company’s product commercial. It really gets your attention, doesn’t it?” Now we understand, at the end of this dialogue, that Vicky works for a company that has advertisements for children on television. She says, “That’s our company’s product (product) commercial.” The word “product” usually refers to a physical object that you sell. Some companies sell products. Some companies sell services. They don’t give you anything physical, but they do something for you.

James says at the end, “Yeah, it’s grand, just grand.” The word “grand” (grand) usually means wonderful or great. But here, James is being sarcastic. He’s using the word in one way to mean something the opposite. He’s trying to make a joke by saying, “Oh yeah, it’s grand.” But the way he says it indicates that he’s making a joke. He doesn’t like the idea, I guess, that Vicky’s company advertises to children.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

James: Look at that! It’s commercial after commercial. It’s terrible how advertisers are going after kids.

Vicky: They’re just doing their job, marketing to a lucrative demographic.

James: But just look at what our kids are bombarded with: toy commercials and junk food ads!

Vicky: Children’s television is no different from any other type of programming. Commercials are a fact of life.

James: But don’t you think it’s wrong to manipulate young viewers with these commercials? Aren’t they more susceptible to false advertising?

Vicky: Shh! That’s our company’s product commercial. It really gets your attention, doesn’t it?

James: Yeah, it’s grand, just grand.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogues on ESL Podcast are just grand – and I say that not to be sarcastic, but to say that they really are wonderful. Thanks to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2016 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
commercial – an advertisement on television or the radio

* Companies pay millions of dollars to have their commercials play during the Super Bowl, when there are many television viewers.

advertiser – a company that promotes its product or service in a public way to raise awareness of it and encourage people to buy it

* Many advertisers try to make their products look glamorous, sexy, and exciting.

to go after – to pursue; to target; to try to reach or influence a particular group of people or to try to achieve a particular goal

* The gasoline manufacturers are going after electric car owners, trying to raise their concerns about the environmental effects of batteries.

to market – to promote a product or service to a particular group of consumers in order to raise awareness and increase sales

* Initially, we tried to market our product to teenagers, but soon we found that our customers were more likely to be women in their 30s and 40s.

lucrative – very profitable; with the potential to make a lot of money

* Playing professional sports can very lucrative but can compete at the professional level.

demographic – a section of the population; a group of people with similar characteristics, especially referring to their age, gender, race, education, nationality, and religion

* The government is worried about society’s changing demographics. In a few years, most of the population will be entering retirement, with few young people working to support them.

to bombard – to hit a person or place with a thing or idea repeatedly, so that only that thing is received or paid attention to

* Teenage girls are bombarded with images telling them that they need to be thin to be beautiful.

toy – an object designed to entertain and amuse kids, with no other purpose; an object that children play with for fun

* What kind of toy do you think Jesse wants for Christmas: a ball or a jump rope?


junk food – food that has a lot of calories, but little or no nutritional value, especially containing artificial colors and flavors; unhealthy food

* Try to fill your shopping cart with fruit and vegetables, avoiding the junk food aisle that’s filled with chips and cookies.

children’s television – television programs designed to entertain and/or educate children, with little appeal for adults

* Sesame Street is a classic example of children’s television.

programming – the selection of television programs and movies that are shown on a particular channel, including the schedule of when each program is shown

* Saturday-morning programming includes a lot of cartoons, intended to keep kids busy while their parents sleep in.

a fact of life – something that one must accept and that cannot be changed because it is very common

* When you play sports, the risk of getting hurt is just a fact of life.

to manipulate – to change or influence something or someone, especially in a hidden, secretive, and negative way

* The government is manipulating the economic reports to make the economy seems stronger than it actually is.

viewer – a person who watches a TV show, movie, or performance

* Popular TV shows have more viewers, so they can charge advertisers more.

susceptible – easily affected or influenced by someone or something; vulnerable

* People with HIV are susceptible to many common diseases.

false – not truthful or honest; fake; dishonest

* Grandpa started wearing false teeth a few years ago.

advertising – the practice of promoting one’s products or services to potential buyers, trying to increase sales

* Our company’s main advertising is on billboards and in the newspaper.

product – a good; an object that is manufactured and sold, not a service

* When celebrities are seen using a particular product, it often becomes very popular and sells out within a few hours.

grand – wonderful or great, sometimes used sarcastically

* Isn’t it grand to be young and in love?

Comprehension Questions
1. What does James mean when he says, “It’s terrible how advertisers are going after kids”?
a) He doesn’t like the young age of the advertisers.
b) He doesn’t think advertisers are targeting the right demographic.
c) He doesn’t like the way companies are advertising to children.

2. What does Vicky mean when she says, “Commercials are a fact of life”?
a) Commercials are filled with factual content.
b) Commercials are an unavoidable part of life.
c) Commercials are necessary for life on Earth.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to go after

The phrase “to go after,” in this podcast, means to pursue, target, to try to reach or influence a particular group of people or to try to achieve a particular goal: “I’m really impressed by how Bonnie is going after her dream of becoming a neuroscientist.” The phrase “to go after (someone or something)” can mean to chase something: “Wow, look at how fast that dog is going after the ball!” The phrase “to go along with (someone or something)“ means to agree with someone or something, or at least not object to it: “Should we fight for our position, or just go along with the rest of the group?” Finally, the phrase “to go around” can mean for something to spread, especially when talking about an illness: “The flu is going around our office.”

grand

In this podcast, the word “grand” means wonderful or great, sometimes used sarcastically: “The entryway is very grand.” “Grand” can also mean very big and impressive: “They live in a grand mansion at the top of the hill.” In casual conversations, a “grand” is $1,000: “We paid eight grand for that boat.” A “grand piano” is a very large piano with a big body and horizontal strings: “We’d love to have a grand piano, but there isn’t room for one in our house.” In baseball, a “grand slam” happens when a batter hits a home run while all four bases are filled, resulting in four points. Finally, a “grand total” is the final total of all the other number: “First add up the revenues, then subtract returns and the cost of products and labor to arrive at the grand total.”

Culture Note
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit

The Council of Better Business Bureaus created the Children’s Advertising Review Unit in 1974 to “promote” (encourage) “responsible” (ethical) advertising to children in all types of “media” (newspapers, magazines, television, etc.) It is a “self-regulatory body” (an organization that regulates itself or its own industry, without being legally required to), but it works closely with the “Federal Trade Commission” (the U.S. government agency responsible for regulating communications).

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit “reviews” (monitors and evaluates) advertisements on television, the radio, magazines, the Internet, comic books, and more to determine whether they are appropriate for children under the age of 12. If the Children’s Advertising Review “determines” (decides) that an advertisement is inappropriate, usually because it is “misleading” (causing someone to reach the wrong conclusion) or “inaccurate” (wrong; not correct), it will try to get the advertiser to “voluntarily” (of one’s own free will, without being forced to do something) change the “ad” (advertisement).

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit believes that advertising to children requires following special guidelines because children are young, “immature” (not fully developed like adults), “unsophisticated” (without a lot of knowledge about the world), and inexperienced. Children might not be able to evaluate the “claims” (statements of truth) made or “implied” (indicated without being stated explicitly) in an ad and therefore may be “particularly” (especially; significantly) susceptible to such ads.

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit also tries to influence parents. The Unit creates publications to help parents work with their kids to understand advertising and how it can “influence” (affect) “consumer behavior” (shopping practices and buying decisions).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - b