Annals of Amoral Advertising, Part One: Target Despises Homemade Halloween Costumes

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Oct. 19 2010 4:37 PM

Annals of Amoral Advertising, Part One: Target Despises Homemade Halloween Costumes

People are disgusted by this Target commercial, which is so snide and misguided, my first reaction was disbelief.



The politics of it are crassly offensive: the spot sneers at a mother for putting her kid in a homemade Iron Man costume rather than an off-the-shelf foam-muscled one. But commercials have been trying to pit children against parents forever now. What distinguishes this Target commercial is its degree of blind, witless belief in its own message. The homemade Iron Man costume is supposed to be pitiful, but it's more interesting and better-looking than the store-boughten one, without seeming like the product of slavish overparenting. I would give extra candy to a kid who showed up at the door dressed like that.

The commercial is also pretty unforgivably stupid from the standpoint of selling stuff. Where did the kid's mother get the ingredients for the makeshift costume? She could have gone to Target and bought a pack of colored card stock for $19.99 , the t-shirt for $5.99 , a pack of adhesive-backed click-lights for $9.99 , a flashlight for $12.99 ... Throw in some tape and a cardboard box, and even the deluxe, light-up premade Iron Man costume , for $25.50-$30, looks like the cheapskate approach.

Why crap on your own customers at all? The ad only makes sense as a piece of propaganda in service of a broader mission, to teach children that they should be consuming identical mass-produced products whenever possible. Would a kid in a funny homemade Iron Man outfit feel inferior to his foam-suited peers? Maybe a kid in a foam suit might feel awkward about being one of eight matching Iron Men in his third-grade class. It's all in how you set expectations.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.