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Kids in ads: Read the rules, Shankapotamus

The use of kids in TV commercials is always a controversial topic. Some viewers are sucked in by their cuteness, others find them annoying as all get-out. And so we don't start a fight between the parents and the child-free, here, I'd like to say that I'm a parent, but that doesn't mean I find every use of a kid in a commercial to be brilliant. Sometimes I find myself grabbing for the remote because the kids are just so awful. And sometimes it's not the kids, but the fact that many commercials think smart-mouthed kids putting down their hapless and unable to discipline parents is entertainment.  (See our stereotypes in ads discussion for more.)

Baby Shankapotamus has redeemed the E*Trade ads.


I admit, I didn't like the E*Trade baby for a long time. (and I don't like typing a star between "E" and "Trade" either -- cutesy company names bug me! Get off my lawn!) I especially hated the ad where the baby barfs up a bunch of milk. But I finally found one I like, and based on the comments, many readers agree. It's the one where the baby berates an older man for not paying him his golfing winnings, and then sneers "Why don't ya try reading the rules, Shankapotamus?" Just reading that description does not sound funny to me, but something about the voiceover inflection and the phrasing, and the word "Shankapotamus," has almost redeemed the E*Trade baby for me.

And I still haven't seen the Evian roller-skating rapper babies on TV -- just on YouTube -- but they still fascinate me. I think if I saw them on TV I would have to drop everything and watch them skate. But I'm not sure how great a commercial it is, because I remember "roller-skating rapper babies," but I had to look up the name of the product even though I've written about it three times. The connection between drinking expensive water and CGI babies just isn't being made for me. (This older ad, featuring synchronized swimmer babies, at least features water.)

Not all kids in ads are babies. Older kids are much harder for me to take in ads. I can't exactly explain why I'm bugged by this Olive Garden commercial, where Dad works late and Mom takes her teen son out and tries to get him to tell her about "Donna." (Which seems like a wrong-generation name for this ad, if you ask me.) Apparently the young actor who plays the son has a fan club, but I find him and his "mother" both so syrupy fake that it's like drinking a no-ice Slurpee just to watch the ad.

Some ads have kids, but it's the adult actors who grate on me. From the comments, it seems that a lot of you like the AT&T rollover minutes ads, where a mom yells at her kids for throwing away little plastic circles that somehow represent cell-phone talk time. It's not the kids who bug me in this one, it's that screechy, horrible mom, who kind of looks like an older Kate Gosselin. I'd throw my minutes away just to spite her.

Discuss commercial kids of all ages, and their parents, in the comments, Shankapotamus.