When I was young, my parents got me a subscription to the magazine Zillions: Consumer Reports for Kids. It was a lot like the adult version — various products were put through tests to see if they lived up to expectations — except all the products were for kids, and some of the testers were kids. I don’t know why my parents got me this; maybe to hint that in the future I would be making my own Barbie purchases and should try to be better informed about the competition? Anyway, I remember almost nothing about the toy comparisons — and almost everything about the other main feature of Zillions: exposing the trickery of advertisements.
Most impressive to me were the food ads. Even a kid knows the picture of a Whopper on a Burger King commercial is nothing like the real thing — but it wasn’t until I read Zillions that I understood why, and I found the deceit mind-blowing. Fake food? Vaseline? Sandwiches propped up by toothpicks and covered in glue? Speaking of glue, that’s not milk in those Apple Jacks. Every time I saw an ad with a “scam” I recognized, I pointed it out to my family members lest they be duped. This went on for at least a year; surprisingly, my parents did not renew my subscription.
Today, I spend a lot more time complaining about the trickery of online spam and scams than pictures of too-perfect hamburgers. Almost everyone knows that there is no such thing as a “miracle product;” advertisers have had to turn to other means to get our attention — celebrity endorsements, humor, social media, etc. I like to think we’re all a little more discerning, even those of us who weren’t raised on Zillions.
Then again, this remains my favorite commercial of all time. And my running shoes are Nikes.