Watching Ads with My In-Home N of 1

6 min read

Every kiss begins with Kay, but that’s too literal to be meaningful, and dancers may not be the most efficient way to telegraph comfort of denim. These things I have learned because of my little in-home focus group, the stinkiest, hungriest N of 1—my ten-year-old son.

A discerning critic of beer and television.

Kids are startlingly sophisticated consumers of media. Then again, they gobble up an average of seven hours of it a day. It’s hard to imagine he’s even close to that number, but I’m usually too busy with the important work of Facebooking to know what he’s up to. Suffice to say he’s no stranger to movies, TV shows, or advertisements but not yet jaded.

A kid who still leans forward in his seat when the hero stands up to the bad guy has something of his innocence left. This one wants clarity in all things. Honesty. And the magic of story done right.

He’s basically a short, stocky Cormac McCarthy with a penchant for Marvel comics and Austin Powers. He also has a deep well of righteous indignation for ads that insult his intelligence or fail to get to the point.

It is as Aldous Huxley said: “Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.”

Mine also has no shortage of opinions. I sat him down with The Ten Most-Watched Ads on YouTube in July to see what I could see.

10. Scrubbing Bubbles “What Sharing a Bathroom Is Like

“That all happened in a bathroom but very little of it was about cleaning a bathroom.”

No argument here.

9. iPhone “Hardware & Software

“Wait, what? Huh? ‘If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone’? Of course not. Is that supposed to mean something? I don’t get it.”

Me neither, kid. Me neither.

8. GoPro “Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel

From the first note, N of 1 dances and looks like this ad is the best thing he’s ever seen. I ask him afterward what it was for and am surprised to find that he knows. But what does a GoPro do, and does this commercial make him want one?

“It’s a camera for showing off all the cool stuff you do. I think I want one, and then I go, ‘I really don’t do that much.’”

Both of us find this one delightful.

7. Nature Valley “#RediscoverNature

“Wait. Isn’t Nature Valley the company that makes granilla bars? [Author’s note: Go with it. I will never correct him on “granilla” or on “lie-berry.” He’ll figure it out eventually.] Oh my god. ‘Kids need nature and they need to stop playing video games.’ ‘We picked blueberries.’ And then this is for granilla bars. Ridiculous! If it’s for child health care, then you need all that explaining. But for a granilla bar? It’s three minutes long. What makes them think all that inspiration will make you buy a granilla bar? Wait—are you showing me this because you think I play too many video games?”

“Actually, no. I have never picked blueberries, and I’m on my computer all the time.”

“So you agree with me?”

“I totally do.”

“Hmm. Okay. That’s why we’re related.”

6. Coffee-mate “The Natural Bliss Café

“What? Oh my god, why are they naked?”

I explain the “all natural” tie-in while he makes shocked and aghast faces.

“You know, there’s a show called Naked in the Wild. Blake said to me that he thinks they just do that so people will get attracted to it and watch it. Same thing here.”

Yep. And since when is body paint natural? Go big next time, Coffee-mate.

5. Vivo Smart Phone “Minions

“Oh, minions minions minions! I think this is going to be my favorite one!” [He smiles and dances throughout.]

“Do you know anything about the phone?” I ask.

“No, except it plays music and takes pictures. Oh! I see your point. But I like it because it’s minions. But the new Samsung commercial is better because it tells you that it has dual-edge display, 10-minute charging, and an amazing camera. I’d buy the Samsung.”

Whoa. Hats off to you, Samsung.

4. Nitro Circus Tour “History Made! First-Ever BMX Quad Backflip

“I can’t believe they’re doing this. I can’t believe it. Oh my god, he made it! Mom, he made it! Look!”

“What’s that a commercial for?”

“I don’t know, but I’m ready for some brown bread. Can we have some brown bread?”

No. Three to go, kid.

3. GoPro “HERO4 Session: So Small. So Stoked.

“Oh no. No! Dude, don’t do this. Oh. OH. Land it. Yes!”

He looks at me and nods, solemnly, and whispers “GoPro,” as if the camera were somehow responsible for the courageous feat, which I guess means this ad does exactly what the company would want it to. Good job, GoPro.

2. Coca-Cola “Remove Labels This Ramadan

“Oh my god it’s for Coke. I can’t believe this is an ad for Coke.”

“Why do you think a company would want to make an ad that doesn’t really talk about its product but gives you a nice message?”

“I guess they’re noticing that people need to be nicer to each other, and they think that if they tell them that, they’ll buy Coke because they think the Coke people are nice. Kind of feels like lying. If I were doing that, I’d feel like I was lying to everyone.”

He and I part ways on this one. It’s a good concept well-executed, and it makes me feel warm toward Coke. If you already own the market, why not use your power for good?

1. Always “#LikeAGirl—Unstoppable

“God, that kinda hurts. That made me feel bad. I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry for? Do you think girls have limits that boys don’t have?”

“No. I don’t think girls have any limits. It doesn’t seem fair to expect things from one piece of society and not another. But they’re focusing on something that’s a real problem in life and then saying, ‘Here, buy this.’”

“I think they’re trying to show that their product helps girls not have limits.”

“What’s their product?”

“It’s stuff that women use when they’re on their periods.”

“Oh. Oooh. Okay. That makes sense. Okay. . . . Now can we have some brown bread?”

Definitely. You earned it, kid.