To Cave, Or Not To Cave
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But she is not remaining idle. She says, "I was raised in large part by babysitters and I had some really upsetting experiences as a young child." So she and her husband have crafted careers where they both work from home, and use each other (and school) as childcare. Her next book examines childcare in America.
A Question for Susan Gregory Thomas, author of BUY, BUY, BABY
Q: You write that marketing to babies and toddlers started with videos and TV designed for that age group. How?
A: When I was at a children's marketing conference in Orlando, one of the country's foremost kids' marketers summed it up quite pithily: "How do you get a kid to buy your product? Simple: Make a commercial, put it on TV." Amazingly, before 1997, there was no notion that setting a baby or toddler down in front of a video or TV show could be a good thing. As far as educational TV goes, there was Sesame Street, but that was for older kids — preschoolers. Babies and toddlers might be in the room when the television was on, but nobody considered it especially appropriate for children in that age group to watch TV.
But 1997 was big turning point. Not only was the brain conference held, there was also a lot of press that year about what was called the Mozart Effect. It was based on an experiment at the University of California showing that college students did marginally better on an intelligence test after listening to a particular Mozart piece. That result was thoroughly debunked later on, and it had never been tested on babies or toddlers. But somehow, the two specious ideas, that 0- to 3-year-olds needed special stimulation to be smart and that Mozart could make you a math whiz, spread like a flu virus and then kind of converged. Within weeks the Baby Einstein Company was born. It was founded by a stay-at-home mother, Julie Aigner-Clark, who said that she just wanted to create what she called a "video picture book" for her own baby, and her first product was Baby Mozart. She was careful to say that her videos were not genius-makers, but rather supported infants' natural curiosity. Aigner-Clark had a great marketing plan. But she had never done any research on how infants or toddlers process videos. And, as it turns out, it is a radically different one from adults — or even 4-year-olds.