Do these photos look a bit weird? If you quickly glanced at the image while scrolling you would be forgiven for thinking that it was an adult model advertising underwear. No. You’ve just looked at a two year old in a provocative, adult pose advertising denim nappies. Yes, denim nappies.
Firstly, why is there a market for denim nappies? Does something a two year old needs to poo in really something that needs to be upgraded so that it’s hip and cool? It’s kinda weird, don’t you think?
The latest Huggies’ campaign is being trialed in Israel, and has been met with mixed reactions. Now I’m not against marketing by any means. I am an unashamed capitalist. And companies are understandably compelled to find a particular niche in order to stay relevant. But is this really necessary for nappies? Does a sanitary product for a toddler really need to be elevated to something fashionable and trendy?
Now, some parent groups have gone so far as to label the images pornographic. This is a massive stretch. They are far from it. Yet what they are is atypical of how a toddler usually behaves. The marketing campaign does not harness behaviour you would expect from a toddler: running around, stumbling, smiling playfully. Instead, it has them posing in front of the camera in a manner more befitting of a Cleo magazine cover.
I mean, look at the images. The girl with trendy sunnies on the left stands with her legs stretched and a designer handbag resting on her waste. And what’s the deal with the finger on the mouth? The girl on the right has her hands on her hips, her backside being the focus of the shot, before glancing coquettishly back at the camera. I suppose the cute part is intended to be that they’re behaving like adults – but do we really want two year olds to be behaving like a model in a shoot?
Is it really appropriate to have two year olds acting years beyond their age to market ‘trendy’ diapers? There’s also the issue that they’ve been slapped up on billboards for all to see. I don’t know if it’s just me, but if I drove past this building size billboard every day I couldn’t help but be a little off put by it. I’d be asking in my head: is this really okay?
It’s just a little bit weird is all. A building size billboard with a two year old (boy?) striking a daring look in a denim nappy while dressed in a suit, while the two year old girl looks back coyly at the camera while looking somewhat playfully startled – it, just, kinda, seems odd.
It’s reminiscent of Gwyneth Paltrow’s foray into the bikini market for children last year. To promote her company’s new line, the following pictures appeared in advertisements:
In the second and third photograph, the girls are being photographed from behind in an eerily adult manner. They would be no older than six years old.
Some people would retort by saying that the problem lies with those viewing the photos. The message being that if the viewer sees something sexual in the photos then it reflects more poorly on them than on the photos themselves. It’s a pretty cheap argument, since it prompts anyone that may hold reservations about subtle sexualisation of children to keep silent since the inference is that they’re in some way perverted. Yet when you stop depicting kids as they are and instead present them as faceless, personality devoid mannequins in adult poses, then isn’t it fair for some people to have second thoughts about the appropriateness of such photos?
Kids are more empowered and technologically savvy nowadays – so it’s only natural that many of them are exposed to particular content earlier than previous generations. Seven year olds can now use smart phones and navigate the internet with ease. Children as young as five are being signed up to Facebook by their parents. Their pop stars and idols belt sex themed lyrics into the airwaves and the kids belt out these lyrics with joy. Parents purchase copies of Grand Theft Auto for their ten year old son and place it under the Christmas tree. Technology and popular culture is creating a world where some of the barriers between childhood, adolescence and adulthood are being broken down.
I believe there is little we can do to buck this trend. Yet companies and advertisers can at least show some tact. Whatever the time period, childhood is still an innocent place where the world of money, attraction, desire, lust, and self promotion lay beyond them. It’s that precious time when those things don’t matter. We should not encourage them to grow up too fast.