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It was at the point of the gala awards dinner, sometime between the filet mignon and the triple decadence chocolate cake, when the next category winner flashed up on the giant monitors perched above the stage. The spot opened, innocently enough, on a cute little raccoon trudging through the snow, minding its own business. Looking up to the sky, it spots what appears to be a Hostess Twinkie falling in its direction. Closer and closer, bigger and bigger it gets. The dreamy anticipation of that creme-filled angel food cake treat is clearly evident on the awaiting raccoon's face, when suddenly . . . splat!! That was no Twinkie after all! It was the bottom of a snowboard, attached to a renegade kid, who, upon flattening our furry little protagonist, continues on his merry maniacal ride. The raccoon pops up out of the snow, unharmed yet still wanting that yummy snack. The screen fades to black and the entire room fills with laughter and applause as the proud creatives from Campbell Mithun Esty in Minneapolis go up to receive their coveted award.

No, this is not the Clios, nor is it the Andys, Addys or the One Show. This is the first annual Golden Marble Awards, the only awards competition that celebrates creative excellence in children's advertising. I know what you're thinking: Creative excellence in children's advertising is an oxymoron. Well, anyone who was present at Pier 60 in New York on that creatively-charged evening in September would beg to differ. The work wasn't just good, it was outstanding. This wasn't one of those anyone-who-enters-wins-an-award shows. The competition was stiff -- nearly 350 entries, only 30 winners. Some of the industry's most creative shops were represented, including BBDO, O&M, Wieden & Kennedy and TBWA/Chiat/Day. And, as I sat there watching all this work, I thought to myself, This stuff kicks creative ass! So, why isn't this great kids' creative getting the same amount of respect and press as other great creative work? Why isn't it getting any respect and press?

Maybe it would help to dispel some of the bogus ideas surrounding kids' advertising:

Myth: Kids' accounts are just way stations for lesser-skilled junior creatives.

Reality: This used to be true, but in recent years, smarter agencies have been putting more stock in their kids' creative departments. Some (like Saatchi & Saatchi and Grey) have even dedicated entire divisions to this growing and influential market segment.

Myth: Kids are pretty gullible and simple-minded, therefore you don't need to use a whole lot of creativity to get them to buy your product.

Reality: Who do you think we're talking to here, Opie and the Beav? Today's kids are extremely media-savvy and demand good creative. By age 10 they've already had several years' experience zeroing in on, then zoning out brainless, condescending ads. Then there's the clutter -- the average kid is exposed to approximately 500 advertising messages every week, so yours damn well better be creative!

Myth: There can't be all that much great kids' advertising being done, otherwise we would see it on TV or read about it in the trades.

Reality: Unless you're between the ages of 6 and 12, or your favorite programs air on Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network, you're missing all the best kids' work. The fact is, there's tons of great kids' advertising -- it's just not running on Ally McBeal and Monday Night Football. As for the trades, well, we're working on it. (Sorry. -- Ed.)

Myth: All the restrictive rules and guidelines associated with kids' advertising preclude good creative work.

Reality: True, there are network strictures as well as CARU (Children's Advertising Review Unit) controls, but most are common-sense guidelines put in place to prevent the use of misleading language, deceptive product demos, bogus comparisons and other sleazoid sales tactics -- all the stuff that makes for bad advertising anyway.

Myth: Kids' accounts never have big enough budgets to do really creative advertising.

Reality: Really creative advertising comes from big ideas, not big budgets. With that said, there's plenty of money out there in kid country, anyway. Who do you think is supporting kids' channels like Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network? Geritol and Depends? No, it's megamarketers like McDonald's, Kellogg's, General Mills and Kraft.

Most advertising creatives strive, above all, to do great creative work -- and as we all know, it never comes easy. So, it's important that any and all great work has an equal opportunity to receive the recognition it deserves, whether it's done for a beer, a car or a laundry detergent -- or, yes, even a creme-filled snack cake.

And if anyone disagrees, I'll meet you out on the playground after school.

Bruce Miller attended Mabel B. Avery elementary school and is currently the

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