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Joel Habush’s Tips on Advertising: Suffer the Little Children

Most of the suffering will be done by your director or producer, because everyone’s spinning their wheels waiting to get a good take from a recalcitrant, lisping and whispering “star” of your radio or TV commercial.

Know who else will suffer? Potential (and existing) customers for your product(s) or service(s) who will be punching the “search” button on the car radio, or hitting the remote on the TV, or zapping through your commercial that was on a program that they had DVR’d.

Anything else that might suffer? Right, sales and profits.

Putting pretty much untalented kids into a commercial in which it’s not really essential for them to appear becomes trickier when one finds that the child in question is the client’s son or daughter, neighbor’s kid, etc.; indeed, it’s fraught with peril.

I’ve used children in commercials where it was appropriate, and not just “borrowed interest” like putting women in skimpy bikinis to help sell swimming pool motors.

In one radio commercial, I had a popular baseball star do a commercial for an orthodontic society. The baseball player was wearing braces to straighten his teeth—true fact. So I set the scenario as the star meeting a kid in the reception area of an orthodontist, and responding to the kid’s natural questions, making the point that orthodontists work with adults, too.

In another radio commercial, I had two kids’ voices in the womb (theater of the mind), talking to each other about the client hospital’s new Birthing Center. That was a National Silver Microphone winner.

Just pick the right situation, and not just one that you want to put your family in simply because you can since it’s your dime.

Talent agencies actually do have access to young children who can read lines well, and/or can act on TV from whose tapes you can narrow down your choices and then have the finalists come in to audition.

If you don’t go that route, you can have your own amateur cattle call (more of a “calves call”). But it might lead to hurt feelings on the part of parents whose kids don’t make the cut.

What’s that? Have I ever used one of my own kids in any commercials? Well, that’s neither here nor there, is it? Oh it is?

Well in one TV commercial for a mass merchandiser’s local chain stores, I had my youngest daughter featured at about five years old under a Christmas tree in front of the fireplace. It was a “Merry Christmas” spot from the chain.

Come on, she was surrounded by St. Bernard puppies, for crying out loud!

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