I read your story in The Times about penguins in advertising. I love penguins, and applaud the use of penguins in advertising.
However, advertisers get a few basic penguin facts wrong, such as that penguins and polar bears do not live together. Penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, and polar bears live in the Northern Hemisphere.
While I understand that it's advertising, not science class, such incorrect ads perpetuate myths. The Coca-Cola ads with penguins and polar bears are obviously targeting kids, and I think we would like children to know where penguins and polar bears live. I guess we hope they will learn from other sources.
A: [Stuart Elliott]
Thanks, dear reader, for sharing your thoughts. I am of two minds on the issue of accuracy in advertising (as opposed to truth in advertising, which I endorse 100 percent).
On one hand, one would hope that what you see in ads is accurate, at least to some degree. You don't want your child watching that Coke commercial and then, years later, answering "true" to a true/false question on a science test asking whether penguins and polar bears can be found in the same hemisphere.
On the other hand, ads are attempts at creativity intended to put over a particular point of view to sell something, meaning that in the pursuit of persuasiveness they will likely do whatever it takes to peddle the product.
If the creators of fictional TV shows and movies take creative license for dramatic or comedic purposes - for instance, showing cavemen and dinosaurs alive at the same time - I don't see why advertisers cannot do the same, within limits, of course. (One can imagine how much work teachers have had the last four decades undoing the false perceptions generated by "The Flintstones.")
So while I do not get too upset if I watch two animals that do not actually co-exist in nature becoming friends over a bottle of Coke, I would be upset if the ad claimed Coca-Cola was a cold remedy, for instance, or nutritious.
If viewers worry their children are getting inaccurate information from commercials, there is a solution. In this instance, after watching the Coke spot, a parent could share with a child a book about penguins or visit a Web site together to learn more about them.
Maybe the fact that ads ought to be taken with a grain of salt in how they depict the world is good in that it may help parents teach children that not everything they see or hear in ads is the gospel truth.
Okay, so here’s the skinny: This guy is watching a TV commercial in which a family of (computer animated) polar bears happens upon a flock or gaggle or herd or whatever of (computer animated) penguins having a big party. The party stops upon the intrusion of the bears. A little penguin offers the polar bear cub a Coca-Cola. The cub accepts it. The party starts up again with penguins and polar bears dancing and enjoying Coke. And this guy is upset because polar bears and penguins don’t live on the same continent??!
In the interests of scientific accuracy, then, it should be pointed out that polar bears enjoy Coca-Cola at the North Pole while penguins enjoy Coca-Cola at the South Pole.