Children’s toy commercials are semiotic and rhetorical goldmines–not just for kids, but also for parents. As I was recently surfing through different educational toy commercials on the internet, this one caught my attention.
This commercial was obviously made for a very specific audience (parents) at a very specific time (holiday shopping season). The appeal is clear: the LeapPad is a safe and educational alternative to the tablets they themselves likely use on a frequent basis. But there might be a deeper message embedded in this commercial’s delivery.
First, consider the stylistic similarities between LeapPad’s Christmas commercial and this one:
LeapPad’s similarity to the Apple iPad extends beyond its design and practical purposes. The distinct style and format of the iPad commercial, stemming from earlier iPhone commercials, is inconspicuously mimicked by LeapFrog: the tablet’s placement at the center of the shot, the hands of the unidentified user(s) set stably on the sides throughout their demonstration, etc. Here, LeapFrog not only assumes that the viewers (parents) are aware of iPad/iPhone commercials, but also that they have accepted the technological myth that tablet technologies will be a crucial tool–and thus literacy–of their children’s futures. It says, This is what your child needs to be successful and consequently, A child without this tablet is at a disadvantage.
We shouldn’t see any parent that buys their child the LeapPad as a ‘sucker’ for buying into this technological myth–at least not any more than the LeapFrog company itself. By appealing to this contemporary technological myth, largely perpetuated today by Apple and its rivals, LeapFrog has forfeited the infinite array of other design and marketing possibilities for one that subscribes to the tablet code.
The myth, simply put, is the consumer demand for tablets, and the code is the design and function of a tablet: touch-screen, graphic icons, application use, etc.
If this myth pushed by Apple, LeapPad, and almost every other tech company isn’t an attempt to convince consumers and future consumers of a sort of technological determinism, it is at the very least an assertion (or concession) to the technological dominance of tablet technologies and interfaces.