Scouts-L Mail Archive for February of 1999: Re: Scouts in ads
Re: Scouts in ads
Anthony J. Mako
Sat, 13 Feb 1999 02:36:50 -0500
<Ed Thompson wrote>
While I understand the need for BSA (and I assume GSUSA) to protect its
corporate image, I personally like the idea of seeing scouts in uniform
in positive advertisements, news reports, etc. I view it as "product
placement" (e.g. how Coke and Pepsi make sure their products are
prominantly featured in TV shows, other ads, etc.) for our programs.
Problem: Coke and Pepsi pay A LOT of money just to have a can of their
product prominently display on a table during TV shows and movies. Coca
Cola and Pepsi are soft drink companies who don't have to worry so much
about "residual perceptions of endorsement." These corporations do not
have to worry much about how their company will be perceived when their
product appears in a movie. The BSA, on the other hand, has to worry
about that a great deal. Our bottom line is considerably different than
Coke or Pepsi's.
We continue to fight the image among our target population that scouting
isn't "cool". Many boys in my troop are embarrassed to wear their
uniforms in public or to have photos of them in uniform published
because they fear being teased by nonscouting friends.
Perhaps no one has ever explained to them that most of the kids who
would tease them don't have the faintest idea what Scouting is all
about. When we are young, we often make fun of the things we don't
understand, and the same can be said about Scouting. Part of our jobs as
Scouters is to help Scouts understand Scouting, and to realize that
there are a lot of reasons someone would tease them. None of those
reasons are very good.
The BSA's own efforts here don't help: their "Character Counts"
billboards are among the most laughed-at signs among teenagers because
they choose kids who would automatically be classified as "geeks" and
"nerds" the first minute they set foot in a new Middle School or Junior
What a sad state of affairs in a so-called Christian society. Evidently
someone has dropped the ball when it came time to teach these kids
tolerance. Now I really have to wonder why I should care what these kids
think. Perhaps if someone had taken the time to help them develop a
little character, they wouldn't be so quick to laugh and tease.
What we need is to see scouts, in uniform, as many "normal" places as
possible. Even better, we need to see the "cool" kids in ads, movies, TV
shows, portrayed as scouts. Remember ads of all those rockclimbers,
skateboarders and snowboarders pushing Mountain Dew? What would it do
to our image among teenagers is some of them just happened to be wearing
scout uniforms? Among Cub-aged kids: how about some of the kids playing
all of those cool video games being scouts?
The risk here is that wherever you see Scouts in ads, movies, and TV
shows, it gives the appearance that whatever else is going on in that
show is condoned and supported by the BSA. What would our membership be
like if BSA ads featured Cub Scouts playing video games instead of
racing a car in a pinewood derby? What kind of organization would we be
if we had ads featuring "cool" kids goofing around with rockclimbing
gear? And when these "cool" kids join up and find out that they have to
actually learn HOW TO USE the gear SAFELY first, how long will they
The risk here, of course, is that without control of the scouting image
we would see the lower elements in ads, movies, and TV shows showing up
in scout uniforms. Perhaps National needs to do what commercial
corporations do: keep control of the image but go out and aggressively
work to place the scout uniform in as many positive (from the point of
view of preteens) or "neutral" settings as possible so seeing kids in
scout uniforms becomes more "normal".
And that's exactly what they do. Ultimately, it's up to the folks who
produce the TV shows and movies, not the BSA. When you're given the
choice of creating a fictitious youth organization, or going through the
process of getting approval from a real youth organization, most
producers and directors would rather take the easy way out.
We also need to remember something about BSA advertising: it doesn't
just have to attract the kids. It also needs to sway the parents, hence
the "Character Counts" campaign. Character is something every parent
wants their children to have. Kids really don't know why it's important,
or even why they need it, but parents do. So the Character Counts
campaign is meant to be directed more toward parents than their
children. For the kids, the BSA's recent series of PSAs have been pretty
impressive and feature some of those "cool" kids who are all grown up
Anthony J. Mako, email@example.com ,Scoutmaster, Troop 381
http://members.aol.com/Scouts381/ "Home of the Unofficial Boy Scout
Great Trail Council - Akron, Ohio
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"