Lift Off: 'Bonza is tops, Bonza is ace!'
Poss (Erin Pratten) is astonished when the spruikers from the ‘Bonza’ cereal TV advertisement come right out of the TV set and into the living room. They persuade Poss and her friend Kim (Maria Nguyen) that buying ‘Bonza’ breakfast cereal will make all their dreams come true. Poss decides to eat Bonza cereal so she can win her dream pony Misty. Summary by Annemaree O'Brien.
This delightful scene is a good illustration of Lift Off's high production values and the entertaining way that educational messages for kids are built into the stories. The TV spruikers leaping out into the lounge room is fun but also mirrors how TV advertising actually pervades our homes. It also shows how ads are designed to appeal to people’s dreams and aspirations. The Bonza story raises many interesting questions including what might happen next, and how this story fits with the theme of fairness.
Lift Off synopsis
This is part B of the episode That’s Not Fair, and has the usual Lift Off mix of live action, animation, puppetry, music, documentary and fantasy. The main storyline is about the Lift Off kids, interspersed with the other elements.
Poss (Erin Pratten) wants to win a pony by eating enough ‘Bonza’ cereal to win the competition. She fights with her friend Kim (Maria Nguyen) over eating the awful ‘Bonza’ and eventually realises her hopes are unrealistic. Poss finds a solution that all the family enjoys together.
Lift Off curator's notes
Different elements explore this episode’s theme in some interesting ways. The three clips have been selected as examples of the richness, the depth of ideas, and the creativity underpinning the Lift Off series. While each segment works in its own right, together they provide different perspectives on the theme of 'it’s not fair’.
The program’s aim was not to be didactic, or even always logical. Its goal was to challenge, intrigue and encourage children to think for themselves and to make connections. Lift Off's multi-faceted nature was also designed to ensure appeal to audiences of mixed ages. In this episode, the story of Poss wanting a horse leads to Lotis’s wild view of ‘riding’, and then to Rocky’s totally bizarre anthropological observations about unfairness from a lizard’s perspective, a good example of the overall scope and depth of the program.
That’s Not Fair – Part B first aired on the ABC at 4.30 pm on Wednesday 8 July 1992. It was repeated at 6.00 pm on Saturday 7 November 1992.
Notes by Annemaree O'Brien
This clip shows Poss (Erin Pratten) watching a gymkhana on television with her friend Kim (Maria Nguyen) and daydreaming about owning a pony of her own, when two spruikers from an advertisement for Bonza breakfast cereal literally come out of the television into the living room and speak directly to the girls. They promise Poss that if she collects 100 Bonza box tops she can win a pony. After the two men disappear, Poss resolves to win the pony. When Kim observes that every kid will be doing the same Poss replies ‘But I’m going to win!’.
Educational value points
- The impact of advertising on children explored in this clip is of increasing concern to the community. Links have been made between the amount of time children spend watching television, the growing number of ‘junk food’ advertisements directed at them and the rising incidence of childhood obesity. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, children spend 22 hours watching television or videos over a fortnight. Advertisers target children because they can influence parents to buy certain products.
- Like Poss in this clip, most children under 8 years of age cannot distinguish between the claims of advertisers and reality and do not understand that advertisements are designed to sell products. Dr Patricia Edgar, founding director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, says ‘children’s lack of experience and cognitive ability makes them more susceptible to influence … because children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent’ (www.youngmedia.org.au).
- The inability of many children to distinguish between advertising and reality is highlighted in this clip both when Poss assumes that the spruikers are speaking directly to her rather than to millions of viewers, and by making the advertisement literally come alive when the spruikers step out of the fantasy world of the television set and into the real world of the living room. Her conviction that she will win a pony is also indicative of many children’s inability to evaluate claims made by advertisements.
- The clip parodies advertising techniques to draw attention to how advertisements manipulate consumers. The advertisement’s promise that Bonza will make dreams come true and the inference that people who eat this cereal are special is clearly ludicrous, but the exaggeration shows how advertisements sell products by making inflated claims, exploiting people’s desires and implying that the product will make their lives more fulfilling.
- Like the advertisement for the fictitious Bonza cereal shown in this clip, children’s advertisements are often bright and colourful and make use of repetition, catchy jingles and humour that appeal to children. By making the advertisement fun and entertaining, advertisers hope that children will associate these elements with their product and want to buy it.
- The episode of Lift-Off from which this clip is taken examines the broader issue of fairness, and this sequence raises questions such as whether it is fair or ethical for advertisers to exploit children’s vulnerabilities, for example by raising Poss’s hopes when, as Kim realises, her chances of winning a pony are very slim. Similarly, the clip raises the question of whether is it right to persuade people that consuming a certain product will make their lives fulfilling when there is no guarantee that this will happen.
- A study released by the New South Wales Cancer Council in 2006 found that food advertisements on television mainly target children, and 81 per cent of these advertisements are for foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt and are of low nutritional value. Concerns about a link between childhood obesity and television food advertisements led the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children to call for a ban on food advertisements during children’s programs.
- The spruikers in this clip grab the attention of the audience by haranguing them, barking at them not to touch the dial and using words like ‘big’ and ‘massive’ to describe the product. They also cajole Poss and Kim by performing a soft-shoe shuffle, a musical comedy or vaudeville dance that developed in about 1900 from tap dancing but which involves wearing soft rather than tap shoes. The men’s costume of straw boater, silver cane and white suit is similar to that worn by vaudeville song and dance men in the 1900s.
- This clip comes from Lift Off, a multi-award winning children’s drama produced by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, which centred on a community of children and their families, and included characters such as the faceless doll that inspires fantasy and makes dreams come true. Using Professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, based on the idea that people communicate, learn and solve problems in different ways, the program engaged children on different levels.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia