The ads for back to school during a pandemic are really weird.

0
294


Photo illustration by Slate. Photos from Getty Images Plus.

No one knows what the school year will look like, but it will be a mess. This will involve a place in space and time where students will attempt to absorb information and social skills through a screen or private teacher or tutor by soliciting expressions of warmth and enthusiasm behind a face covering and possibly a piece of plexiglass. Regardless of the exact setup, anyone who is a kid or has kids or cares is sure to spend at least part of the impending fall worrying about how many will die as a result. politically motivated attempts to have a normal school. Wow, we’re sure to hell in here.

That hasn’t stopped big retailers from running their annual back-to-school campaigns more or less as usual. While many avoid language suggesting that school is a place children physically go back at, a sample taken from websites on Tuesday, July 21 indicates that … well, let’s just say big box stores are having tough times too. Here we assess their attempts.

Target

A Target ad showing school supplies and smiling kids with backpacks
Target

Wherever these kids are carrying backpacks, we can tell they are excited because we can see the inside of their mouths – a rare sight in these masked times. What’s also a bit shocking is that there aren’t any parents losing their minds on this picture? Regardless, Target also has another image for you to consider in its specific section on school supplies:

An ad showing school supplies and a child sitting at a painting table
Target

This child looks like she is having a really good time and, again, is not in the presence of an exhausted parent or PPE teacher in Heaven. The ad says the words Distance learning.

Class: It seems they lightly edited a copy of the Before Times. I give this one a fail.

Walmart

An ad showing a child perched on the arm of a couch with a laptop computer and the words
Walmart

We have a little more emotional accuracy here. While there is a backpack, it is not attached to the child, which if you keep your expectations nice and low is an acknowledgment of the situation. The child is clearly seated at home, so points for that too. Her seat on the side of the sofa, the soles of her shoes digging into the cushions, is a further allusion to the reality: things are precarious.

Class: Lukewarm pass.

Office Depot

An ad showing one child holding a computer and another holding a sign.  To the left of them are the words “Low prices throughout the back-to-school season”.
Office Depot

Of course, this ad says “back to school”, but with a child holding a computer with a Zoom classroom and another child holding the word school scribbled on a blood red note card… Office Depot understands what is going on here pretty well.

Class: Pass.

Pottery Barn Kids

Four children are seen close together with backpacks.  Text on the right reads
Pottery Barn Kids

How is this one entirely devoted to backpacks? Why are there four kids being fucked within 6 feet of each other? How come monstrosities with roller handles can survive the pandemic?

Class: NON.

The place of children

A stack of polo shirts is seen alongside text advertising polo shirts.
The place of children

The migraine-inducing color scheme, refusal to use items like for and at, enthusiasm for, at a time of historical blunder, POLOS! … The Children’s Place just doesn’t care how it feels right now.

Class: Pass, to stick to your own beliefs (sell things).

Kohl’s

Children holding hands next to
Kohl’s

Go back, log in, one or the other, depending on the day of the week, if you have a little cough, if someone in the community has recently passed away, so much the better.

Class: The playful paper plane just sets a weird tone here, I think. Fail.

Amazone

A man at a table seen in an advertisement designed to resemble a video chat.
Amazone

Amazon does one of its bizarre live streams to advertise school items (which, confusingly, include Alexas). Here’s an example: “We don’t know exactly how school and where school will be for everyone as the school year approaches, but what we do know is that learning will be important. . … We’re going to put you in touch with all the right information you need in terms of what you need to create your virtual classroom, your home classroom.

Class: I really hoped that the tech and cultural giant that was invading our lives would have some genuine information to provide on how to navigate this mess, instead of “buying our spy products”. I now realize that my expectations were too high. The failure here is mine.

Staples

A pencil and glue stick seen around the text “Savings All Season”.
Staples

This is clear and discreet and refers to the “coming school year”. Yes, it is a school year; it’s in the future; It happens. That’s right. “Everything to learn anywhere.” We are not talking about why we will learn from “anywhere”. Learning from anywhere – it’s in front of us.

Class: Everything is fine!!!!

Walgreens

A student and a teacher wearing masks seen next to the text
Walgreens

Finally: masks. However, I mean, is this an advertisement for school supplies or the corporate goodness of Walgreens? Is the teacher a little too close to this child? What is the number of cases and the status of intensive care beds in their area? It doesn’t matter, whatever. This ad achieves a rare feat by visually acknowledging that the new school year is going to take place in a pandemic.

Class: This is the only good ad.



LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here