Welcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Erica Fyvie. Take it away, Erica!
How did you get your initial idea for the book?
After I finished writing my first book, Trash Revolution, I found myself continuing to research the broken cycle of production-consumption-waste. It made me think about some of the reasons we become consumers, and why we support the companies we do. How did that brand get its hooks into me? If we look at our receipts, it can provide a pretty accurate picture of what’s important to us. Spending is personal, which makes the goals of advertising feel personal, too.
Who is Mad for Ads’ audience?
The age range is 10-12, and I had my 12-year-old self in mind while writing. That girl had a wall in her bedroom covered in ads—I would stare at it and imagine my future life. One particular aspect of advertising I write about is the power of repetition, and I wonder how many times I saw the same images and understood what a “successful” life would look like. I definitely got the memo about external cues for success, just as everyone else has. I hope that teachers enjoy the book and perhaps use it as part of media literacy discussions.
What is your advertising background?
I don’t work in advertising, but I think an outsider’s perspective can be helpful for shedding light on a topic. If you’re really interested in something and can offer a new approach, it might just work out! I did so much research into where Mad for Ads could fit among the existing books for kids. There are quite a few good books out there, but I wanted to try a different approach — I created fictional products and marketing campaigns in order to explain and tell the story.
Advertising is generally considered both pervasive and negative in society. How do you address that?
I wanted a look at advertising that didn’t deem it something just to fear or revile, but rather something that conveyed my genuine interest in how all of this works. Ads use fear (and virtually every other emotion) as such a powerful motivator—“buy this and you’ll prevent a future problem!”—that I didn’t want to fall into the same trap by just saying that the industry overall was something to fear. I’m more interested in how ads use fear-based techniques to tap into human behaviour.
How are personal brands connected to the industry of advertising?
It wasn’t until I began writing that I saw the link between powerful brands and the tools we use to develop our own personal brand. We inherently understand the way ad campaigns work because we launch new versions of ourselves over and over again. Now when I look at social media posts, I see the same tools I wrote about: associations, focal points, testimonials, claims, you name it. I hope the reader comes away hopeful, that we can use the same tools to expand our idea of representation, and that, if we’re lucky, we can expand our idea of what our own brand can look like, too.