New advertising trends: the grown-up baby

A controversial new trend is changing the traditional role of babies in advertising. Maddie Russell of Models Direct highlights five examples.

Baby models have a long history of appearing in print, online and film advertising campaigns - and that seems set to continue. After all, nothing's more likely to tug on people's emotions than an adorable infant.

But in 2014 it seems for some advertising agencies, cute has been done and giggling infants are so last century. Enter the new baby advert where children are grown-ups and grown-ups become children.

But is this new use of baby models harmless entertainment, clever subversion of social norms, or a little bit creepy? And does it matter as long as the ads are memorable?

01. Evian

If anyone ever asks you to explain what viral marketing is, point them to Evian's 2009 roller babies advert. Using some clever CG to turn baby models into a hip crowd of stunt roller-skaters, it currently holds a world record for the most viewed online advertisement to date.

Doing something a bit different always has impact, and this video was a huge sensation online. Since then, Evian have released more adverts of a similar ilk - but nothing is ever likely to quite match the original for creating internet buzz.

02. Velvet

What's the best way to sell toilet paper to the masses? For Andrex, it used to be to show a cute baby rolling around playfully in it (variously involving a dog and, er, an elephant in its antics). But for Velvet in 2014, the child has become The Man.

This infant boss is certainly cute, and his cheery slogan - "Soft, soft, soft!" is catchy and memorable. And more importantly, he's a more believable salesman for the company's environmental credentials than a real-life MD could ever be.

03. Haribo

This ad for German confectionery brand Haribo may not actually use baby models, but it's definitely part of the trend. We see seven professional-looking adults convene in a boardroom. St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen through the window, and they’re wearing sharp suits, so they obviously mean business. Or so you might believe for before the chairwoman speaks.

Unexpectedly, we then hear the voices of infants, discussing the benefits of Haribo Starmix, spring forth from the adults' mouths. The timing is spot on, and the actors have the children’s mannerisms down to a T. But does it cross the creepy line?

04. Okuma

'Born to Fish' is the slogan for this print advertising campaign for New Zealand fishing tackle specialists Okuma, and it's perfectly echoed by the imagery. The three baby models have been cleverly digitally manipulated to appeared as tiny versions of hardened sea fishermen. Whether or not you find this series fun or offputting, it's certainly a campaign that conveys a clear and simple message effectively.

05. Kia

Where do babies come from? It's a question that will resonate with every parent, and this ad for Kia cleverly updates the stork myth by imagining a world inhabited entirely by grownup babies who build and pilot rockets to Earth.

The concept is so bizarre it manages to stay the right side of the creepy line - but we'd question whether anyone would ever remember what it was actually meant to be advertising. The visual signifiers don’t give enough hints that this is meant to be about a car, and not just a slightly bizarre biology lesson.

Share your views

These are just five examples of the trend - notable mentions also go to Fiat’s ‘The Fatherhood’ and ‘The Motherhood’ ads, which feature - but don’t star - baby modelling stars. It may continue to grow but is it a refreshing sign of the advertising industry moving beyond clichés and finding an inspired new sense of humour, or a cheap and desperate way to get attention? We'd love to hear your views in the comments!

Words: Maddie Russell

Maddie works for leading modelling agency, Models Direct. She blogs regularly about the latest trends as well as trade secrets and insider tips for those wishing to break into the modelling industry or simply find a new hobby. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.