Targeting Children:  Facing the Marketing Juggernaut

As noted in a previous post, children are – for the most part – watching television alone.  On any given day they see 100 commercials for food, clothing, and toys and games.   Advertisers spend between $12 and $17 billion on ads aimed at children.

One example of the powerful effect of advertising on children is reflected in childhood obesity rates. According to the American Psychological Association, there is a strong association between advertising food to children and the rates of childhood obesity. Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between programming and advertising and children under age 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising.  The APA states “advertising directed at children this young is by its very nature exploitative.”

The APA also notes that children can easily recall commercials.  Brand preference can occur after seeing just one commercial and grow stronger after repeated viewing. ( http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx)

(For those interested, there’s a link entitled Tips for Parents at:  http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx)

The controversy over advertising aimed at children has been taking place for some time.  And according to an April 2000 article on mediachannel.org.   Psychologists were expressing concerns about targeted marketing to toddlers.  A clinical child psychologist, Dr. Allen Kanner works with children from different socio-economic backgrounds. But regardless of where they come from, Kanner says, the children he sees share one thing in common: a growing, even insatiable, desire for material goods.

Kanner’s concern was not just growing consumerism, but also advertisers making their pitches to younger and younger audiences, many of them still in diapers.  Ads are targeted to children as young as 2 years old. According to Kanner, ads targeted at toddlers do work. “Recent studies have also shown that by the time they are 36 months old, American children recognize an average of 100 brand logos,” he said. (http://www.mediachannel.org/originals/kidsell.shtml)

Children are now a formidable group of consumers.  They possess what marketing experts call the Nag Factor, meaning that children often influence purchases made by their parents.  The Nag Factor isn’t a naturally occurring part of childhood.  It is carefully cultivated.  

Consumerism is an accepted part of life in the United States. Yet there are ways to aid parents in helping their children and themselves move through the advertising juggernaut they face. Some practical tips can be found on these links:

http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/factsheets/overview.pdf

http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/dealing_marketing.cfm

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