I will be pursuing my studies in Marketing. Advertising is a necessary part of a business’s income stream as it markets a product or service, and children are a part of that market. However, advertisements can hinder the ideals, development, social life, and negatively alter the future of a child.
The future of our world rests in the hand of our youth; children albeit young will one day take the place of their elders and mold the world. That is why the childhood is such a precious time for the physical and mental development of the human being; it is during these years that a nubile mind will develop its ideals and morals. However, these precious minds are bombarded by approximately 3 000 ads per day impairing their judgement and hindering their understanding of the real world (Committee on Communications).
WHY ADVERTISE TO KIDS?
Companies use various forms of media (posters, social media, TV commercials and advertising billboards, etc…) to target their audience and spend nearly $12 billion advertising to kids (APA). Kids make up nearly 20% of this demographic, ranking second behind teenagers for most targeted audience for advertisements (Jacobsen). Kids or children is a broad term for which a wide spectrum of ages is accounted for, however in marketing terms “kids” refers to an individual from the age of 0-12 years old (Poulton). Before the mid-1930s and 1940s children were not seen as a profitable market for two reasons. Firstly, it was hard to reach them as most young kids couldn’t read and TVs weren’t widespread. Secondly, kids were a liability as they posed safety concerns, which made it harder to target parents. However, this all changed with the release of comic books; kids didn’t need to be able to read in order to be targeted by advertisers and now they could be targeted directly without going through their parents first. Soon companies had a new source of income and a new reason to focus on kids. New companies started forming with their sole market aimed at kids. Nowadays, companies have several different options to aim their products/service at kids: internet, TV, social media and apps… As a result, Canadian kids spend $4 billion of their own money and influence $25 billion of their family’s spending (Poulton). But why are kids such an influence? And why are they so crucial to companies?
For several reasons the economic benefits do not outweigh the social damages done to kids. These reasons are: it creates a consumerist society, devalues the importance of a childhood, and it brings about unhealthy habits.
Pester Power: the ability possessed by a child to nag a parent relentlessly until the parent succumbs and agrees to the child\’s request (Collins English Dictionary). Kids use “Pester Power” to influence their family’s spending, for example the kids will choose 95% of the time where the family eats, and 98% of the time they will choose the family activity (Poulton). Companies target this “Pester Power” as they know it is easier to target a young moldable mind than to have to go through the parent to sell a product to the child.
This economic persuasion leads to children having feelings of entitlement and narcissism. As Nancy Shalek once said: “Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that.” This leads to kids identifying themselves with what they see in the media: consumers
GROWING UP TOO FAST
Children learn to value their happiness based on what they have and this leads to temporary instant gratification. This causes children to devalue themselves and lower their confidence, which leads them to change who they are. Toys like Mattel’s Barbie entice little girls to want to change who they are from a very young age as they strive for unrealistic body expectations. This causes objectifies women and little girls, leading to issues like body dissatisfaction and possible nutrition disorders. This image struggle is only worsened when companies use celebrity endorsements (usually famous and attractive) to promote products to kids.
This also raises an issue as kids lose their innocence and want to grow up too fast and miss out on their precious childhood. This problem is becoming more prominent today as the internet is widely available to kids. Kids spend approximately 45 hours per week (APA) on the web and can now wander without limits and see and learn things which they aren’t ready to see. This cause a fragile young mind to become desensitized to the world around them and to have a superficial and unrealistic expectations from the world. This causes parents to not have much control over what their kids see as all is up for grabs on the web.
Kids are picky eaters and usually tend to only enjoy the unhealthy food like fast-food or sugar filled cavity creators. Companies like McDonald’s know this and use it to their advantage to get kids hooked on their high caloric food from a young age. They use toys in their Happy Meals to entice kids no matter how picky to come eat at the golden arches. Other unhealthy food companies (especially cereal companies) do the same with promised rewards inside each box. For example, Kellogg’s and General Mills promise toys or other gadgets with a purchase of their cereals. As mentioned before, kids influence 98% of their families eating habits, and if the kid is going to be lured into eating unhealthy it will also lead his family to eat unhealthy as well.
It is wrong for companies like McDonald’s or Kellogg’s to lure their young clientele into unhealthy habits with the use of gimmicks. This is above all the biggest reason against child advertisement as it does not only cause mental damage, but it will eventually cause physical damage to the child. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems for someone at the start of their lives which they will have to carry with them throughout the rest of their years. According to the American Psychological Association obesity rates have tripled in the last 25 years, due to increased ad exposure (APA). As well, companies like McDonald’s will build a brand loyalty with the child through satisfying products, which the kid will be penchant for his whole life.
It is obvious that companies, (especially those which sell products for kids) need to get their advertisements to their target audience, whether it be Kellogg’s or Mattel. However, under the age of 6 the plasticity of a child’s brain is the highest and in those years a child will develop his understanding for the world (Mundkur). In this stage of vulnerability, it is necessary that children are protected from seeing what they shouldn’t, and are only shown what won’t harm them. A common ground must be met to meet the needs of the economy and that of concerned parents, where both parties can benefit.
In conclusion, it is well known that kids play in important part in their families and in the economy; however, they can be negatively affected by the latter. Although with the help of non-profit organizations like Concerned Children’s Advertisers we can hope that there is a safe way to raise profits and children.
APA. “The Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association.
Committee on Communications. “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising.” Pediatrics, vol. 118, no. 6, Jan. 2006, pp. 2563–2569.
Jacobsen, Tara. \"Customer Demographics – Age Ranges, Generational Names and Numbers.\" Marketing Artfully. N.p., 10 Oct. 2014.
Mundkur, Nandini. “Neuroplasticity.” Symposium on Developmental and Behavioral Disorders – I, vol. 72, Oct. 2005, pp. 855–857.
Poulton, Terry. “ ‘Kidfulence’ on family spending strong: YTV Report.” Media in Canada. February 22, 2008.