The publicity is all around!
The advertising field has become a leader in marketing products with the advent of sophisticated mass media and technology. Nowadays, through every form of communication medium, including TV, internet, video games, radio, cell phone, movies, Mp3 players, and DVDs, advertising is channeled to people. The groups which are largely affected by an advertisement are the children in the age range of 12 and under. With their skillful use of flashy graphics, animated videos, and catchy phrases, advertisements target children. Children are constantly exposed to watching television, reading newspapers, and listening to radio, fall prey to such captivating ads. In addition, the communication process has become more influential than ever, with the launch of Facebook and Twitter. A new social type in society has been created by the advertising media’s influence on children.
Kids in the young age group are the largest television audience anywhere in the world. “Children are a captive audience: An estimated 25,000 to 40,000 TV commercials per year are watched by the average American child. In the UK, it is about 10,000”. In order to attract the attention of young people, advertisers employ children who are popular in their advertisements. The objective of advertisers is to develop loyalty to the children’s brand as they can convince parents to buy their products. Throughout their lives, brand loyalty, once created with a child, will remain. According to (O’Reilly, pg.248), “Corporations spend about $17 billion each year on children’s advertising”. The primary reason why advertisers target children is because of their father and mother’s influence.
The Current Phenomenon of Advertising
The idea of advertising emerged as a process to influence a person’s behavior and attitudes in favor of a company’s products. Nowadays, in every location we come into contact with, we can find ads. Newspapers, television channels, the internet, and radio are the main channels of advertising. Advertising’s primary goal is to create desire and interest in targeted individuals. Today, the advertising that appears on the internet and television is much shorter but seeks much more attention.
As per (Janoschka,pg.12),
“ In response to new communication conditions, diversified markets and customers, advertising today must employ a variety of strategies.”
The market today is customer-oriented, and advertising is the only way that products enter the market. It is now a normal practice to employ various advertising gimmicks to expand the customer market and beat the competition.
The media is currently overloaded with information, and product knowledge is suffocated by individuals. The overload of data means that there is an excess of data to be interpreted and processed. The information that the advertising media releases is so wide-ranging and comprehensive that it is difficult for individuals to retrieve it. Moreover, the emergence of the internet has made advertising so widespread that it is hard to ignore or prevent it. The variety of products launched and marketed is enormous due to increased market segmentation. The advertising tools used to market products are also diversified, and newspapers, then radio, television, and the internet are the primary source of advertising.
The Primary Target of Advertising
The advertising media is currently not focused on adults but on children aged 12 and under. Advertisers have discovered a huge potential for children and have formulated many of the advertising strategies that keep them in mind. A few decades ago, this rise in children-oriented marketing evolved and has now become a massive industry. The main reason behind it is that the children molded as a prospective customer would later be continually loyal to the product. It is easy for an advertiser to establish child brand loyalty as they are innocent and unable to analyze a product’s vice and virtue. According to (AAP, 2006, pg .2563-69), “Research has shown that young children—younger than 8 years—are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising. Children do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value”.
At the tender age, children absorb the information of advertisement in its crude form and get persuaded by it.
In his article (Markman,2010,) claims that
“The reason that we accept all this advertising is that we assume that we can tune most of it out. If we don’t pay attention to the ads, then they won’t have that much of an effect on our behavior”.
More the advertisement is broadcasted through different mediums higher is its effect on children. Moreover, the influence of advertising on children is large, and consequently, they effortlessly persuade their parents to buy the advertised products.
The Marketing Techniques of Advertisers
The advertising media utilizes many ideas and concepts to catch the attention of young children. One of the popular techniques is incorporating the theme of fantasy in advertisements.
In his article (Hwang,2009) mentions that
“The first technique is the use of cartoon characters. The term ‘cartoon characters’ means interesting characters children have known. Well-known characters, such as heroes of animation movies, comics, and novels, are often used to attract children’s attention”.
They merge fantasy with cartoons and comic characters in the advertisement to move the mind of children. Only an exceptionally visually effective advertisement can successfully capture young minds. For e.g., comic characters like superman and batman are portrayed in the advertisement of noodles and candies to make it more appealing.
Most of these techniques employed are misleading and distort the thinking capability of children. The children cannot judge the actual performance, size, or action of a product due to the effect of an exaggeration, fantasy, and animation. It is often practiced in the advertisement to enlarge the products larger than life to intimidate the children. The use of special effects, metaphors, celebrities, and specific appeals has become a common practice in advertising media to entice young children. The buying power of young children is powerful, and this is why advertisers solely target them as potential buyers. Children, unlike elders, does not think twice or evaluate the product benefits before buying them. Especially when it comes to toys, the size is mostly enlarged to motivate the children to buy it.
(pg.48) “Toy advertising, in particular, is open to criticism that the reality of the product might not live up to its advertised image.” The children at a younger age do not have the cognitive ability to analyze the difference between theatrical special effects and reality. This lack of ability in children is utilized maximum by the advertisers. Such exaggeration, when fuelled with animation and fantasy, ignites the desire of children. These misleading tactics, like puffery and imagination, are employed in the advertisement to get the utmost benefit out of children. As children once get attracted, persuade their parents immediately to buy a particular product. Parents believe that children are too vulnerable to such advertisements, which ultimately makes them addicted to many products.
According to (Oswald,pg.119)“ At each point of contact between the brand and the child’s fantasy, the advertisement builds consumer identification with the brand world.” This kind of magic and exaggeration is mostly used in case of food products, especially in fast food. It is usual to see a fast-food chain to promote their food products to children with an offer of a toy or a doll. In an attempt to obtain the toys the children persist on buying that fast food, which in reality is a wastage of money and damage to health. Many times, parents feel helpless in front of children who are excessively obsessed with these mind-boggling advertisements. The adamant nature of children mostly persuades the parents to buy products which otherwise are less beneficial.
The Consequences of Advertising on Young children
The advertising media acknowledge the growing stages of children and construct advertisements to suit the cognitive ability of each group. The advertisers involve promotion activities to encourage every age group. The worst consequences of advertisement are that the children get addicted to products which are harmful to them. This is fairly applicable in case of food products, tobacco, and alcohol.
In his book (Socha,2009,pg.221) writes that
“The Academy of Pediatrics identifies that tobacco, alcohol, and food advertising have the greatest negative impact on young audiences.”
Such an immediate effect of advertisement on the children can motivate them to consume alcohol or get addicted to smoking at an early age. Many children who are early smokers and alcoholics nurtured these ideas from media.
The advertising can transform a child into more materialistic, rebellious, obsessive, and socially conflicting. These advertisements also make children be less controllable by parents. The children can gradually get addicted to many harmful products and become compulsive consumers. The parents do consider media advertisement as a potential threat to children, but they hardly try to live without it. The media has become an integral part of our lives and this is the same reach more for the success of an advertisement. Many times, parents, along with children, are victims of imaginative advertisement techniques. The advertisers study the impulsive behavior of children and manipulate it with animated advertisements.
How to Fight Advertisement’s Influence on Children
The media and advertisement is everywhere, and our life is practically media-saturated. The first and primary source of information to children are media, and thus the influence it has on them is significant. However, parents play a significant role in shaping the behavioral pattern of a child. Parents can act as a strong buffer between the advertising message and children. It is essential for parents to realize that their children can influence them most often. The children who are encouraged by advertisements buy products solely with the assistance of parents. Many parents feel reluctant to object to the whims and fancies of their children. Children do not evaluate the cost of a product, and parents are resulted to spend highly on many products advertised.
According to (Media Awareness Network), “Parents of young children play an important role in protecting their children from invasive marketing and educating them from an early age about advertising.” The media inputs certain social values into children like consumerism. This is further accelerated with the assistance from parents who help children in buying the products. The exposure to different products persuades children to buy things which parents find objectionable. If the child is taught at a very early age about the exaggeration and special effect of an advertisement, then a lot could be done to distract the child from obnoxious advertisements.
The advertisements are not completely destroyed as they provide people with information on new products and services. But when it is combined with misleading tactics and imaginary elements to sell a harmful product, then it takes a backseat. Often advertisers promote products like automobiles to children to persuade them to buy it. Such unnecessary practices make advertisements damaging and provocative. Advertisers should make sure that they do not convert the social value and beliefs of a society. Every product should be productive and aim at well being of people, as per (Story,2004,pg.1-3)“It is estimated that over $1 billion is spent on media advertising to children, mostly on television. In addition, over $4.5 billion is spent on youth-targeted promotions such as premiums, sampling, coupons, contests, and sweepstakes”. If the advertisers channelize this money into a productive marketing, then society could be saved from manipulation.
The marketers take advantage of the innocence of children in an unfair manner. The problem lies in advertisers marketing the toys and food products, which are high in fat and sugar. The media is a communication method, and they have an ethic of selling a product that is usable and healthy to public. It is mandatory for marketers to evaluate their marketing strategies considering the potential effect it has on the public. Instead of investing an exorbitant amount of money on wasteful advertisement, the marketers should promote ideas and concept which are informative to the young generation. Advertising is a powerful tool of communication and, if used in a productive manner, could change the world for good.
- AAP.Children, Adolescents, and Advertising. (2006, December 1). Pediatrics, 118(6), 2563-69..
- Gunter, B. (2005). Advertising to children on TV: content, impact, and regulation (p. 48). New Jersey: Routledge.
- Hwang, J. Y. (2009). The Advertising Techniques Used to Target Children. In JY Films. Retrieved December 11, 2011, from http://jyhwang.blogspot.com/2007/01/advertising-techniques-used-to-target.html
- Janoschka, A. (2004). Web advertising: new forms of communication on the Internet (p. 12). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
- Markman, A. (2010, August 31). What does advertising do?. In Psychology Today. Retrieved December 11, 2011, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201008/what-does-advertising-do
- Media Awareness Network .Special Issues for Young Children (2010). In Media Awareness Network. Retrieved December 11, 2011, from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/issues_kids_marketing.cfm
- Oswald, L. R. (2012). Marketing Semiotics: Signs, Strategies, and Brand Value (p. 119). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Shah, A. (2010, November 21). Children as Consumers. In Global Issues. Retrieved December 11, 2011, from http://www.globalissues.org/article/237/children-as-consumers.
- Story, M. (2004, February 10). Food Advertising and Marketing Directed at Children and Adolescents in the US. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1(3), 1-3.
- Socha, T. J. (2009). Parents and children communicating with society: managing relationships outside of home (p. 221). New York: Routledge.