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Advertising in relation to children

Advertising in Relation to children’s television.

In order to answer the question I will first address:

What is Advertising?

Radio and Television?

Advertising codes and standards

How effective is persuasive advertising?

I will then address the question of children and advertising under these headings.

Does advertising have an effect on children?

Children and food.

Can the effect of advertising make children buy specific products?

We read advertisements . . . to discover and enlarge our desires. We are always ready-even eager-to discover, from the announcement of a new product, what we have all along wanted without really knowing it.

Daniel J. Boorstin (b. 1914), U.S. historian. The Image, ch. 5 (1961).

What is advertising?

Advertising is a collective term for public announcements designed to promote the sale of specific commodities or services. Advertising is a form of mass selling, employed when the use of direct, person-to-person selling is impractical, impossible, or simply inefficient. ‘It is to be distinguished from other activities intended to persuade the public, such as propaganda, publicity, and public relations. Advertising techniques range in complexity from the publishing of simple, straightforward notices in the classified-advertising columns of newspapers to the concerted use of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, direct mail, and other communications media in the course of a single advertising campaign.’

Advertising has been a part of our society for many years and its impact has been a widely debated topic. Advertising in its various forms has negative and positive social and economic impacts upon society. For example advertising promoting public welfare has a positive social impact upon the public whereas advertising portraying women as sexual objects would have negative social impacts. There are a number of proven ways to encourage consumers that the product that is being advertised is just what they need, and instead of concentrating on the product they concentrate instead on the benefits that the consumer will gain. This may include the hope of more money and better jobs, to be popular, have praise from others, to be more comfortable, and have better health. So, what does the advertisers expect from consumers? And why do they work? There are two reasons why their tactics work, one is that they ether imply that their product will bring about the achievement of good or they!

make their product the object of desire thus making it an apparent good to the consumer

One way for example is in the advertisements for cars, as well as mentioning the attributes of the car they also mention the prestige and social advancement that it could bring the buyer. This social advancement is often of a sexual nature, or involves the attraction of the opposite sex it may also mention the glamorous people that their car could attract. So does it mean then, to be popular and sexually attractive you must buy the new car? Advertising can be blamed for a great number of social impacts. One of these is that advertisers force people to buy things that they don’t really want or need, often by projecting negative emotions such as fear, anxiety or guilt upon the consumer. It seems that advertising plays with our basic human emotions and takes advantage of them, using them as another technique to sell goods. Advertising, from bus-stop benches to television commercials, constantly surrounds us. Two of the best effective mediums advertisers use that affects virtually everyone is; the radio and television. As most people listen to the radio or watch television at least sometime in the day the public are able to remember some of the products by their jingles and slogans.

The Radio.

The radio is an ideal medium for small business to use; they can target a selected audience who will probably listen to the advertisement more than once. Many people commuting to work listen to the radio in the car, at the office, and while commuting home. Radios greatest advantage is its mobility. As radio is auditory it uses only one sense or does it? Although radio is auditory it also uses the subliminal senses to imagine what the product is like therefore the audience wants it without seeing it. Radio advertising is bought in "spots" and the prime time spots are the most expensive and sought after.


Television is the strongest medium to advertise in and the most expensive. It is also broken down into "spots" these are broken down into morning, lunch, early prime and primetime. The slots between early and early prime are geared towards the housewife and children. Primetime is the most expensive time to advertise when all the family will be watching and the key to any successful advertising is knowing your audience and by doing this the company will be able to promote their products. All medias are subject to Codes and Practices in which to protect the publics’ interest.

Advertising codes and standards.

Within a democratic society advertising has positive and negative effects, and the dilemma has to be at what point does restrictions on advertising withhold the consumers democratic rights and freedom of choice. There are standards and codes that advertisers should adhere to and be based on the founding principle that adverts should be ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’; these codes are enforced by the ITC, ASA and the IBA. Each of these has a specific section to advise in the adverts for children and each body deals with different media and the codes reflect this. The 9pm, watershed is one example and certain advertisements are restricted to certain times of transmission and have to adhere to the guidelines set out by the broadcasting media. The ITC and the RA utilize these restrictions. Although there are over 30 million ads published each year it would be impossible to check each and every one as it appears. The Advertising Standards Authority is in effect the advertisers watchdog with an important role to play for the public, it provides the means by which complaints regarding misleading adverts can be investigated and corrected if necessary.

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) is the regulator for British advertising on TV except for the BBC who does not advertise. ITC has its own codes of advertising standards and practice. Adverts aimed at children have strict rules that must be adhered to; also the use of child actors and models in adverts must follow guidelines to stop abuses. Medical advisors are consulted when advertising, medicines, hair-care products and slimming aids. Some subjects need greater scrutiny coming under the title "special" category advertisements; Alcohol, cigars charities and medicines come under this category. These codes are enabled to protect society against misleading adverts.

Although we have these watchdog bodies’ adverts can still manipulate and use persuasive methods in order for people to buy what the advertisers want them to.

How effective is persuasive advertising?

There are it seems, two fundamental techniques of persuasion. Firstly which is apparent in its earliest and basic applications of advertising, is repetition. The advertiser repeatedly appeals to the customer that their product is the best and that they need it, it can then be repeated on the radio, in newspapers, magazines, and the public could be confronted with a billboard or a poster in a bus stop. Another basic persuader is the trademark; some companies have spent millions in order to establish their trademarks, and are a symbol of their reliability and high standards. These can be of little value if the manufacturer does not maintain a standard of quality and reliability but they can be extremely useful when the manufacturer brings in new items into their range, for example, McDonalds have brought out a range of Indian burger style meals if you buy one you get one free. The inducement to buy this product works very well and the effect on the general public is ‘ I’ll buy that’. Numerous supermarkets also use this inducement to encourage people through their doors with the ‘buy one, get one free’ scenarios. These are very efficient and persuasive techniques of advertising.

The effect that these large corporations have on society is that they prey on the general publics need for the ‘getting something for nothing’ mentality, adults are intelligent enough to know when they are being manipulated by governing forces, and are quite capable of making up their own minds, but children are not.

Does advertising have an effect on children?

Advertising on the television does have quite a significant effect on children. TV is a primary source of socialization, and children begin to absorb the lessons of T.V before they can read or write. In this way, T.V is seen as helping to create what children expect of themselves and others, and what constitutes the standards of civilized society. Children watching the T.V for pleasure are also under the influence of unseen forces and the paradox of T.V advertisements is that it can influence human behavior . (pg81)

Children represent a large portion of the buying power in today’s consumer market. Many companies target young children and teenagers through many different medias such as magazines, radio and especially TV. The newest media to have an impact and ‘get’ to children is the Internet. There is no other media like it and there is no government or any other type of regulation to prevent potentially exploitative advertisements. How can we protect children from potentially harmful advertisements? Self-regulation of companies that advertise would be beneficial, and government’s regulation over children’s advertising online would also be favorable, but how can these be implemented? In short they can’t. The U.K has the highest level of advertising aimed at children in Europe and there are no restrictions off the amount of T.V ads to children, many other countries though do have restrictions.

v Sweden And Norway do not permit any television advertising to be directed towards children under 12 and no adverts at all are allowed during children’s programmes.

v Australia does not allow advertisements during programmes for pre-school children.

v Austria does not permit advertising during children’s programmes, and in the Flemish region of Belgium no advertising is permitted 5 minutes before or after programmes for children.

v Sponsorship of children’s programmers is not permitted in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden while Germany and the Netherlands, although it is allowed, it is not used in practice.

Children and Food

Most advertisements for children are for food and British children are exposed to the most food advertising in Europe, and the majority of these food adverts are promoting poor eating habits.

With advertisements for sweets, breakfast cereals and fast food establishments, children really don’t stand a chance. The largest advertiser for take-a ways is McDonalds. In a study report figures show that 9 and 10 year olds think that Ronald McDonald know what is best to eat.

"Advertising is often credited with promoting that bastion of consumer freedom-choice," the report states, "but the choice that food advertising presents children is largely between one sweet snack and another, the latest savory snack or sweetened breakfast cereal or fast food restaurant - hardly the kind of choices which encourage a healthy, balanced diet."

The survey also found that 50% of children’s adverts were for these eleven products.Kellogg’s Coca Pops. McDonalds. Birds Eye Potato Waffles. Sugar Puffs. Campbell’s Meat Balls. Milky Way Magic stars. Cadbury Wispa Gold. Maltesers. Mars Dark Bar. Kentucky Fried Chicken. McGain Southern Fries.

The 1996 figures from the Consumers International show a staggering 95% of advertisements were for food that encourages a fatty, salty, sugary diet. The survey found only a handful of advertisements for healthier foods, such as Kiwi fruit, frozen peas and low sugar cereals. The effect on these children’s teeth and health in general needs to be addressed and advertising advocating these foods also needs to be aware of the problems. Children have become a lucrative marketing niche with products targeted entirely at them. Food has been a battle ground for many parents and children, gone are the times when food tasted like food, today’s children occupy a cordoned off zone of spaghetti hoops and turkey dinosaurs, full of additives and preservatives in order to make them taste good. In this way children can appear to be independent of the adults choice using their own independence in what to choose. Children’s food is heavily advertised on the TV and has become a branch of entertainment. Cartoon characters saturate their daily meals, which are regularly used to market the food to the younger members of society. One leading supermarket has banned unhealthy foods and drinks targeted at children and said that "advertisements" blackmailed parents into buying products.

"Our customers are crying out for action to be taken against the mass advertising of these

products to children" Wendy Wrigley, Co-op.

Co-op was prompted to take this course of action after successive government health warnings about poor nutrition in our children’s diets. We can only hope that other large supermarkets do the same.

Can the effect of advertising make children buy specific products?

‘For the ad industry, "relevant to kids" is shorthand for fully exploiting the vulnerability of

young people...’

Advertising can effectively steer children into buying particular products and two areas are high on their agendas. Clothing and games are high priority areas that children desire; advertisements in this area are big business. The pressure on children from their peers to obtain these ideals is unacceptable, if the child wants to be accepted into a group they must conform to their standards, conformity in this way is dangerous. Children will go to many lengths in which to obtain the new Trainers or the newest sweatshirt in order to be one of them. The recent explosion of Pokemon® trading cards and most recently DragonbalZ™ demonstrate the intensity of peer pressure. There are also positive effects to collecting these cards; it can help in building children’s proficiency in math. It can also help in social skills enabling children to have friends within a specific peer group.

Children have become experts in getting what they want and the "Nag Factor" works, children do influence parent’s purchases and this is increasing. Most of this influence is governed by what the children want in fashion and the largest -it seems- is the leisurewear trade. Sports wear is very popular, trademarks and brand names are high on the children’s agenda for what peer pressure demands. In consuming these products, one buys not only a thing but also an image. This is true when leading brands are used in surveys and brand image shifts from being reputation based on the products function, to being of a symbolic image value. Out of a 100, the top brand names for sportswear was Nike who came 5th, Adidas 34th, Reebok 36th, and as we know image-must haves- has become the predominant currency of TV ads these days. In order to educate children to understand advertisements parents do play an important role in teaching them how to decipher them, and also offering explanatory and!

evaluative comments. Parents can influence children’s reactions to what they see and can channel or counteract their impact therefore restricting the child’s ‘need’ for certain goods. There are also many good effects in advertising; and educating children about the ‘Green Cross Code’ and road safety, which is paramount in many parents’ agenda in order to keep children aware of the danger; also the advertisements warning children about strangers. In more recent times the IBA has lifted certain restrictions so that they could bring attention to the dangers of promiscuity which made the Aids advert- aimed at teenagers to avoid unprotected sex-successful.


In conclusion, evaluating the role that advertising has in relation to children’s television is huge. Children do represent a large percentage of the buying power in the present consumer market. Children are often incapable of distinguishing differences between the advertisements and the actual programmes shown as many adverts are just like children’s programmes. One in particular springs to mind that is the latest advertisement for McDonalds where Ronald McDonald is singing with a group of young children about "loving your mom"..."We do Ron, Ron, We do Ron Ron". Another prime example of using the Childs love of their family members is the advert for "Robinson Juice" as the child goes through a rhyme saying how much he loves his mum. Certain parallels can be drawn between advertisements and television programmes as we saw previously bringing a well known character into an advertisement is bound to attract the Childs interest, Similarly, presenters on children’s television channels tend to be funny and likable. Using props, puppets that are also funny and slapstick appeals to the young audience retaining their interest in what’s going on. These advertisements are normally on prime time, that is when children are more than likely to watch TV. Primarily advertising is concerned with informing potential customers about the existence of certain goods and children use advertisements for exactly this purpose and to gain what they want. Children and their shrewdness should not be underestimated. They will be the adult consumers of the future.


Goldman, R. Papson,S. Sign Wars The cluttered Landscape of Advertising.Pub The Guildford Press.1996.

Hall, Stuart. REPRESENTATION Cultural Representations and signifying Practices.


Jordon, Amy. Jamieson,Kathleen. Children and Television. The Annals Vol.557.Pub Sage.May 1998.

Kelvin PH.D., R.P.Advertising and Human Memory. Business Pub Ltd.1962.

Kochan. Nicholas. The Worlds Greatest Brands. Interbrand 1996,Pub. McMillian Press 1996.

Leymore, Verda Langholz. Hidden Myth Structure and Symbolism in Advertising. Pub Heineman Ltd,1975

Nias.D.K.B. and Eysenck H.J.Sex Violence and the Media. Pub Granada.1980

Smit,Edith. Mass Media Advertising:Information or Wallpaper. Pub Het Spinhuis.1999.

The IBA Code of Advertising Standards and Practice. Oct 1972.

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