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Advertising to Children Essay

Introduction

Advertising to Children

Our group would like to present an insight into the different aspects of advertising and marketing to children. Our focus is on the why, the how and the ethical aspect of such a strategy.

What does a fast-food chain like McDonald’s hope to gain from using toys as promotion? This question surely strikes us at least once upon entering this worldwide franchise. It’s not only chains like McDonald’s, KFC or Burger King that target children but also other companies that do not have a market in children. Production houses use merchandise and computer games to attract children’s attention (e.g. Spiderman series) to further their sales. Nowadays, cellular companies are also vying for a younger target market having saturated the teen and adult markets. For example, Telecom is hoping to get children’s attention using the message “I want to see my Mum on my cell phone”[1] in their advertisements. They hope to cash in on the nag power that children have over their parents to increase their sales. Holiday resorts and hotels have also been targeting children through their advertising techniques to advance their revenues.

The above examples clearly indicate that this tactic is used by companies that manufacture products related

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to children and those that have traditionally had nothing to do with them. Our research shows that spending on advertising to children was a mere $ 100 million in 1990 which rose drastically to about $ 2 billion by 2000[2]. An average American child is being exposed to at least 40,000 commercials annually. These astonishing statistics have further developed our interest in this topic. We are curious to see why advertising companies are investing such huge amounts of money to target a demographic that may not even be their direct target audience.

This tactic may be justified with various arguments. One major reason is that marketers treat children as future customers. By targeting them at a young age, they believe that they can garner loyalty for their product and generate brand equity in the long run. An example of this could be cereal. Kellogg’s[3] the world’s leading producer of cereal, sells a variety of breakfast foods, beverages, cookies, crackers etc. Their mascot “Tony the Tiger” was conceived when the frosted flakes variety of cereal was introduced and has continued to promote using the slogan “They’re Gr-r-reat!” ever since.[4] Such marketing can easily attract children at a young age with the flashy mascot and the funny voices, and continue to enjoy their patronage as adults due to sheer force of habit. Such customers are not likely to discontinue their purchase even if Kellogg’s decided to increase the price of Frosted Flakes by a few dollars simply because they are so used to having their ‘favourite cereal’ every morning.

Another major advantage of advertising directly children is the pester power they hold over their parents. Children are the most lucrative customers in that, they do not think about monthly budgets or making ends meet. Advertisers need not structure the price of a product to appeal to them as children do not concern themselves with such details usually. Children are such easy targets because all an advertisement has to aim for is making the kid like the product by making it flashy enough, using the right colour palette or the most recent hit songs. Once a kid likes a product he or she will usually not let up on their parents until they get what they want, which results in a sale for the manufacturing company.

Another dimension of the nag factor to consider is parental guilt. A family in which both parents work to support the family, usually contains an extra passenger, parental guilt over not spending enough time with their children. In many instances, even if the parents are not likely to give in to their children’s tantrums over a new toy they want, they might give in to their own guilt and splurge on toys for their kids in an attempt to assuage their conscience.

Mattel’s Barbie is another product that presents very interesting results upon examination. When a young girl wants a Barbie doll, not only would the purchase include the actual doll, but also the associated clothes, accessories, pets and even Barbie’s friends and family[5]. Aside from the obvious complementary goods purchase, there is another strategy at work here. When parents provide such amenities for their dolls, they encourage the notion that such frivolities are necessary, into young girls’ adolescence and pre-pubescence. This is likely to make more avid shoppers of them in the future which also to the advantage of the manufacturing companies.

Another reason to target children is the recent increase in their access to money. The more pocket money children get on a weekly or monthly basis from their parents, the more freedom they get to make their own decisions on how to spend that money. An example can be made of Kinder Eggs made by the Italian company Ferrero, to demonstrate this practice. When children have their own lunch money and are faced with the multitude of choices presented by their local store, will they pick an intensely advertised product like Kinder Eggs that targets children, or a more filling healthy option? They are likely to buy the Kinder Egg that promises “to grant all three wishes at once: something exciting, a toy and some chocolate”.[6]

[1] http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/cell-phone-companies-should-stop-targeting-children
[2] http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/marketers_target_kids.cfm
[3] http://www2.kelloggs.com/Product/Product.aspx
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frosted_Flakes
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Barbie’s_friends_and_family
[6] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzLoIjXcVaQ

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