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Advertising to Children

It was only a few decades ago, when dad and mom made the rules, and my sister and I obediently followed. Information was not easily available and hence, our ability to participate, leave alone lead discussions was limited. We heard. And obeyed.

But in the past few decades, information and media options have come together in a massive way. Awareness of the world, its challenges, its abundant joys comes to children so early now. Indeed, parenting styles are such now that we as parents introduce kids to mickey mouse and chota bheem as early as 2 years, if only to get food into their tummies. And from there on starts their understanding of electronic media and the content they can see on it.

Of course marketers have been parents themselves and understand how powerful this tool can be to now start sending promotional messages to kids. Why not?

I was seeing a youtube show with the kids recently and saw an ad for lego. Very nice one. Its here.

And it got me thinking. Such a persuasive ad surely allows the kids to have persuasive conversations with parents. But is it as simple as that? How did my child know about Kinder joy before I did? Or Nerf guns? Why is this happening so frequently. And more important, is this alright? For kids so young as 6,7 and 8 to be making up their minds from advertisements.

I started to read about advertising to kids, what are the rules, why do those rules exist? What do child specialists suggest and why don’t Marketers take cognisance of that?

Several interesting websites address these questions. A note in Official Journal of American Aademy of Paediatrics suggests early age kids, don’t have the ability to be “skeptical” and hence tend to be swayed deeply by advertisements. Their filters are low, and hence they are far more susceptible to advertising messages. Adults see promotional messages with this filter of suspicion and balance information from one source, with others.

Another article in encyclopedia.com reiterates the same point that children are simply unable to understand that advertisements are biased opinions and demand different interpretations.

Does this give an unfair advantage to marketers when they advertise directly to children? I believe so and in this note advocate what alternative is possible and necessary. I argue that it is no longer correct to declare that “ while kids may buy into a product, it’s the parent’s responsibility to help them evaluate that choice. “

Take a look at these:

Dairy Milk- complete hard sell of chocolates to the kids

OREO- a direct hardsell to kids

Nataraj pencils- another way to sell to kids

A new range of products called “Nerf guns” are now the rage among young boys. And they are expensive. They have started to distract my kids who were happy using their pocket money to buy books, to now buy these toys. What’s next?

I certainly advocate that advertising should be restricted to children below a certain age. Most experts prefer 12 years. (In fact Norway, Sweden already have this prohibition in place). An age at which they are able to determine “promotional content” and “hard sell" and are developing scepticism.

Let the advertisements target parents and make a compelling case for parents to buy what is suitable for kids. Does this mean, more advertising rupees fighting for the same advertising seconds on prime time? So advertising is more expensive and hence products. So be it.

If an advertisement must be targeted at children let it be on topics universally accepted as good for children. But without any promotions, gifts or enticements to promote the product.

Dettol- helping build good habits among kids.

HUL- helping build good habits among kids

Advertisements should not speak to kids directly and should not be allowed on media being largely consumed by the kids. Parents should always remain filters of content to young age children. It will only force marketers to be more creative in engaging parents for products beneficial to the kids. I cant imagine parents would not be open to such messages.


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