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Advertising to children is the act of marketing or advertising products or services to children as defined by national legislation and advertising standards. It is often the subject of debate, relating to the alleged influence on little children's consumption. Laws concerning such advertisements have largely evolved in recent years such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the United States. In most countries, advertising to small children is framed by a mix of legislation and advertising self-regulation.
Scope and form
Advertising to children can take place on traditional media—television, radio and print—as well as new media (internet and other electronic media). Packaging, in-store advertising, event sponsorship, and promotions can also be used.
UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—defines early childhood as ages 0–8 years. For the purposes of advertising law, the definition of a child varies from one jurisdiction to another. However, the age of 12 is commonly used as a cut-off point. This cut off point is on the close enough basis of the widespread academic view that by age 12 children have developed their behavior as consumers, can effectively recognize advertising and are able to adopt critical attitudes towards it.
History of advertising to children
In the 19th century, the compulsory education of children was established which consequently made them target audiences of many publications. Also around this period, Comic books publishers realized the importance of marketing comic books to young people in raising their potential sales. This resulted in the rise of comic book promotion to the youth market in the 19th century. In this era, broadcast media (radio and television) grew in popularity. For advertisers, these mediums expanded their ability to communicate with consumers effectively. Spot advertising, a novel form of promotion in this era, came to be known as a prodigious way of advertising. This is television advertising where advertisements appear between programs.
As the popularity of sponsorship arrangements grew, American advertisers sponsored TV programmes or films in order to promote their products through broadcast media. Concern grew that this form of advertising could easily manipulate young children as they are less able to comprehend the implicit objective of advertisers.
Effect on children
Studies estimate that children between the ages of 6 and 11 spend on average 28 hours a week watching television and are exposed to as many as 20,000 commercials in a single year. Since the 1970s, there has been a large amount of concern as to whether or not children are able to comprehend advertisements and the extent to which they do so. A study conducted by Goldberg, M. E., & Gorn, G. J. in 1983 looked at the acquisition of children's cognitive defences and found that, until the age of 8 most children are unable to understand the selling intent of televised advertisements. Between the ages of 8 and 11 children only have a partial understanding of selling intent, and it is not until at least the age of 11 that a child is able to fully understand the selling intent of televised advertisements. The study concludes that there is a large difference in basic understanding of the purpose of advertising between children of a younger age and of an older age, and as a result different age groups have different reactions to television-based advertisements.
There are positive and negative implications to TV advertising on little children, for both marketers and the children who view the advertisements. Many advertising aimed at children is criticized for enforcing gender stereotypes. Some countries have broadcast codes that suggest that TV advertisements should not contain exaggerated claims that will mislead or deceive children, abuse their trust or lack the understanding of persuasive intent in an advertisement.
Many parents report being pestered by their children for the product they have seen on TV. This phenomenon is dubbed "pester power", which means that little children pester their parents to buy things for them that they desire.A study showed that mothers are more likely to purchase a product for their children due to the emotional appeal of their children's response to an advertisement.
TV food advertisements
Many studies have been conducted indicating an early exposure of food advertising to 2–13 year old children has a link to the increasing amount of childhood obesity cases globally. The large exposure to commercial food has been linked to problems for children worldwide, among these problems the issue of child obesity. In 2015 Centres for disease control and prevention found that the amount of obese little children is more than double the amount it was 30 years ago. There is a suggested correlation between televised advertisements and obesity. A study conducted by Frederick J. Zimmerman and Janice F. Bell made the statement that "Commercial television pushes little children to eat a large quantity of those foods they should consume least: sugary cereals, snacks, fast food and soda pop". On average children between the ages of 8 and 12 see 21 fast food advertisements a day through televised media. Children decide their food preference at an early moment through preliminary learning process and when they are exposed to large amounts of fast food advertising it has major long-lasting implications on their diet. Children's gullibility and lack of knowledge around commercial food, allows them to easily trust what an advertisement says. As a result, companies are able to falsely display food items to children and what these children think to be healthy and nutritious is actually unhealthy being high in fats and sugars.
The use of promotional characters and premium offers are often used as persuasive tools to market food to children. A study from Australia found that the rate of promotional characters in advertisements is twice as high during popular young children's programs compared to popular old children's programs. Premium offers is another persuasive marketing which includes competitions, giveaways and vouchers, the same study found that unhealthy food advertisements contain 18 times as many premium offers during young children's program in comparison to old children's programs.
Additionally, several studies have identified that the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed decreases as television viewing time increases. Excessive television viewing often correlates to poor diet quality as a result.
The World Health Organization suggested that companies and organizations make a reduction of "food and beverage marketing directed at little children that are high in sugar, fat, and sodium in order to help reduce the burden of obesity worldwide."
In Canada, the majority of advertising is controlled by companies themselves. In April 2007, 16 of the largest food and beverages companies formed an initiative known as The Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. The companies decided that each would require that at least 50% of advertisements targeted at children under the age of 12 years' old would contain "healthier dietary choices". Studies have shown that exposing children to healthy food advertisements had a positive impact on their attitude towards healthy food whereas when unhealthy food advertisements were shown alongside healthy food advertisements had a negative impact on their attitude towards healthy food.
Regulations for food Advertising to Children
In Australia, there is a self-regulatory code toward children's exposure to food advertising. This study was that the proportion of non-core foods advertised decrease by eighteen percent from a previous study from before the self-regulatory code was introduced. This code was created because of the negative impact that the advertising of unhealthy food has on children. The self-regulatory code regulates the use of promotion, popular characters, and unsuitable material during time periods dedicated to children's television programs. The code does not monitor the types of food that may be advertised to children and does not apply to times when a high number of children are viewing such as a sports match. Since the code was introduced the rate of non-core fast food advertising has decreased as seen in the other study mentioned. The self-regulatory code only covers a small time period and range of food. An improved marketing approach would be limiting advertising on a wider range on fast food not just those designated as children's meals. This study also saw that advertisement which promotes healthier alternatives often still have some non-core foods present.
The Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) is a voluntary program implemented in 2007 in the United States, in response to public health concerns and food companies have promised to advertise healthier dietary choices in child-directed advertising. The advertising of candy to children appeared that it would decrease as 4 large candy manufacturers, Mars, Hershey, Kraft, and Nestle pledged to CFBAI that they would not advertise any candy product to children. Rather than the reduction of Candy advertising, a 65% increase in candy-related advertisements in 2011 than in 2007 before the CFBAI was introduced. A fault with the CFBAI is that it regulates advertising directed at children, many children are exposed to advertisements for candy during programs popular for a wider range of people. Increased participation in CFBAI and a clearer definition of what child-directed advertising is, will be required for a reduction in the exposure of children unhealthy foods.
In the European Union, there was a concern for the quantity and type of television food advertising that children are exposed to. In 2010, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive was created as a centerpiece of the regulation of advertising unhealthy food and drinks in or accompanying children's programs. The directive does not imply consistent regulations across Member states. It does state the "Member States and the Commission shall encourage media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding inappropriate audiovisual commercial communications, accompanying or included in children's programs, of foods and beverages containing nutrients and substances with a nutritional or physiological effect". Although there isn't a definition of a child and unhealthy food which is shared within the European countries, there is a consistent want for regulation. Each country implements a variation in the strength of its regulations, based on the framework is created from the directive. Each country has a different legal point of view toward marketing practices, television regulations and the protection of minors. The individual European Union's Member States interpretation of the Directive is left to the national regulators to set a clear degree of regulatory protection. This is set by the regulator along with the industry and broadcasters themselves who interpret the previsions. This results in a national regulation of advertising to children that considers the nations legal and cultural traditions as well as economic and political objectives, which do not always compare across member states. Some member states impose a partial ban on advertising in children programs, where others prohibit the showing of sponsorship logo in children programs.
In the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark, and Belgium advertising to children is restricted. In Norway and Quebec advertising to children under the age of 12 is illegal. The 1991 ban in Sweden was repealed on 1 August 2010.
The European Union also has framework legislation in place which sets down minimum provisions on advertising to children for all its member states. The EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, due to replace the Television Without Frontiers Directive in all member states by the end of 2009, sets out several EU-wide rules on advertising and children:
Advertising shall not cause moral or physical detriment to minors, and shall, therefore, comply with the following criteria for their protection:
- a. it shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
- b. it shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;
- c. it shall not exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons;
- d. it shall not unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations
- e. Children's programs may only be interrupted if the scheduled duration is longer than 30 minutes
- f. Product placement is not allowed in children's programs.
- g. The Member States and the Commission should encourage audiovisual media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding the advertising of certain foods in children's programs.
Note that criterion (b) explicitly outlaws appeals to "pester power".
In Australia, there are multiple governing bodies that deal with the legislation of advertising to children. Some of the governing bodies are the Advertising Standards Board, who is appointed by the Advertising Standards Bureau, and Communications Council. Citation "This Code has been adopted by the AANA as part of advertising and marketing self-regulation. The object of this Code is to ensure that advertisers and marketers develop and maintain a high sense of social responsibility in advertising and marketing to children in Australia." (AANA, 2009) The Children's Television Standards (CTS) were implemented in 1990 by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT). This was in an attempt to balance:
- Public interest concerns that children's special viewing needs are met and they are protected from possible harmful effects of television.
- The commercial television industry's reliance upon advertising revenue and the need to fund quality programs for children.
- The child audience's lack of earning or 'Buying' capacity, reflected in the limited range of product categories in advertising to children, and also in children's reliance on others (Parents most often) to obtain products they might see advertised on television.(http://webarchive.loc.gov/all/20090620002525/http://www.acma.gov.au/webwr/_assets/main/lib310132/tv_advertising_to_children.pdf)
In the United States, advertisements marketed to children were limited between 1946 and 1983. With the Children's Television Act, which was introduced in 1990 and strengthened in August 1996, legislation once again became stricter.
In many countries, advertising is also governed by self-regulatory codes of conduct. Advertisers, advertising agencies and the media agree on a code of advertising standards enforced by a Self-regulatory organization. At a minimum, the general aim of self-regulatory codes is to ensure that any advertising is 'legal, decent, honest and truthful', but in most countries, detailed rules are in place for different advertising techniques and sectors.
On a global level, the International Chamber of Commerce has drafted a global code on marketing communications. All forms of marketing communications worldwide must conform to the ICC Consolidated Code on Advertising and Marketing. The code includes a specific section, detailing the special care needed when communicating with children.
Since 2006, a global code of practice on food marketing communications is also in place. The Framework for Responsible Food and Beverage Marketing Communications of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) sets down global requirements for food and beverage marketing communications on all media, including the Internet.
Many countries have implemented self-regulatory provisions that use the ICC Framework as a basis, but go further in several respects, depending on local considerations. Examples include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the USA.
In the United States, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) established in 1974 by the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) runs a self-regulatory program that includes a prescreening service for advertisers to ensure they are in compliance with COPPA and the CARU guidelines.
In addition to industry-wide self-regulation, individual companies and industry sectors have introduced a wide range of additional provisions relating to marketing communications directed at children. For example, most multinational food and beverage companies have developed their own policies on food and beverage marketing communications to children, and have announced the joint implementation of these individual commitments.
In July 2007, ten companies announced a common pledge in the US—the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, mirroring a similar initiative by 15 companies in Canada—the Canadian Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative; and followed by 11 companies in Europe with the EU Pledge. Under these initiatives, participating companies will cease advertising to children under 12, other than products that meet specific nutritional guidelines, based on international scientific recommendations. A similar program was launched by leading food companied in Thailand in May 2008 and in Australia in mid-2009.
- Advertisements in schools
- Child development
- Comic book advertisement
- Food marketing toward children
- Toy advertising
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