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Marketing To Children Essay

1794 words - 8 pages

Introduction: Issues Surrounding Marketing to ChildrenThe ancient Code of Hammurabi banned sales to or purchases from a minor without a contract and witnesses, making such an act punishable by death (Duhaime 2003). Today's society rarely questions the ethics of advertising and selling to minors, and marketers are no longer considered thieves for their actions. Advertising surrounds children and encourages them to consume today on television, in magazines, at the movies, on the Internet and on billboards. And consume they do. Marketing influences children's habits and attitudes and there are great consequences that come with this amount power over them. Specifically this paper will discuss ...view middle of the document...

Marketers increasingly target children because of the amount of money they spend themselves, the influence they have on their parents spending and because of the money they will spend when they grow up (Aidman, p.53). Increasingly, the public sees pervasive advertising as a form of exploitation. This ongoing debate sparks strong appeals from both sides, and leaves marketers and parents with moral dilemmas.Influence from a Young AgeEven at the age of one or two, children find themselves in a "culturally defined observation post high atop a shopping cart" seeing for the first time "the wonderland of marketing" (McNeal, p.23). Children as young as three years old can express brand awareness and make the connection between what they see on television and what appears on store shelves. Studies show that nearly three quarters of four year olds "often or almost always" ask for a specific brand (Fischer et al, p.89). McNeal says that this stage marks the beginning for marketers, "for it signals the beginning of the child's understanding of the want-satisfaction process in a market-driven society."Marketers recognize a minor as a full-blown consumer once the child can select and purchase an item without the assistance of a parent. By age of four or five, McNeal's studies show that children can locate items in a store, pick them off the shelf and pay for items. By age eight, children make most of their own buying decisions (Raphael, p.60). This establishment of independence carries on into the teen years, forming the foundation for lifelong consumerism.Advertiser FocusesAdvertisers seek to make children into children of their product or brand. The research mentioned above is not lost on advertisers. Former Toys 'R' Us CEO Mike Searles says that: "If you own the child at an early age...you can own the child for years to come" (Sahin, 2003). Companies try to form habits at the youngest age possible, creating lifelong consumers with strong memories of a particular brand.Advertisers benefit from the impressionable state of children. Young children, especially, hold little capacity for discerning between "good" or "bad" brands, or pointing out potentially harmful products. Advertisers chase minors for a favored spot in their memory that can last for years. "The great thing about them is that their memory banks are relatively empty so any message that goes in gets retained" says Peter Mead, the chairman of the advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers (Cohen, p.49).Another important element in advertising to children involves the use of the child idiom, which is a way to reach children in their own language. Stephen Kline points out in his article Limits to the Imagination: Marketing and Children's Culture; "Marketing people know and accommodate this [popularity of products through importance level] by designing within television campaigns a saturation factor. Because of limited memories, children must be repeatedly exposed to the toy or brand name. They must also...

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