Who’s minding the kids?

8 Jul

This post is about kids and advertising. Alex Bogusky’s recent blog post about the ethics of advertising to children re-focused a healthy – and passionate – conversation about what limits advertisers should be forced to operate within.

Copeland doesn’t have any clients who make products aimed exclusively at kids. No Fruit Poop breakfast cereals or sugar-coated Pop Farts. Nonetheless this is a hot button issue for me and for many parents I know.

There are those who advocate strict government controls over content and others who maintain it’s a parent’s responsibility to monitor the exposure and moderate the conversation. Please read this article here and check out the ensuing debate in the comments section. It’s heated, it’s articulate, and it’s fascinating.

What everyone can agree on is that advertisers prey on kids.

If you’re a parent, you know precisely what I mean. Young kids believe what adults tell them. And they are putty in the hands of sophisticated marketers.

Just look at the run-away success of Littlest Pet Shop with its challenging tag-line, “How big is your Littlest Pet Shop?”, delivered with competitive smugness by young teenage girls, many years past the real age of the kids who dig these toys. I have seen the impact this has on little girls. They brag to each other about who has the biggest collection of these bobble-headed, bug-eyed critters.

Greed and acquisition are one thing. Your child’s health is something else altogether.

Consider this current marketing spin: Kellogg’s Froot Loops breakfast cereal is fortified with 11 essential vitamins. Now it’s got fibre. Vitamins and fibre are good for kids.

Personally I want to see stricter controls. From me. And from my government.

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4 Responses to “Who’s minding the kids?”

  1. Mario Parise July 9, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    Agreed on all points.

    Notably, Bogusky’s post is rumoured to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed him to quit the ad industry as a whole. (Or so says Chuck Porter…)

    How sad is it that standing up for kids can cause such a fuss? I would fully support stricter controls. Advertising shouldn’t have to rely on manipulation to succeed, and kids aren’t intellectually advanced enough to make rationale decisions.

    It might be relatively harmless for a kid to want such and such a toy, but we see how vile it can get when advertising intentionally increases peer pressure and competition, or shapes the ideas kids have about what’s good to eat.

    A related side note, in a Fast Company article they discussed that Popeye Cigarettes are now illegal in the States (or something to this effect) because studies proved that kids who regularly ate them were dramatically more likely to become smokers. How evil is that?

    So here’s an idea: Maybe we should start a petition to the government, created and signed by advertising professionals, for increased regulation when it comes to advertising to kids. Maybe other T-CANNers would support it too (most of us small shops don’t have the direct financial pressure of clients depending on this type of marketing, so it might be easy for us to pull it off and get the ball rolling). Since this would be coming from within the industry, maybe it would have more of an impact – as well as be able to attract more support from parents groups and the like.

    It’s just a thought, but might be worth considering.

  2. dougbrowncreative July 9, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Mario, I love the idea. Let’s get together on this. I will throw it out to the T-CAAN network and see if there’s anyone who wants to jump in with us. NICE ONE!

  3. Alain Vinet July 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    FYI – In Quebec, we can’t do advertising to children under 13. It is a law.
    Sometimes, we know the we are different in Quebec… lol
    Alain

    • dougbrowncreative July 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

      Then you seem like a guy Mario and I need to talk to…how long has this been the law Alain? Is it working? This may seem cynical, but don’t advertisers just find their way around the legislation by pretending their target market is older?

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