Advertising Effects on Children Aged 6 to 12 Essay

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 General Introduction

Marketing is an important component to business organization. For example, the marketing function determines sales pulled by a firm and subsequent production. Hence, marketing determines the success of a firm. It is concerned with the creation and retention of customers. According to Kotler (5), the classical definition of marketing is ‘the human activity directed at satisfying human needs and wants through an exchange processes’. Marketing, therefore, links businesses to customers. The marketing function is an attempt to satisfy the wants and needs of customers through exchange processes, and subsequently building a long term relationship. This is also shown from a revised definition of Kotler (10) that states that marketing is a social process between individuals and groups, allowing them to achieve their wants and needs by producing and transferring products (Jobber 6).

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Marketing is the management process that satisfies customer requirements in a profitable way. Marketing can also viewed as a set of processes for managing customer relationships in ways that also benefits the organization and its shareholders. It is the science of identifying target markets through market segmentation and market analysis, as well as understanding consumer buying behavior. Thorpe (64) quoting Taylor notes that marketing is "not about availing commodities but essentially delivering changes and benefits to the needs and demands the customer." Therefore, marketing is the process of managing and identifying the most suitable method of availing product that give consumers the maximum utility. It revolves around exhibiting the product characteristics against the needs and wants of customers with an aim of capturing their interest and ensuring they are loyal to the product (Schultz 19). 

The marketing function, therefore, capitalizes on the marketing mix that is based on the four P's of a product, including product, price, place and promotion. The marketing strategy functions by creating awareness and motivating the customer about the available products. The use of the P's influences marketing strategies differently. For example, the product entails aspects of brand, variety, design and quality. Pricing involves price variations, discounts and credit terms. Place signifies the geographical coverage and distribution channels, while promotion outlines the various advertisement tools. Firms, therefore, differentiate their products through trademarks, design and brand loyalty via provision of high quality. Using these strategies, companies engage in marketing to continuously remind customers of the existence of a product and new product characteristics introduced (Pride and Ferrell 69).

1.2 Problem Statement

The aim of this project is to explore the effects of advertising on children aged between 6 and 12 years. Companies use various forms of campaigns that include celebrity, comparative and product advertising. The advertising takes place in various platforms as traditional print media like newspapers and magazines; broadcasting platforms such as television and radio; digital media platforms such has website ads and social networking sites such  Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus where customers are sensitized on existing and new products. Even though the legal age for access to social media sites is 18 years, children still experience the effects of advertising. The paper seeks to establish the relevance of these advertising strategies on children taking into consideration that some ads contain sexually suggestive messages and apply aspects of psychology in them.  The study explores whether marketing achieves the function of maximizing consumption in children or if it is exploiting the children for commercial gain.     

1.3 Summary

This project looks into the elements of advertising including the purpose of advertising, the ethics of advertising, advertising to children and advertising media. In addition, the major decisions in advertisement will be reviewed. The paper briefly introduced marketing and advertising. The research explores different advertising media used by businesses with respect to the target audience. The different forms of advertising are used by marketers to reach and influence their target group. Further, an explanation of advertising in general is presented and how advertising affects children in aged between 6-12 years old. The methodology section discusses the methods used to collect data. The data is collected using a questionnaire on a focus groups containing children aged 6-12 years in elementary school through junior high school. The study is preceded by qualitative data review on definitions of advertising, types of advertising and effects of advertising on children. 

The paper’s main objective explores the effects of advertising on children. More specifically, it looks at how children aged 6-12 understand advertising (cognitive level), how they feel about advertising (affective level) and how advertising affects children’s behavior (behavioral level). In order to accomplish this objective, a series studies with focus groups were conducted with children aged 6-12 to help us explore children’s understanding of advertising, the abilities developed within each age group and the effects of advertising on children and their families. Special focus is placed on food advertising and whether it affects children’s eating habits, as recent research shows that food advertising is the most common type of advertising directed at children. The focus group data were analyzed using template analysis in order to identify the main topics or concerns. 

The research found that children are able recognize ads and that their understanding of the adverts improve with time. However, as they grow up, they disregard ads and the information presented in them. Ads with celebrities and parent or friends approval influence the consumption patterns in children. Older children are somewhat able to understand the background on commercials separating it from main information. They further noted that food consumption in children is likely to be influenced by commercials. In general, ads make children choosier when it comes to what to consume. 

1.4 Aims and Objectives

The proposed project aims to research the effects of advertising on children on an affective, cognitive, and behavioral level in order to ‘produce’ an applied tool that will help children become more discerning recipients of persuasive claims. More specifically, it will look into how children aged 6-12 understand advertising (cognitive level), how children feel about advertising (affective level) and how advertising affects children’s behavior (behavioral level).

Therefore, the main project objective is: 

(a)  To establish the effect of advertising on children 

1.5 Justification of the Study

The study provides insights on the effects of advertising on children. The wellbeing of children is important for the progression of society. Children interact with family, religion, religion and social groups. Children access advertisement in the precincts of these groups from which the decision on how to relate with the advert is influenced. Therefore, it is important to identify if an ad influences the purchase decisions and general lifestyles of children.  The study adds information to the existing literature on advertising effects on children and is important for parents, teachers, scholars, businesses and policy makers. Marketers should understand how advertising affects children and how children relate to advertisements. 

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 What is advertising?

According to Kotler, advertising is defined as “a form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods and services through mass media such as newspapers, magazines, television or radio by an identified sponsor” (p.58). The definition by Kotler acknowledges the relevance of communication but limits its nature and form. Kaptan (7) notes that advertising is derived from the Greek word advertere meaning "to arouse the mind." The word was first coined in 1665 A.D as warning in the bible after which shopkeepers adopted it to further their commercial interests. Kaptan (8) notes that advertising occurs in forms such as oral, written and other communication that are disseminated to the public as a means of motivating them to adopt the use of a commodity in the market. The definition expands the means of advertisement as described by Kotler.   

According to Müller, Florian and Daniel (5) advertisements are also conducted by charitable, not-for-profit and non-governmental agencies.  The goal of advertisement is to transfer the details of a commodity to the intended market to realize the intended objective. Advertisement tasks revolve around planning, development and evaluation of all communication items with reference to markets against the marketing objectives. Equally, there are also specialized definitions of advertisement based on time, technology and advertisement platforms. For instance, traditional advertisement is a marketing approach through print and audio media. In these advertisements, the advertisers communicate to the consumer in a one-way communication chain using newspaper, radio, television and billboards advertisements. Modern advertisement techniques involve digital advertisement and include the use of the Internet to create interactive advertisement platforms for customers. As a result, the customer is reached through websites, online advertisements; opt-in emails, interactive kiosks and interactive TV or mobiles (Chaffey et al. 14).  Nevertheless, the two models acknowledge the power of communication and creation of the pull effect (Vurro 4).

2.2 Elements of Advertising

The elements of advertising present the basic features that an ad need in order to achieve its maximum objective. As noted above, advertisements should be able to convince people to purchase a commodity through communication. These elements are found in every ad. There may be one or more elements that are used to achieve the intended function. There are five common elements of advertisements, namely target audience, art, headline, logo, and tag (Ryan & Theodore 441; Shah & D'Souza 260; Schultz 51). 

A. Target Audience

Before creating an ad, it is important to identify the market niche of the product such as a geographical area or behavioral characteristics of a group. In other words, an ad is market-specific even though it is meant to capture speculative and loyal customers. A successful ad is one that is designed with a particular customer in mind. The rationale is that when this person views the ad, he or she can relate to it and there is high probability that they can be converted to customers. This is unlike mass marketing where advertisements are thrown at anybody and anyone. Therefore, it is ideal for a single product to have customized ads that befits consumer needs in each market segment. For instance, the Coca-Cola Company promotes Coke with football and Sprite with basketball.      

B. Art

Art is the graphic work of an advertisement which can be pictorial or video. Art carries a strong visual appeal. On top of the visual appeal, the art should communicate something about a product.  It draws the attention of customers and should, therefore, be clear such that it represents the company and product. The artwork makes the business stand out thereby creating more brand awareness. Good art should achieve this function with maximum simplicity so that the customers can quickly notice the message and identify the background. When successful, the art leaves a lasting impression on the audience. 

C. Copy

The copy achieves the communication function in the ad. It shows what the customers are supposed to do. Rather, it is advisable to key in product features since customers generally just scan through the advertisements. Before the copy, there is a headline on top that is a larger text related product to capture the customers. Afterwards, the copy proceeds to describe what is of interest to the customer. The communication should be meaningful, compelling, fresh and unique. 

D. Tag

It is the memorable phrase that makes the ad stick out in the mind of the audience. It helps the company evoke emotions in customers. In effective ads, the tag describes what is in it for the customers. A good example is “Obey you thirst” in the Sprite ads. The tag or slogan motivates the consumer to purchase the product. 

E. Logo

This is the symbol that the company uses to generate brand recognition. Some companies use both the logo and name while others, such as Nike with its swoosh and Lacoste with its alligator do not. In other companies, the logo doubles as the name. Logos are widely known and are put on advertisements to cement ownership of the product being advertised.  

2.3 Advertising Media

Children’s products and food make up an enormous portion of the advertising market. As a result of the increased access to the media due to technological advancement, parents often face difficulties in their attempt to raise responsible and morally upright children. Parent’s efforts are soiled by commercialism. In most cases, commercialism contradicts the virtues that parents struggle to inculcate in their children. There are various forms of media that are used to advertise products that are meant for children. In industrialized countries, governments and campaigners advocate for responsible advertising via the media. The media is understood to be the various communication channels that are used by advertisers to pass across information about their products. Different scholars define the media differently.

Trehan and Trehan (96) add that a medium is the platform that delivers the advertisers’ message to the target audience. Put in another way, it is the vehicle or means with which the advertised information gets to the customers. The media include print media, broadcast media, direct mail, Internet and outdoor-based media. The choice of the media depends on target audience, the advertising budget of the company, coverage, design and frequency of the ad. According to Kotler (190), media are communication ways used to move advertised information from the sender to the receiver. Advertising media, therefore, refers to the way advertisement is conveyed to the target audience.  

The analogue media advertisement includes print media; placement of advertisement in newspapers, magazines and journals. There is also outdoor advertisement where ads are placed on billboards, neon boards, posters, banners, wall painting, stickers and sky advertising. The ad can also be mailed directly to the target market inform of leaflets, circulars, catalogues, booklets, business reply cards and personal letters. The analogue broadcast also includes radio and television.

According to Shimp and Andrews (352), the media carries static information about a product. Advertising through traditional media is relatively expensive but has a strong audience cluster that is even more effective than digital platforms. Marketers also influence the kind of information to be extended to customers through these media. According to Shimp and Andrews (254), traditional media achieves marketing communication alongside their primary function, except direct mailing and outdoor advertising. Ads in broadcast media are concentrated during prime time programs and are intertwined with programs and news. Outdoor advertising and direct mailing carry information as it is to the potential targets. Outdoor advertising targets random customers compared to broadcast media, which is focused on a particular market population. Direct mailing can, however, achieve both specific and speculative audience targeting.    

The digital media platform advertisement exists in interactive television and the Internet. The Internet as a platform allows ads to run through websites, emails, tele-advertising and social media advertising. The use of the Internet in advertisement is widely used due to the rise of e-commerce, which, according to Shaw and Blanning (7), is a practice whereby business operations are conducted over the Internet. E-commerce is the exchange of goods and services through the Internet or on the basis of an online service such as online payment. Digital media platforms are managed through e-marketing techniques. The digital vehicles are given additional functions such that there is two-way communication and marketers get real time information on the performance of the ad based on geographical zones, demography and impact on the market. That is, how many people saw the ad, how they noticed the ad, their age and online sales due to the ad (Shaw and Blanning 195).    

According to Combe (119), the use of digital media adds new perspectives and interactions for customers. It is cheap and breaks geographical boundaries. The digital media platform redefines marketing by even reducing the relevance of target markets. It is also associated with individual marketing. This is because businesses are integrated with information technology. As a result, customers have more knowledge about the producer and its commodities and exhibit new behavioral changes such as increased impulse buying. Further, the impact of social media such as trending topics and news can influence sales both positively and negatively. Thus, digital platforms reduce the impact of information by shifting it from advertisers to consumers. Marketers, therefore, have to stay on top of information circulating on digital platforms. Nonetheless, marketers still use both analogue and digital platforms for advertisements.  

2.4 Advertising to Children Aged 6 to 12 Years

Children are exposed to all sorts of advertisement from both digital and analogue platforms especially on television, the Internet, print media and outdoor ads. Children are vulnerable and easily swayed by advertisements. This is because the kids are often defenseless against the dynamism of business and marketing. They consider things on the face value (India Parenting 1). According to Dittmann (50), the industry spends about $12 billion on ads targeting children and the average child in the US is exposed to more than 40,000 ads in a year. 

Dittmann (50) notes that children below the age of 8 are most vulnerable since their cognitive ability is defense to persuasive information. In general, after just one exposure to a TV commercial, a child has the ability to reflect it and desire the product. Behaviorally, the same session alters behavior of children; for instance, when children view ads on healthy food and snacks, the advert of snacks prevails. Empirically, Harris, Bargh, and Brownell (409) found that food advertisement have a strong effect on children. The study conducted a research on elementary school children based on an ad running in a cartoon or other ads while eating snacks. The study showed that the children exposed to food commercials consumed 45% more than children who did not view the ads. 

Nylund (1) notes that children cognitively differentiate between marketing and other types of communication. However, marketing has the ability to negatively altering behavior in children resulting in mental and physically challenges such as obesity. 

Ward (434) studied the effect of commercials on children aged 5 to 12 years. The study monitored cognitive development and interpersonal character thereof. The sample considered for the study was composed of 1,094 junior and senior high school students from a school district in Maryland of all races. The findings of the studies showed that children pay 65% attention throughout the viewing period. During the time, there was a 25% verbal response to commercials. Cognitive response improved with age, with younger children paying the least attention. The study identified a difference in response based on sex with girls taking more ads than boys, a result of which is insignificant. Cognitively, all age groups could differentiate between commercials and normal programming. The understanding of ads improved with age. However, younger children had the potential to remember food ads, an aspect that becomes insignificant as children grow up. The behavior of older children was affected by celebrity advertising or ads their parents commented on. The analysis was done in two segments, where 5-7 was the younger bracket while 8-12 years was the older bracket. One third of the older children believed that commercials say the truth while three quarters of the sample felt the commercials were too long. The shortcoming of the study is that it failed to quantify the cognitive and behavioral aspects with respect to the sample. 

Rozendaal, Moniek, and Valkenburg (340), in a study with a sample of 209 children aged 8 – 12 years show that cognitive understanding improves age while disregard for the content increases as well. At 0.05 level of significance, 8-9, 9-10, 10-11 and 11-12 year olds showed scores of 3.32, 3.31, 3.53 and 3.50 in understanding advertising content. Adults had a score of 3.61. Peer popularity and celebrity adverting were the most popular within the sample. Hence, the children wanted to associate with products. Repetition of ads and ads with humor had a significant effect on the consumption behavior of the children as they became older. The study is strengthened by the use of advertisers’ views. Also, there views are compared against the observation of adults strengthening it further.  

The literature indicates that cognitive understanding of ads increases with age. As the understanding increases, affective impact falls as children disregard the information in the ads. Behaviorally, younger children are influenced by ads related to food while older children are influenced by products endorsed by their peers, celebrities and parents with reference to existing commercials (Rozendaal, Moniek and Valkenburg 342).   

Moore and Lutz (41) add the component of product usage to 10-11 years old and 7-8 years old.  Using a sample of 72 children from a public elementary school, the study found that products’ trials had a greater impact than commercials for both young and older children. Younger children showed no significant response when exposed to ads and the product trial. This was also the case when they were exposed to product trials alone. Older children, however, showed that ads influenced product trials. Exposure to potato chip ads improved the perception and attitude towards the brand. However, exposure to ads encouraging the consumption of fruit generate neutral attitude within the sample at trial. The study puts the observations from studies on advertising on effective consumption in children.   

2.5 Ethical Issues

Children are less informed on how best to consume the ever-increasing advertisements. In most cases, children want to try out everything that is presented to them through the advertisements. They are attracted to newly advertised products; hence, they make every effort to acquire it. Unlike adults, children lack the ability to compare and contrast items based on their quality. Instead, they take items for their surface value mainly based on their attraction to bright colors and sound. Parents often find themselves in a bind when they are forced into impulsive buying for their children due to advertisements. In most cases, the parents are unable to convince their children on the low quality of the item to which they are attracted. 

Advertisement ethics can be discussed under marketing ethics, an area of applied ethics dealing with the moral principles of the operation and regulation of marketing. Advertisers look at children as powerful consumers. Children aged twelve and below influence their families’ spending decisions. It is evident that children lack the ability to resist or understand marketing tactics at younger ages. Unfortunately, some of the advertisements have ethical pitfalls that relate to their violence and sexual content.

According to Clay (52), the situation is complicated by the fact that children have the ability to feel inferior if they do not possess certain products as an effect of advertising. Clay notes that commercials have the ability of intentionally abusing the psychological principles of children. Businesses should not use ads on children for commercial gain but to assist them realize benefits of the commodities. Further, it is difficult to prevent alcohol and tobacco companies from using research as the bases for advertising to children. Nairn and Dew (1), identified a number of ethical issues in Internet advertising to 9-11 year old children in the United Kingdom. The authors note that most ads are more irrelevant than harmful because they are not meant for children. Equally, ads are not clearly labeled. As a result, children cannot differentiate between promotional content and entertainment. Thus, the ethical issue front is presentation of information distinguishing promotional content and entertainment.  Hence, inappropriate children advertising is promoting products like liquor and pornography. 

However, Hattab (10) notes that advertisers ethically face sex appeal and triggering emotions in children. Ads carry other appeals that include humor, tune, prudence, fear and insufficiency. Sex and emotions are used the most and require ethical perspectives. Many ads carry sexual content with a view of boosting feelings for the product advertised. Commercials have increased by 30% the degree of sexual explicitness and contact between males and females in the last 30 years. The unethical concern for children is that sex sells and firms are using the principle intentionally. Ads are also based on emotions that undermine critical thinking in children. Food ads make children more choosy and bias towards celebrity consumerism. 

2.6 Advertising Appeals

Advertising appeals are techniques that are used by commercial and print advertisements to attract the attention of potential customers. The purpose of advertising can hardly be achieved without the use of given advertising appeals as a move towards influencing customers to purchase a given product or support a course. The advertising appeals are used with particular consideration of the target customer. Every customer segment has a distinct characteristic that determines what influences his or her choices. Based on the understanding of customer demographics, appeals are made to speak to a given customer segment’s needs, wants or interests. Some of the most commonly used advertisement appeals are fear, humor, , sex or bandwagon propaganda.

Due to the essence of advertising, a great deal of time and energy is spent by organizations as they try to create effective advertising campaign. Of all the components of advertisements, an advertising appeal is one of the most essential aspects of advertisements. In advertisements, appeals serve to influence customer’s purchasing trend either rationally or emotionally. In the case of children, they serve the role of persuading these children to develop interests in particular products and services. In some case, the appeals make children obsessed with the advertised products and even shift their interest from one commodity or service to another. As such, appeals play the role of a bridge that links their wants and products and services. Appeals are the central idea that forms the focus of an advertisement. They are the salient features of a product or service. However, policy makers, in their attempt to ensure that children are secure, have advocated for limiting the intention for appeals to communicating vital information about the quality and functions of products and services. 

Watson (1) notes that advertising to children under the age of 12 years is barred in Sweden and Norway because there is no moral or ethical justification for doing so. For instance, advertising healthy food makes achieves little since children are not rationally engaged. Further, companies are using it as a competition platform, compromising the original purpose for which it is meant. As a result, children fail to choose products based on merit and instead rely on the information provided in the commercial.    

Further, Buijzen and Patti (360), in studying 601 adverts targeting children, argue that gender stereotyping is high. Ads targeting boys presented them as action seekers through adventure and sports while girls’ commercials are largely presented with friendship, physical attractiveness and romance. Therefore, boys are presented as achievers while girls are sexual objects. The research calls reduction in this gender disparity where the female child is objectified by commercials.  

In general, Nylund (1) refers to the Children Rights and Business Principles, a program run by United Nations Global Compact as guide for advertising. The program promotes an array of guidelines that should be implemented at the workplace, marketplace and society to protect the interests of children. The principles require businesses to maintain communication that does not affect health or self-esteem or otherwise promote violence in commercials. These guidelines should be followed in all advertising appeals.   

Chapter 3: Methodology

3.1 Background on Focus Group

The research employs both the quantitative and qualitative approaches in investigating the relationship effects of advertising on consumption patterns in children. The first part of the study is exploratory and is based on secondary sources such as journals, books and organization reports and articles. This choice of data improves validity since it is a verifiable data. The study is descriptive in nature and unveils the effects of advertisements on children. The descriptive and exploratory studies present a background for thorough definitions and trends on the topic.

Subsequently, the study also collects primary information through the use of a questionnaire based on focused group discussions. The questionnaire carried guideline questions for discussion. The sample for the study composed of 72 children from Emerson Elementary School and Washington Junior High. The students were placed in 6 age groups as 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10, 10-11 and 11-12 based on class grades. Thus, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, and 7th grade were represented in the survey. There was equal representation between boys and girls in the survey as well. The students were identified on the basis of purposive sampling such that two sets of free talking students of white, minorities and immigrants were picked. When an immigrant was not available, a student from a different ethnic background was picked. Teachers ensured that the children selected were able to get along, allowing for ease of free communication. Therefore, every grade provided twelve students (Liamputtong 21). 

3.2. Process of Focus Group

The focused group discussion was conducted on two alternating Friday afternoons during recess time. The second session checked the inconsistencies in the responses. Focused group discussions were the most suitable data collection tool since the researcher wanted to gage respondents’ interest and effect of responding to the questions. However, the interviewer had great control over sequence of asking questions and reasons for asking the questions. Further, the researcher waited for the right chemistry between the participants before asking a question to get the best observations (Pranee 10). The responses were based on the Likert scale: agree, neither agree or disagree and disagree except for comments. For presentation of results, students were divided into two categories younger (6-8 years) and older (8-12 years).  

The first topic was whether the student had the ability to identify ads on television or online. All the students stated that they had the ability to differentiate ads from normal programming and online content. The ability to recognize online ad, however, increased with age. The 2nd grade students noted they had limited access to computers, unlike those in the 6th grade.  Older students disregarded information presented in commercials. The students revealed that they did not trust the information communicated from commercials. They required some approval to believe in the commercials from friends or family. The 2nd and 3rd grade students agreed that information presented in commercials was true.  Boys from these grades were most likely to believe the information to be true if the ads had a background of animation or video game. Older students were also influenced by celebrity advertising. Girls were more attached to musical celebrities, while boys were to professional athletes. African-American students particularly loved crank and rap celebrities. Other popular celebrities mentioned in the study were Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Lebron James and Peyton Manning. Junior students mentioned Spider Man, Ironman and Batman characters. The older students were not sure if such endorsement was sincere. The younger students agreed that the information was true.  

The younger students could not openly establish suggestive behavior in ads unlike the older students. The older girls were a little bit shy to comment. However, they agreed to being attracted to well-built characters in ads. Older boys also had this attraction and enjoyed suggestive contact in the ads. The boys were able to mention the curves from the bosom, cleavage and buttocks as some of the attracting features. Old students, however, felt such ads promoted the product as a tool to attract the other sex but did not believe in it. There was no consensus on whether alcohol ads were good in the survey.  Younger children felt that alcohol was not a product for them while older students weighed the advantages and disadvantages of consuming alcohol.    

The students also agreed that an ad on food would influence them to consume the food. The younger children reported that junk food ads were more interesting compared healthy foods, vegetables as operationalized by the study. The older girls held the same view but noted that they had to watch the ad one or two times to identify the brand. The girls preferred junk food to healthy foods. However, they would only try the product if a friend introduced it to them. Older boys did not have preference for any sub food group. The students, however, noted that junk foods were readily available and easy to manage than health foods. They also had no major choices based on the prices which were slightly high. Older students already attending outdoor activities like attending games found it less classy to have health foods around. 

The majority of the student admitted to having asked their parents to get them a product due to an ad. The students felt that a particular product was important and was going to improve their wellbeing. The students were categorical that such products were as a result of celebrity endorsement, peer influence and personal motivation. Peer influence to adverts arose when a fellow child possessed a product with running commercials. Personal motivation was comparison factor between a child’s possession and the product in commercial. The requests to parents were based on advert included food, clothing and toys.                     

Chapter 4: Analysis of Results

According to Nylund (1), marketers view children as a distinct market segment since they have discretionary income and can influence family purchases. Exposure to this market is rising with increased usage of the Internet and computer games. The study showed that students had at least once requested their parents to make a purchase based on an ad and could also make purchases at stores. Therefore, children have some purchasing power that is of interested to businesses. According to Dittman (58), children of up to the age of 12 spend about $18 billion annually. Moreover, they also have the ability to influence their parents’ purchasing decisions to a tune of $30 billion. Therefore, it is a market value firms are willing to do anything to get their hands on. 

Further, the study also showed that children have the ability to identify the fiction of a commercial versus reality. Cognitively, the commercials were perceived in different ways. The study showed that children improved their understanding on the intentions of ads with age. The younger category proved to be more trusting. Age also introduced more skepticism increasing doubts on the contents presented in the commercial. The older children also ignored ads after watching a couple of times and getting a glimpse of the product and brand. The observations are similar to those reported in studies by Rozendaal, Moniek, and Valkenburg (340) and Ward (434). Rozendaal, Moniek, and Valkenburg (342) found out that family, celebrities and peers have an influence on the effectiveness of adverts on children. This is in tandem with the mentioning of names like Beiber, Spiderman and other admired characters. Thus, it is evident that children look for something familiar in the ad so that they can cognitively build persuasion over a product.     

Once the persuasion is built, children openly demand the product and making purchases or request their parents to do so. The study identifies the impact of celebrity and family but introduces personal motivation. In this case, the children compared their personal effects to advertised products and where they felt the products were superior the attempted to acquire them. Commercials therefore achieve their function of marketing. As defined by Kaptari (p.7), Kotler (p.58) and Kaptan (8), the ads achieved the purpose of exposing products to children and motivate them to acquire it. However, motivation requires an external force to take effect. As noted by Moore and Lutz (41), product trials are more effective ads; nonetheless, the ads achieve less in motivating children to adopt snacks. The study also showed that students already have formed opinions about certain products such as alcohol. Equally, they have vested interest on products that concern them and contents of the ads.

It was evident from the study that children are emotionally affected to make general purchases as described above. However, the content of the ads introduces a new set of emotions. The commercials triggered emotions for the opposite sex. It also built reactions to certain parts of the body visible in the ads. Further, from the choice of celebrities, boys were more admiring of athletes while girls were more attracted to pop stars. The studies arrived at similar findings to previous studies conducted by Buijzen and Patti (360) on gender stereotyping. The commercials confirmed presentations where by boys are related to action and girls romance. The expression of this phenomenon shows that advertisers are intentionally exploiting the weaknesses of children as a basis for running commercial. 

Food commercials generated a different set of cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects.  Most of the students agreed that a food commercial would influence their choice of consumption thereafter. This observation is similar to the findings by Watson (1) and Hattab (10). Commercial introduce an attitude of choosiness in children where children develop special preference for some foods. The study identified that students were most vulnerable to junk food, unlike healthy foods. Junk food commercials had the ability to induce consumption without recommendations from parents or peers. Moore and Lutz (41) note that this exposure improved brand awareness for junk food. 

The study provided differing results to Ward (434) that the potential for remembering food reduced by age. There was active association for food ads for younger students but older boys were indifferent on the best food ad. The girls agreed that it was only adequate to pick the brand name of the product from the commercial. Ideally, the study noted that older children understood ads faster than their younger peers. The students noted that junk food more available; introducing a new hypothesis that the effectiveness of unhealthy food was as a result accessibility. Healthy foods were less accessible in terms of availability and prices. Most of the children had a soft spot for ads related to junk food. 

The study also identified some ethical elements in based on emotions, sex and gender stereotyping. To the contrary, the study noted that commercials affect health, self-esteem and behavior in children. The ethical appeal called for by United Nations Global Impact is, therefore, ineffective. The immediate concern is the purpose of an ad, to inform and influence. Therefore, the study implies that there is no moral or ethical concern in advertising products in the market. The rationale is that firms promote their products for business gains. Where the commercials appear justified as health versus unhealthy feeds, it more of a commercial war between the companies than health interests of the children. Thus, Watson (1) notes that policy makers are justified in banning advertisements targeting children under the age 12 year in Sweden and Norway. This is further vilified by an observation from the study and previous scholars that children within this age bracket are more vulnerable to commercials (Dittmann 49, Ward 434; Rozendaal, Moniek and Valkenburg 340).  

The study showed the presence of the use of sex related aspects and gender stereotyping. The study identified these unethical practices in the content of ads rather than information about the product or intention to promote the product therein. Sexism and gender stereotyping are used as decoys to sway the emotions of children into believing production mentioned thereof are superior. The study revealed that the some products related to the two advertising appeal make them feel attracted and able to influence the opposite sex. As noted by Hattab (10), sex sells and, therefore, the use related content in ads is unethical. The older children in the study showed particular interest in certain male and female body parts. Moore and Lutz (43) also note that older children are more sensitive to figurative ads. The children are able to identify the content though also understand the message is supposed to be used literally. The children can separate the fantasy from the idea of the commercial to some degree.  

The uses of these features show that there is little application of rationality in children-targeted advertisements. The commercials benefits of the products are not openly shown. The ads use other components in the art to influence the children into accepting the products. This is as shown in the use of celebrities, peers, nude pictures and gender stereotyping. The commercials, therefore, carry with them other persuasive content other than objective information about a product and its benefits to the consumer. Commercials, therefore, are based in influencing the intention to buy. 

Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations

The study considers the effect of advertising based on a child’s understanding, ad content, cognitive ability, affective development and behavior exhibition. The study established that children are able to identify an ad from the age of 6 to 12. As the children get older, they are able grasp more concepts in the ads. This is one aspect attributed to literacy, where older students are able to differentiate between fantasy and production but still find themselves swayed if the product is associated with their family, peers and celebrity. As a child’s cognitive development increases, their understanding of ads improve. Generally, younger children are more believing than older children.  

Whenever the ads succeed in triggering emotions, there is an associated behavior. Children proceed to purchase the product or request their parents to purchase the products for them. In this case, the commercial achieve in influencing a consumption decision in the children. Commercials make children develop consumer preference and become choosy on what to consume. They influence the children negatively because they develop negative consumption habits such unhealthy foods that increase obesity. However, the study also showed that children formed cognitive and affective opinions about certain products and their commercials, such as with alcohol. 

The study also noted that older children had the ability to comprehend background information in commercials. The information studied involved sensitive sexual and gender related information. The children identified that sensitive content were understood and could likely influence decisions they made. There is also evidence of marketers exploiting children due to their limited ability to understand ads. The use of gender stereotypes, celebrities and figurative content in adverts are used to cloud the judgment of kids in a bid to influence sales. Marketers are aware that children disregard ads as they grow up hence the need of associating products with activities that are child-like. Gender based commercials are best on action for boys and romance for girls. Therefore, the development of ads increasingly becomes aggressive as children grow up. This kind of advertisement distorts the fundamentals of marketing whereby customer interests are put first and fulfilled rather than engaging in market wars or meeting profitability targets.

Thus, the paper recommends:

Advertisers should maintain objectivity when developing ads targeting children. Marketing maintains business for which child depend on livelihoods through their parents. Marketers should therefore observe professionalism in advertising by observing objectivity in describing the product. 

Advertisers should also provide the benefits of the product than backgrounds unrelated to the product. The use of gender stereotyping and figurative messages should be minimized to product information. Greater ethics should be practiced to reduce the chances of exploiting children for commercial gain. 

Future Research

This research also recommends future investigation into the use of figurative language on the cognitive and affective development of children. It is important to establish, for academic and policy development reasons, the impact of advertising content on teenagers and young adults. Further, it is also important to establish if banning ads is an effective strategy of combating the negative effects of advertisement on children, using Sweden and Norway as case studies. The main impacts are development of consumer preferences and use of adverts in terms of art and copy. An empirical study would verify whether the development of children is more sustainable without exposure to ads.


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