Advertising Campaigns and Childrens Films
Advertising campaigns and children’s films are progressively on the increase in today’s society. Marketing campaigns regularly advertise toys, computer games, fast foods, and various products for children. A great deal of advertising targeted at children not only promotes sweets and toys but also other products, such as music, clothing, films, soft drinks and pre-sweetened cereals. Advertisers have been severely and duly criticized for their unethical practices in marketing. Increasingly, the marketing campaigns have led to conflict from parents’, pressure groups, politicians and organizations in U.S. and around the globe. Hence, advertising campaigns and children’s films are unethical.
Several people believe that it is unethical to target children with advertisements as they are unable to distinguish advertising from actual programming from the way adults can. Most advertising campaigns target children advertise products such as entertainment, goods and fashionware. Children under 11years of age utilize more than $ 18 billion yearly purchasing such products and control family spending decisions by approximately $ 130 to 670 billion yearly. Additionally, advertisers spend $ 15 to 17 billion annually advertising to children. This would denote that advertising targeted at children is deceptive and unjust, since; advertisers would not expend such vast amounts of money per annum targeting children who unable to oppose their sales pitch (Shah 2010).
Advertising particularly to children is unethical because parents are compelled to purchase products for them since they barely have any money of their own. Instead of advertising directly to parents, companies utilize a nag and whine campaign that results to conflicts between parents and children. For instance, children bother their parents or guardians to expend money, on unnecessary toys, which their children may have fun with, merely for a few hours. Young children should not be handled like adult consumers as they are unable to comprehend the value of money. Advertising can stir up strong cravings in children to possess things, cravings they cannot control in any other manner other than by pestering their parents. Furthermore, advertising which presents products to children as mandatory and necessary also produces social divisions in families and inferior feelings in children (Gunter, Oates and Blades 3).
Additionally, advertising campaigns targeted at children have resulted to negative social consequences, such as consuming unhealthy food and drinks. Persuading vulnerable children to eat large quantities of fatty, salty and sugary food is unethical as it would produce overweight, unhealthy children, with bad eating habits that will endure for a lifetime. Such food advertising campaign is unethical because it does not give emphasis to healthy eating. The result is that children who are exposed to a large number of such adverts opt for snack foods and sweetened drinks, with little prominence on substitute, healthier foods. It is considered unethical to advertise products which are acknowledged to be partially responsible for health problems. Consequently, society will have to pay a high price in regard to the additional medical care such children will ultimately need. Children advertising campaigns that involve controversial products such as alcohol, firearms, and cigarettes and gambling are also unethical since they tend to promote unprincipled behaviors. Hence, the government should play its role in restricting advertisements which contribute to this problem (Shimp 607).
Advertising campaigns that highly emphasis on acquiring possessions and aim children to live a certain lifestyle are also unethical. This is particularly the case for branded products where the weight of the advertising is on buying not just a product but a product with a specific label. Children will be led to purchase such products as they have the ability to distinguish brands and logos before they can read. Additionally, several advertisement campaigns present their products to children in the most attractive way, for instance, with celebrities to back up a product. This can enhance children’s fondness for a product, but certainly raises questions about the children’s ability to grasp that the celebrity is being compensated for the back up and may as a result, not be offering the objective recommendation. More commonly, the use of famous characters, whether actual or imaginary from children’s films may make it difficult for children to differentiate between advertisements and programs. This can result to the children pestering their parents and becoming annoyed, angry, and dissatisfied if their parents’ decline to buy the desired products.
Furthermore, companies progressively indulge in exploitative advertising campaigns that callously target children. To illustrate, in the U.S.A. marketing companies offer schools with free televisions in replacement with the children students being compelled to watch a certain extent of advertisement and film every day. It is time that children were defended from such unethical commercialization. Industry expenditures on advertising to children have detonated in the past decade, rising from a meager $100 million in 1990 to a surplus of $2 billion in 2000. Currently in U.S., children have more independence and decision-making influence within the family compared to the previous generations (Kahane and Cavender 245).
Exploitative advertising campaigns develop children into becoming enthusiastic consumers. Multinational marketing companies intentionally persuade them to be materialistic, and thus, their happiness is related with purchasing power and the ownership of certain goods. Lately in Sweden, marketing campaigns targeted for children less than 12 years were banned since their parents considered them to be invaluable, misleading, imprecise and manipulative. The children below 10 years old were considered incapable to comprehend the rationale of an advertisement until the prime age of 12. Additionally, Quebec banned print and broadcast advertisements targeted at children below 12 years of age. Indeed, advertisement campaigns are deemed to be unethical in our youngsters’ society (Marshall 222).
Moreover, marketing campaigns targeted at only children are unethical since the child is at a stage of development termed as proximal development. At this stage, children merely take up elements of what they see in the world around them and then employ it in different aspects of their lives. They are short of the ability to ponder arguments in a sober and skeptical manner. As a result, this makes them susceptible to exploitation. Such advertisements are unethical since they produce desires in children to purchase what is in the ads at all costs and do not engage parent’s approval. Usually, ethical marketing campaigns entail children to receive approval from their parents. Any form of marketing that asserts to be ethical must stick to the power balance principle. The scales must not be tilted towards the consumer neither should they support the marketer either. Once marketers target susceptible markets, they are inclined to make the condition favor them. This is termed as caveat emptor in marketing which is an unfair situation and is also manipulative in nature (APA 2011).
Much advertising directed at children actually attempt to take advantage of their integrity and suggestibility, in the hope that they will put demands on their parents to purchase products of no real help to them. Advertising like this offends against the self-respect and rights of both parents and children; it interferes upon the parent-child relationship, especially when parents refute their children requests. Advertising campaigns to children should focus on ethical issues such as building a child positively. Most children cannot differentiate between entertainment and commercials until they reach eight years of age, so they may not even be conscious that they are being enticed to buy a certain product when watching an entertaining commercial. The main cause of these concerns is the inadequate ability of younger children to process information and to make wise decisions prior to purchasing. Advertising generates detrimental values in children and results in improper diets and causes unfavorable levels of family conflict (Lavoie 345).
Food advertising campaigns has proved to be a detrimental commercial influence on children, since it has affected a large percentage of children, with such severe consequences for their health and well being. Since April 2007, the U.K. prohibited junk food advertising during television programs targeted at children within 7 to 9 years of age. From January 1, 2008, the prohibition was extended to all children below 16 years of age. According to American Psychological Association research based in U.S.A., children under the age of eight lack capability skills required to decisively comprehend television advertising campaigns messages. Hence, they are likely to acknowledge advertiser message as candid, truthful and unprejudiced. This is likely to result to unhealthy eating habits as portrayed by today’s era of obesity prevalence. Advertising campaigns typically draws young consumers to purchase their products. Children tend to remember content from an advertisement to which they have been exposed to and prefer a product that is displayed with merely a single commercial exposure and reinforced with repeated exposures (APA 2011).
Moreover, other advertising campaigns mainly targeting adults create risks for child viewers. To exemplify, beer ads are commonly displayed during sports events and observed by millions of children, generating both brand familiarity and more constructive outlooks towards drinking in children as immature as 9 to 10 years of age. Another example of susceptible advertising content entails commercials for video games and violent media pictures. Such advertisement plays a role in a violent media culture which enhances the probability of children’s violent behavior and desensitizes children to the real world of violence (Baumann 55).
For films, horror movies that scare children may be harmful to a child’s development as they are liable to have independent and interdependent consequences upon how children act in response. For instance, children under 8 years old are terrified by scary monsters observed on films. Such films that manipulate fear in children are believed to be unethical (Jensen 228). Additionally, the entertainment industry projects unethical values, violence, religious favoritism and sex in its films. Young minds are easily moldable when they frequently view sex and violence in films; they tend to believe that such habits are common in the society since big heroes themselves indulge in such behaviors (Baumann 55).
Young children growing up today spend a vast amount of time consuming media. Besides, much of what children observe on films particularly focuses on violence. The entertainment industry host unethical marketing practices to drive children into violent entertainment. For instance, it was observed that films were being propped up to children under the ages regarded suitable by the industry‘s own rating system. One general approach referred to as the marketing of violent toys related to films rated (PG) Parental Guidance 13 or R to children young as 4 or 5 years of age. This was applied to violent films for example, Spider-man, Godzilla, Terminator, Star Wars, The Hulk and Tomb Raider. Hence, such violent films and the associated advertising campaigns that pull young children into a society of violence are deemed to be unethical. The approach of using violence as an instrument for selling products to children has rapidly spread through films. Such films expose young children to bullying, unclean language, mean-spiritedness, and the abhorrence and degradation of others (Carlsson-Paige and Levin 16).
Young children are particularly susceptible to the desensitizing effects of film violence because they are thrilled by the action they perceive before they are able to comprehend its detrimental effects. Violence in films influences children’s play and behavior in the short term and damages their social and cognitive growth over time, eventually harming the health of the public as a whole. For instance, in recent years youngsters were found to shoot classmates or exact pain on their colleagues without having any noticeable feelings for them. Hence, various children films are unethical since they pull children into a culture of violence from a young age and help create a foundation for violent behavior in the future (Carlsson-Paige and Levin 16).
The combination of advertising campaigns and films is a stimulating mix of unethical behavior. This is the effect of the impact of advertising campaigns on the intellects of the susceptible young ones. When more children get exposed to the lustrous world of exploited values publicized on the advertisements and films, they become irrational, anticipate and allow violent and dishonorable behavior as daily reality of life and grow up to be selfish and self-centered. Such media advertisements are unethical in view of the fact that a child starts to believe that he is the centre of the world, and all the toys, sweets and advertised products are his due. He will trust anything that is advertised and build up irrational expectations, and have irresponsible consumer behavior (Gunter, Oates and Blades 3).
It is the responsibility of advertising campaigns and film industry to contribute to the authentic, fundamental development of children and to foster their welfare in the society. The Government should enforce statutory regulations on marketing campaigns advertisement and films. For instance, the government should limit marketing campaigns that advertise children’ toys and products related to movies rated for adult age groups and should produce an independent film rating board that functions outside of industry control. Currently, advertising campaigns and entertainment industry have a preference for self-regulation to government regulation. Nevertheless, they should self-regulate and carefully apply their own codes of conduct with liable behavior and voluntary self-discipline (Responsible Advertising n.d.).
Even though marketers need to be very receptive to the limited information processing abilities of younger consumers, ethical and valuable marketing campaigns can be devised to fulfill the needs of children and their parents. All features of the marketing mix must regard the ability of the child. Moreover, the advertisements should be structured in a way to avoid targeting the child only but also engage the family or parent. Educating children about the tactics of marketing at an early age will guarantee that children comprehend the essentials of the commercial world. Children can still be deemed as a target audience for marketing of retail products; conversely, marketing campaigns advertisers should conduct advertisements in an ethical way. The government, the civil society and the media sector are required to build up effective means by which to protect children from invasive marketing (Responsible Advertising 2009).
In Conclusion, Children are a significant target group for advertising campaigns, as they are deemed to be consumers of tomorrow; nevertheless, the commercial world must place before itself a healthy and positive goal: its advertising must be honest, substantive, ethical and attractive. By promoting a child to be more self-centered, covetous and materialistic, the advertiser interferes with his growth to moral maturity. Sadly enough, the advertising marketing campaigns tend to put off valuable programming for children on the advertisements and films. They should forego temporary and immediate gains and instill ethics and values in their commercials.