“Use & Abuse of Children in Advertising: The Legal Perspective”
“Use & Abuse of Children in Advertising: The Legal Perspective”
1 A Dissertation on“Use & Abuse of Children in Advertising: The Legal Perspective” By Shashikant Bhagat Nalsar Pro ID No. MLH39_09 A Project Paper Submitted in Partial fulfillment of P.G. Diploma in Media Laws for Module – IV (Advertisement & Law) January 2010 Nalsar University of Law (Nalsar Pro), Hyderabad
1 Table of ContentsSr. Heading PageNo. No.01. Introduction: - 3-502 Parental Influence 6-703. Advertising in Different Media 8-1104. Marketing Techniques 12-1205. Specific Health Related Areas of 13-16 Concern – Facts & Cases06. Advertising in Schools 17-1707. Public Perception 18-2408. Conclusion 25-2509. Bibliography 26-26
1 Introduction Advertising is a pervasive inﬂuence on children and adolescents. Youngpeople exposed to advertising on the Internet, in magazines, and in schools. Thisexposure may contribute signiﬁcantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poornutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use. Media education has been shown to beeffective in mitigating some of the negative effects of advertising on children andadolescents. From a child’s point of view, what is the purpose of TV advertising? Isadvertising on TV done to give actors the opportunity to take a rest or practicetheir lines? Or is it done to make people buy things? Furthermore, is the maindifference between programs and commercials that commercials are for real,whereas programs are not, or that programs are for kids and commercials foradults? As proved in several cases. Some children are able to distinguish between programs and commercialsand are aware of the intent of TV advertising, whereas others are not. There is ageneral concern of parents and other societal actors, that TV advertising mayhave a negative, intended or unintended, influence on children Specifically, TVadvertising may lead a child to select material objects over more socially orientedalternatives, potentially increase parent-child conflict and may lead to a moredisappointed, unhappier child as proved by Goldberg andGom in1978. One of the reasons behind this parental concern is that children can beexploited more easily if they do not understand the differences betweentelevision programming and commercials and if they do not know the sellingintent of commercials. If children understand the intention of commercials andare able to distinguish them from programs, however, the potential effect ofadvertising might be reduced. First, understanding of TV advertising allowschildren to use cognitive defenses, such as producing counter arguments andalternative situations. Secondly, the recognition of the difference between programs andcommercials allows them to avoid the ‘break’ or commercials by switching toanother channel. Hence, whether or not children have an understanding of TVadvertising is an important issue to investigate, both from the parent’s standpointas understanding may prevent negative influences on the well-being of theirchildren, and from the advertisers’ standpoint as it will alter the effectiveness oftheir TV commercials.
1 However one must understand and realize by now that it is not only about theaverage child viewer that we are concerned about but also the strategies used bythe advertiser and the portrayal of children in these advertisements and the finalmessage they are conveying. On the issue several European countries forbid or severely curtail advertisingto children; in the United States, on the other hand, selling to children is simply“business as usual.” 1. The average young person views more than 3000 ads per day on television (TV) on the Internet, on billboards, and in magazines. 2. Increasingly, advertisers are targeting younger and younger children in an effort to establish “brand-name preference” at as early an age as possible. 3. This targeting occurs because advertising is a $250 billion a year industry with 9, 00,000 brands to sell and children and adolescents are attractive consumers. Teenagers globally spend $155 billion a year, children younger than 12 years spend another $25 billion and both groups also inﬂuence perhaps another $200 billion of their parents’ spending per year. 4. Increasingly, advertisers are seeking to ﬁnd new and creative ways of targeting young consumers via the Internet, in schools. Children’s understanding of TV advertising can be decomposed into: 1) Their ability to distinguish between programs and commercials. 2) Their ability to comprehend the selling intent of advertising.To some extent, these two components are related in a hierarchical manner, ascomprehension of the selling intent of advertising implies that one is aware of acertain difference between commercials and programs, whereas the oppositedoes not necessarily hold. It has been shown that most children aged between 5and 8 years can discriminate between programs and commercials and/orcomprehend the purpose of the commercials.
1 Parental influence One must consider this very important factor as children unlike adults don’thave the ability to make decisions and thus have to generally obey and take theirparents’ stand on several issues. This could be due to the fact that children look up to their parents and sub-consciously mimic their lifestyles, habits and several other such tendencies andalso imbibe a similar mind-set as to that of their parents as circumstances haveproven to be severe conditioners in such situations Parents are generally concerned about the (social) well-being of theirchildren. This well-being, from the parental point of view, might be adverselyaffected by marketing effort directed at their children. In particular, TV advertising on food causes parental concern. In response,parents may try to mediate and control their children’s TV viewing and/or discussadvertising content and intent with their children. Parental control of TV viewing isexpected to lower the number of hours a child watches TV and thereby thecumulative experience a child has with TV advertising, which in turn might have anegative effect on the child’s understanding of TV advertising. This way, as intended by the parents, control of TV viewing may lower thetotal effect of TV advertising on the child, but it may also have the opposite effect.Frequent parent-child interaction on TV advertising will most likely not have aneffect on the number of hours a child watches TV, but it may have a positiveeffect on a child’s understanding of TV advertising. Evidence of the effectivenessof these attempts to lower the total influence of TV advertising on the child issomewhat mixed, but most studies find no or rather small effects of parentalconcern.Research has also shown that children younger than 8 years of age arecognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising. They do notunderstand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims atface value. In other words they are unable to understand the persuasive factor inthe advertisement as well as accept all claims in the advertisements to be truethereby accepting the advertisers’ word to be true and absolute.In fact, in the late 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the UnitedStates of America held hearings, re-viewed the existing research, and came tothe conclusion that it was unfair and deceptive to advertise to children youngerthan 6 years. What kept the FTC from banning such ads was that it was thoughtto be impractical to implement such a ban.
1 However, some Western countries have done exactly that: Sweden andNorway forbid all advertising directed at children younger than 12 years, Greecebans toy advertising until after 10 PM, and Denmark and Belgium severelyrestrict advertising aimed at children. But, in India one must note that there’s no such restrict on advertisers asthere’s the lack of presence of an ‘ombudsman’ which is an unbiased anddetached party with the sole purpose of regulation of material broadcasted. Such organizations are: 1. FCC – U.S.A 2. OfCom – Office of Communication – United Kingdom But, in India the advertisers have a self regulatory body called the Advertising Agency Association of India one must however note that such an organization would never hurt its chances and thus would never pass any such legislation which would impede the message it delivers.
1 ADVERTISING IN DIFFERENT MEDIA Television Children and adolescents view 40,000 ads per year on TV alone. Thisoccurs despite the fact that the Children’s Television Act of 1990 (Pub L No.101– 437) limits advertising on children’s programming to 10.5 minutes per houron weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. However, much of children’s viewing occurs during prime time, whichfeatures nearly 16 minutes per hour of advertising. A 30-second advertisementduring an ODI match played by India now costs about Rs. 2 Cr. but reachesabout 8-10 crore people. Similarly, an ad during the Indian Premier League costseven higher because of the popularity of the 20-twenty format and the hugeaudience willing to watch these matches. An ad on Set Max during IPL-II costabout Rs 6 Cr. The main reason for the appeal of this medium is the diverse nature of itsavailability. The number of channels and the genre they cater to is also a majorconcern. If one were to view the Cartoon Network (a part of Turner BroadcastingService (TBS); channel with highest TRP ratings among kids’ channels) in a daythen one would note the following ads for sure: 1. Funskool, Mattel and Hasbro urging kids to buy their toys and stimulating them with attractive graphics and other scenarios. 2. McDonalds advertising their Happy Meal and trying to lure kids with promises for free toys. 3. Surf and Tide explaining the kids to dirty their clothes and justifying it to them and thus pushing their products in the way. 4. Chocolate manufacturing firms such as Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey’s, trying to push their products. 5. Ads for clothing brands like Gini & Joni Kids collection, Weekender kids and several more.
1 Movies An investigation found that violent movies, music, and video games havebeen intentionally marketed to children and adolescents. Although movietheaters have agreed not to show trailers for A-rated movies before U and U/Arated movies in response to the release of the report, children continue to seeadvertising for violent media in other venues. For instance, M-rated video games (Mature), which according to thegaming industry’s own rating system are not recommended for children youngerthan 17 years, are frequently advertised in movie theaters, video gamemagazines, and publications with high youth readership. Also, movies targeted at children often prominently feature brand-nameproducts and fast food restaurants. In 1997–1998, 8 alcohol companies placedproducts in 233 motion pictures and in 1 episode or more of 181 TV series. For instance one must note the major trend in films to endorse brands, thesoft drink drunk by the heroine in the teen-targeted movie Mera Pehla Pehla Pyar(MP3) was Pepsi or Shah Rukh Khan drove a Bentley in the movie Billu (Barber)or Hrithik Roshan drinking Bournvita in Krrish and Koi Mil Gaya clearly with anaim to influence the young minds.
1 Print Media According to the RNI there are more than 50 magazines in India that arenow targeted at children and the youth. Young people see 45% more beer adsand 27% more ads for hard liquor in teen magazines than adults do in theirmagazines globally. Despite the governments agreement with the tobaccoindustry in 1998, surrogate advertising of tobacco firms in the youth-orientedmagazines amounted to $217 million in 2009. One must realize that the youth are very impressionable when it comes toperceiving messages broadcast via a particular medium and thus find magazinesand comics very trustworthy at their age. Ads of chocolates, confectionery items,sweets, toys, cartoons and other children entertainment industry relatedcompanies find such magazines to be an ideal place for advertising. The development era has ensured that today’s children don’t read meremagazines like Champak or Chandamama or comics like Chacha Chaudry butare now exposed to a whole set of youth magazines like Chatterbox, Justanother Magazine (JAM), Gokulam and to comics like Tinkle digest, ArchieComics, and the whole International range of comics from Detective Comics (DC)and Marvel and these publications are now littered with ads and other suchpromotional material. With the entry of computer help and gaming magazines in India like PCQuest, Game Force, Computers @ Home and Digit the publications have movedeven to the digital platforms of their readers homes. Movie promos, free softwaredemos and demos of games are doled out for free on complementary CDs andDVDs which children are excited to exercise and later purchase.
1 The Internet An increasing number of Web sites try to entice children and teenagers tomake direct sales. Teenagers account for more than $1 billion in e-commercedollars, and the industry spent $21.6 million on Internet banner ads alone in2002. More than 100 commercial Web sites promote alcohol products. Thecontent of these sites varies widely, from little more than basic brand informationto chat rooms, “virtual bars,” drink recipes, games, contests, and merchandisecatalogues. Many of these sites use slick promotional techniques to target youngpeople. In 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Pub L No. 105–277) was passed, which mandates that commercial Web sites cannot knowinglycollect information from children younger than 13 years. These sites are requiredto provide notice on the site to parents about their collection, use, and disclosureof children’s personal information and must obtain “veriﬁable parental consent”before collecting, using, or disclosing this information. With the advent of networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Orkut,MySpace and blogging websites like Blogger, BlogSpot and several other suchinteractive sites there has been an astronomical rise in the time spent by childrenover the net. Consequently this has become an exciting proposition foradvertisers and as a result the number of specific ads has increased over the lastdecade. The specific ads era, ushered in by Google ensures that only ads of itemsyou are interested in, appear on display thus clearly implying that it becomesincreasingly difficult for kids to separate information from advertisements and soon. MARKETING TECHNIQUES
1 Advertisers have traditionally used techniques to which children andadolescents are more susceptible, such as product placements in movies and TVshows, tie ins between movies and fast food restaurants, 18 tie ins between TVshows and toy action ﬁgures or other products, 7 kids’ clubs that are linked topopular shows, and celebrity endorsements. Cellular phones are currently being marketed to 6- to 12-year-olds, withthe potential for directing speciﬁc advertisers to children and preteens. Coca-Cola reportedly paid Warner Bros. Studios $150 million for the global marketingrights to the movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and nearly 20% offast food restaurant ads now mention a toy premium in their ads. Certain tie-in products may be inappropriate for children (e.g., actionﬁgures from the World Wrestling Federation or an action doll that muttersprofanities from an R-rated Austin Powers movie). Children’s advertisingprotections will need to be updated for digital TV, which is in place today. In the near future, children watching a TV program will be able to click anon-screen link and go to a Web site during the program. Interactive games andpromotions on digital TV will have the ability to lure children away from regularprogramming, encouraging them to spend a long time in an environment thatlacks clear separation between content and advertising. Interactive technology may also allow advertisers to collect vast amountsof information about children’s viewing habits and preferences and target themon the basis of that information. Along with this is the fear of using digitalenvironment to create virtual reality the digital computer and online gamescreated have transformed the entire scene. It has become nearly impossible toseparate children from such games as they begin to be more steeped in virtualreality than real existence.
1 SPECIFIC HEALTH-RELATED AREAS OF CONCERN Tobacco Advertising Tobacco manufacturers spend $30 million/day ($11.2billion/year) onadvertising and promotion. Exposure to tobacco advertising may be a bigger riskfactor than having family members and peers who smoke and can evenundermine the effect of strong parenting practices. Two unique and large longitudinal studies have found that approximatelyone third of all adolescent smoking can be attributed to tobacco advertising andpromotions. In addition, more than 20 studies have found that children exposedto cigarette ads or promotions are more likely to become smokers themselves. Recent evidence has emerged that tobacco companies have speciﬁcallytargeted teenagers as young as 13 years of age. However, in India there hasbeen a blanket ban on cigarette advertising but the concept of surrogateadvertising has been potent enough in conveying the message to the people atlarge. ITC doesn’t advertise its cigarettes but Wills club lifestyle and severalother such named ITC products only arouse the child’s curiosity and thus makehim find out that it is a cigarette manufacturer. Soon, the very purpose of the banon cigarette smoking is defeated as the public though not viewing these ads butis aware of similar named products and thus is also aware of the other products. Alcohol Advertising Alcohol manufacturers spend $5.7 billion/year on advertising andpromotion. Young people typically view 2000 beer and wine commercials
1annually, with most of the ads concentrated in sports programming. During primetime, only 1 alcohol ad appears every 4 hours. Yet, in sports programming, the frequency increases to 2.4 ads per hour.Research has found that adolescent drinkers are more likely to have beenexposed to alcohol advertising. Given that children begin making decisions aboutalcohol at an early age—probably during high school exposure to beercommercials represents a signiﬁcant risk factor. The same surrogate advertising scenario is of major concern in this scenetoo as people must note and observe that liquor manufacturers especially the UBgroup advertises only soda and non-alcoholic beverages but so strategically thatthe viewer is aware of the alcoholic products they manufacture. In the popular IPL there’s even a team called the Royal ChallengersBangalore clearly informing the public that the only thing actually royal aboutthem is the beverage manufactured by their team owner ‘Royal Challenge’. Drug Advertising “Just Say No” as a message to teenagers about drugs seems doomed tofailure given that $11 billion every year is spent on cigarette advertising, $5.7billion per year is spent on alcohol advertising, and nearly $4 billion per year isspent on prescription drug advertising. Drug companies now spend more than twice as much on marketing asthey do on research and development. The top 10 drug companies made a totalproﬁt of $57.9 billion in 2008-09, more than the other 490 companies in theFortune 500 combined. Is such advertising effective? A recent survey of physicians found that92% of patients had requested an advertised drug. In addition, children andteenagers may get the message that there is a drug available to cure all ills andheal all pain, a drug for every occasion (including sexual intercourse). Food Advertising and Obesity Advertisers spend more than $2.5 billion/year to promote restaurants andanother $2 billion to promote food products. On TV, of the estimated 40 000 ads per
1year that young people see, half are for food, especially sugared cereals and high-calorie snacks. Healthy foods are advertised less than 3% of the time; children rarely see afood advertisement for broccoli. Increasingly, fast food conglomerates are using toytie-ins with major children’s motion pictures to try to attract young people. Nearly20% of fast food ads now mention a toy premium in their commercials. Several studies document that young children request more junk food(deﬁned as foods with high-caloric density but very low nutrient density) after viewingcommercials. In a particular, earlier study, the amount of TV viewed per weekcorrelated with requests for speciﬁc foods and with caloric intake. At the same time, advertising healthy foods has been shown to increasewholesome eating in children as young as 3 to 6 years of age. Sex in Advertising Sex is used in commercials to sell everything from beer to shampoo tocars. New research is showing that teenagers’ exposure to sexual content in themedia maybe responsible for earlier onset of sexual intercourse or other sexualrelated activities. What is increasingly apparent is the discrepancy between the abundanceof advertising of products for erectile dysfunction (ED), (between January andOctober, 2004, drug companies spent $343 million advertising Viagra, Levitra,and Cialis) and the rise in advertising for birth control products or emergencycontraceptives like i-pill on the major TV networks.
1 This instills a false sense of security in minds of the young who feel theirsexual activities will be of no consequence as they would be covered up by thesedrugs which is consequentially leading to a morally challenged youth in the world. Ads for ED drugs give children and teens inappropriate messages aboutsex and sexuality at a time when they are not being taught sex education inschool. Research has deﬁnitively found that giving teenagers increased accessto birth control through advertising does make them sexually active at a youngerage. One must note that these ads above discussed, though are not broadcaston television or national media in India however make it in to India via spam in e-mail. The number of ads in a youth’s inbox for ED drugs is huge and childrenhave constantly been traumatized across the country for having what they feelare ‘inadequate organ sizes’. These teens are at a confusing stage in their life cycle totally unaware oftheir new bodily trends and are further surprised and stressed at such sort ofinformation as they are particularly in India devoid and starved of any form ofsexual education or instruction. Global advertising also frequently uses female models that are anorectic inappearance and, thus, may contribute to the development of a distorted bodyself-image and abnormal eating behaviors in young girls. This is also a major concern further because people globally are surprisedwith the portrayal of women as mere objects of sexual fantasy and thus theirportrayal in poor light is a major problem as these ads lead a child to feel thatwoman are no humans but objects to fulfill one’s needs! ADVERTISING IN SCHOOLS
1 Advertisers have slowly but steadily inﬁltrated school systems around thecountry. The “3 Rs” have now become the “4 Rs,” with the fourth R being“retail.”Ads are now appearing on school buses, in gymnasiums, on book covers,and even in bathroom stalls. More than 200 school districts in the US have signed exclusive contractswith soft drink companies. These agreements specify the number and placementof soda-vending machines, which is ironic given that schools risk losing federalsubsidies for their free breakfast and lunch programs if they serve soda in theircafeterias. In addition, there are more than 4500 Pizza Hut chains and 3000 Taco Bellchains in school cafeterias in the US. However the scenario in India is differentbut in urban schools one can find such machines of Horlicks, Bournvita andBoost installed at schools and also the new trend of fast food joints on schoolpremises has been a major concern. Recently, posh urban schools across the country have had retail outlets ofCafé Coffee Day and Barista installed in their premises clearly indicating thatstudents in school are no longer safe from blatant consumerism. School advertising also appears under the guise of educational TV:Channel One. Currently available in 12 000 schools across the world, ChannelOne consists of 10 minutes of current-events programming and 2 minutes ofcommercials. Advertisers pay $200 000 for advertising time and the opportunity to target40% of the world’s teenagers for 30 seconds. According to a recent UN report,Channel One now plays in 25% of the World’s middle and high schools andgenerates proﬁts estimated at $100 million annually. Public Perception
1 This article was present on the worldwide web and is an article which duly summarizes our analysis: Children, Advertising & Target: Why Kids Want So Much This item was written by Savita Iyer-Ahrestani. a freelance financial journalistfrom The Netherlands who blogs for Working Parents. Almost all the American parents I have met while living overseas say that thetwo things they miss most about the States are online shopping and Target(TGT), which in our times have become pretty much one and the same thing. In the four years that I have lived outside the US, I, too, have missed theconvenience of Target and its panoply of both store and online choices. But likeevery other American expat parent I’ve met, I also have a real fear of returning tothat world of temptation, for I remember all too well setting out on shopping tripsto buy, say, a pack of batteries, and returning home with all manner of things Ihad no intention of getting in the first place. The greatest fear I and the fellow Americans I’ve met overseas share is theimpact of the easy consumer culture that Target et. al. stand for on our children.Living overseas—particularly in The Netherlands, which is a very basic, no-frills-at-all kind of place—our kids have been shielded from the “I wants” and “I needs”that the world (myself included) associates with America. How easily can itensnare these kids once they get back to the States? I asked Allison Pugh, assistant professor of sociology at the University ofVirginia and author of “Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children and ConsumerCulture,” what advice she had for me, taking my two tabula rasa children—agedeight and five and with no recollection of America (they left the US in 2005)—back to New Jersey in a couple of months. “Good luck,” she said with a laugh. I told her my favorite European vs. American story: A French grandmother Iknow went to the States for her granddaughter’s (whose father is American)birthday. As the French and many other European grandparents do, she tookone very exquisite and quite expensive dress for the little girl. But it wascompletely overshadowed by the American grandmother and her armfuls of gifts,tossed into a corner without a second glance. The French grandmother said shehad never felt so embarrassed in her life.
1 “I’m quite frightened about the onslaught of mass consumerism-even thoughthere’s a recession, I still feel that American children want and get so much morethan children I have seen in Europe,” I told Pugh. “Should I be afraid of this?” Yes, she says, there is definitely something to be scared of. The whopping$17 billion that’s spent on advertising geared specifically toward children—thegiant monster that American parents I’ve had discussions with overseas arereally afraid of—is certainly something to fear (I don’t think I have seen ads forkids stuff on Dutch TV, come to think of it). But although advertising certainlyfuels kids’ “needs” and “wants,” Allison argues that it can’t be held whollyresponsible for the impact of consumer culture on children. In her book—based on her doctoral dissertation—Pugh says that children’sdesires stem less from striving for status or falling victim to advertising than fromtheir longing to join the “conversation” at school or in the neighborhood. In turn,parents answer this yearning to belong by buying the particular goods andexperiences that act as “passports” in children’s social worlds, because theyempathize with their children’s fear of being different from their peers. They wanttheir kids to belong, and this continues even under financial duress. Pugh studiedchildren and parents from different socio-economic classes and found thispattern to be the same. It’s okay to give into the “conversation” every now and then. Pugh says, andas a parent bringing my kids to a new place, I would be inclined to want to helpthem belong to that place as much as I can. But Pugh also says that she’s “quitepessimistic about individual kids’ abilities to withstand the pressures and fightagainst materialism and handle their differences.” Parents are afraid of their children being excluded and left out, but ultimately“the solution will come from us not just talking the talk and walking the walk aboutdifference, but actually celebrating it, in terms of ethnicity, social class, and allkinds of other differences,” Pugh says. Many middle-class American parents I’ve met like to say they’re notmaterialistic, that they don’t buy their children anything. Yet when you walk intokids’ bedrooms they’re often filled to the brim—with stuff that’s rarely eventouched. I find this—which Pugh says is “the honorable thing to say”—morepronounced among Americans than any other race I’ve met, so despite mydiscussion with her, I am still nervous about my childrens’ return to the US.
1 As, we can summaries from the article that branding and advertising overthe media has created a vicious cycle as a human being’s wants never end.This further creates an impressionable perception in the eyes of the viewerespecially if he has been brought up in those circumstances. No, wonder the global recession happened in America not because ofpoor accounting or banking policies but because of the inability of the averageUS citizen to save. He has forgotten saving and lives on credit all thanks tothe massive consumerism cycle that has been started and will end only whenthe entire country bankrupts or the cycle is broken. This becomes further important to us as our policymakers haveincreasingly mimicked the American success model and no wonder ourchildren are no longer far behind and could soon end up the same way. Thus it is essential to note that we must prevent our children’s minds frombeing addled and destroyed by a massive attack of consumerism.
1 The second article to be now discussed will analyse the paradigm shift in the mindset of the average American. The article is by, Rebecca Clay a reporter for the Washington Post Ever since he first started practicing, Berkeley, Calif., psychologist Allen D.Kanner, PhD, has been asking his younger clients what they wanted to do whenthey grew up. The answer used to be "nurse," "astronaut" or some otheroccupation with intrinsic appeal. Today the answer is more likely to be "make money." For Kanner, oneexplanation for that shift can be found in advertising."Advertising is a massive,multi-million dollar project thats having an enormous impact on childdevelopment," says Kanner, who is also an associate faculty member at a clinicalpsychology training program called the Wright Institute. "The sheer volume ofadvertising is growing rapidly and invading new areas of childhood, like ourschools." According to Kanner, the result is not only an epidemic of materialistic valuesamong children, but also something he calls "narcissistic wounding" of children.Thanks to advertising, he says, children have become convinced that theyreinferior if they dont have an endless array of new products. Now Kanner and several colleagues are up-in-arms about psychologists andothers who are using psychological knowledge to help marketers target childrenmore effectively. Theyre outraged that psychologists and others are revealingsuch tidbits as why 3- to 7-year-olds gravitate toward toys that transformthemselves into something else and why 8- to 12-year-olds love to collect things.Last fall, Kanner and a group of 59 other psychologists and psychiatrists sent acontroversial letter protesting psychologists involvement to APA. In response, at its June meeting, APAs Board of Directors acted on arecommendation from the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in thePublic Interest and approved the creation of a task force to study the issue. Thetask force will examine the research on advertisings impact on children and theirfamilies and develop a research agenda. The group will look at the rolepsychologists play in what some consider the exploitation of children andconsider how psychology can help minimize advertisings harmful effects andmaximize its positive effects.
1 The group will also explore implications for public policy. Task force memberswill be chosen in consultation with Div. 37 (Child, Youth and Family Services)and other relevant divisions. Unethical practices? The letter protesting psychologists involvement in childrens advertising waswritten by Commercial Alert, a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization. Theletter calls marketing to children a violation of APAs mission of mitigating humansuffering, improving the condition of both individuals and society, and helping thepublic develop informed judgments. Urging APA to challenge what it calls an "abuse of psychological knowledge,"the letter asks APA to: Issue a formal, public statement denouncing the use ofpsychological principles in marketing to children. Amend APAs Ethics Code to limit psychologists use of their knowledge andskills to observe and study, mislead or exploit children for commercial purposes.Launch an ongoing campaign to investigate the use of psychological research inmarketing to children, publish an evaluation of the ethics of such use, andpromote strategies to protect children against commercial exploitation bypsychologists and others using psychological principles. "The information psychologists are giving to advertisers is being used toincrease profits rather than help children," says Kanner, who helped collectsignatures for the letter. "The whole enterprise of advertising is about creatinginsecure people who believe they need to buy things to be happy. I dont thinkmost psychologists would believe thats a good thing. Theres an inherent conflictof interest." Advertisers efforts seem to work. According to marketing expert James U.McNeal, PhD, author of "The Kids Market: Myths and Realities" (ParamountMarket Publishing, 1999), children under 12 already spend a whopping $28billion a year. Teen-agers spend $100 billion. Children also influence another$249 billion spent by their parents. The effect this rampant consumerism has on children is still unknown, saysKanner. In an informal literature review, he found many studies about how tomake effective ads but not a single study addressing ads impact on children.Instead, he points to research done by Tim Kasser, PhD, an assistant professorof psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. In a series of studies, Kasser hasfound that people who strongly value wealth and related traits tend to havehigher levels of distress and lower levels of well-being, worse relationships andless connection to their communities.
1 "Psychologists who help advertisers are essentially helping them manipulatechildren to believe in the capitalistic message, when all the evidence shows thatbelieving in that message is bad for people," says Kasser. "Thats unethical."Driving out psychologists Psychologists who help companies reach children dont agree. Take WhitonS. Paine, PhD, an assistant professor of business studies at Richard StocktonCollege in Pomona, N.J. As principal of a Philadelphia consulting firm calledKid2Kid, Paine helps Fortune 500 companies market to children. Paine has no problem with launching a dialogue about psychologists ethicalresponsibilities or creating standards similar to ones used in Canada and Europeto protect children from commercial exploitation. Such activities will actually helphis business, he says, by giving him leverage when clients want to do somethingthat would inadvertently harm children. What Paine does have a problem with isdriving psychologists out of the business. "If you remove ethical psychologists from the decision-making process in anads creation, whos left?" he asks. "People who have a lot less sensitivity to theunique vulnerabilities of children."Others who have read the proposal point outthat psychological principles are hardly confidential. "We cant stop alcohol or tobacco companies from using the basic researchfindings and theories found in textbooks and academic journals," says Curtis P.Haugtvedt, PhD, immediate past president of Div. 23 (Consumer Psychology)and an associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University in Columbus."The same issue exists for all sciences: the information is available in publiclibraries." The problem with trying to regulate the use of psychological principles is that"people acting in ways psychologists find objectionable probably arent membersof APA anyway," says Haugtvedt, who received a copy of the Commercial Alertletter. He believes that having general guidelines as to appropriate uses andareas of concern would be beneficial to all parties. Daniel S. Acuff, PhD, for example, draws on the child development courses he took during his graduate schooling in education to advise such
1 clients as Disney, Hasbro and Kraft. His book "What Kids Buy and Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids" (Free Press, 1997) draws on child development research to show product developers and marketers how to reach children more effectively. To Acuff, the letter to APA is not only an "unconstitutional" attempt to limit howprofessionals make their living but also a misguided overgeneralization. Since Acuff and his partner started their business in 1979, they have had apolicy guiding their choice of projects. As a result, they turn down assignmentsdealing with violent video games, action figures armed with weapons and otherproducts they believe are bad for children. Their work focuses instead onproducts that they consider either good for children or neutral, such as snacksand sugary foods parents can use as special treats. The letter to APA fails toacknowledge that psychological principles can be used for good as well as bad,he says. "I dont agree with black-and-white thinking," says Acuff, president of YouthMarket Systems Consulting in Sherman Oaks, Calif. "Psychology in itself isneither good nor bad. Its just a tool like anything else." This article also further discusses the various issues and clearly indicates thatUSA the pinnacle of global consumerism and the pioneer in mass advertising isnow paying the consequences for having followed too much of it. India must takecue from it and formulate a policy to restrict Child advertising before we face anentire generation of people who would spend a huge amount for a luxury carwithout thinking about the practicality of tomorrow’s dinner. CONCLUSIONS
1 Clearly, advertising represents “big business” in the Global scenario, andcan have a signiﬁcant effect on young people. Unlike free speech, commercialspeech does not enjoy the same protections under the First Amendment of theConstitution. Advertisements can be restricted or even banned if there is a signiﬁcantpublic health risk. Cigarette advertising and alcohol advertising would seem to fallsquarely into this category, and ads for junk food could easily be restricted. One solution that is noncontroversial and would be easy to implement is toeducate children and teenagers about the effects of advertising—media literacy.Curricula have been developed that teach young people to become criticalviewers of media in all of its forms, including advertising. Media education seems to be protective in mitigating harmful effects ofmedia, including the effects of cigarette, alcohol, and food advertising. Bibliography: -