Advertising to children

Advertising to children

Advertising to children is the act of marketing or advertising products or services to young people. In 2000, children under 13 years old, impacted the spending of over $600 billion in the United States alone. This has created a large incentive to advertise to children which has lead to the development to a multimillion dollar industry. Although unregulated in the United States, increasing controversy over the ethics of continued advertising to children has lead to its banning in some European countries. []

Scope and Form

Average American children see around 3000 advertisements a day on TV, the Internet, billboards, and in magazines and over the course of a year they view 40,000 television commercials alone. Industry spends an estimated $12 billion on advertising to children each year. [] More than 160 magazines are targeted toward young people and teen focused magazines contain as much as 45% more advertisements for alcohol products. [] [] Evidence also shows that the amount of advertising to children is increasing. []

The type of advertisements focused on the youth market generally take on different forms from standard advertising to adults. Young people are more susceptible to product placements and tie-ins. For example fast food restaurants routinely offer toys connected to popular movies and a number of toy lines are created around successful existing television series. Coca-Cola paid $150,000,000 for the global tie-in marketing rights to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". [] Advertiser also attempt to disguise ads so that children will spend more time looking at them. Quaker Oatmeal had a series of ads published in 4 children's magazines that appeared to be Popeye comics and the Seventeen Magazine "Ask Loren" column of the 1980s, a supposed beauty advice column, were really ads for Epilady brand products. [] In some locations retail stores and media companies team up to operate kids clubs, a form of marketing whereby children pay or freely join to receive coupons, catalogs, and some promotional material such as membership cards in exchange for giving companies the ability to advertised to them and gain valuable market reasearch. [] []


The issue of advertising to children has raised much controversy since the 1970s.

In medicine

The American Academy of Pediatrics has argued that the amount of advertising children view may contribute to youth weight issues, poor nutrition, and the illegal use of cigarettes and alcohol. [] Their report "Children, Adolescents, and Advertising" states that children are specifically vulnerable to advertising and that in fact young people below the age of 8 do not understand the difference between advertising and programing. The report goes on to suggest restricting advertising to children by banning adverts of unhealthy foods and lowering the amount of legal commercial time by 50% during programs viewed predominantly by chidren. []

In psychology

In 2000, Allen D. Kanner, PhD and a group of 59 other psychologists wrote a letter to the American Psychological Association formally requesting an inquiry into the ethics of advertising to children. [] This lead the APA to study the issue and report back in 2007, stating their findings that children below 8 years of age should not be advertised to in any way. []


In the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark, and Belgium advertising to children is significantly restricted and in Sweden and Norway all advertising to children under the age of 12 is illegal. [] []

In 2007 the European Union took steps on the issue by creating a voluntary pledge program through which twelve major food distributors have agreed not to advertise to people below the age of 12 unless the products promoted reach certain health requirements. [] [] The move has been highly supported by the World Federation of Advertisers.

In the United States the Federal Trade Commission studied the issue of advertising to children in the 1970s and found that it was unfair and deceptive but failed to act on the issue from fear of an ability to enforce such a ban. [] Since then there have been no other legal attempts to restrict advertising to children in the U.S.

See also

*Toy advertising
*Child development


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