Toy advertising

Toy advertising

Toy advertising is the promotion of toys through a variety of media. Advertising campaigns for toys have been criticised for turning children into consumerists and are regulated to ensure they meet defined standards. These rules vary from country to country, with all advertisements directed to children banned in some countries.

Campaign intentions

As with all advertising campaigns the intention is to sell a company's product. Adverts for toys frequently promote the sale not just of one individual item but an entire range.

Target audience

Toy advertising campaigns may be targeted to children and their parents, with different methods for each. Marketing towards adults is intended to make them believe that the product would be beneficial for the child, often stressing the educational gains that they will make.

Children up to the age of five can find it difficult to distinguish between the main programmes and commercial breaks and can easily be led to "need" something they see on television.Media Awareness Network. " [ Special Issues for Young Children] ". Accessed 21 August 2007.] This is particularly difficult for them when a toy range is linked to a television series they are watching.Young Media Australia. 7 June 2007. " [ Toy advertising] ". Accessed 21 August 2007.] Many children do not understand the intentions of marketing and commercials until the age of eight, often believing a toy to be more functional than it really is.

Many toys are directed towards one specific sex and tailor their advertising to meet the needs of that particular sex.International Council of Toy Industries. 15 November 2004. " [ History] ". Accessed 22 August 2007.]

Methods of advertising

Common methods of advertising include:
*Television commercial campaigns
*Print media campaigns
*Billboard campaigns
*Product placement in films and television programs
*Various forms of branding, including clothing
*Online marketing

The first televised toy commercial to be shown in the United States was for Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head in 1955."BusinessWeek". 29 January 2007. " [ Hardly Babes In Toyland] ". Accessed 22 August 2007.] Since then television has been one of the most important media for marketing toys.

Many toy lines are developed to tie in to films and television series. Bernard Loomis is credited with masterminding the first children's television series created to sell a range of toys.Sullivan, Patricia. "Washington Post". 4 June 2006. " [ Bernard Loomis; Merged Toy Marketing, Saturday Cartoons] " (part one). Accessed 21 August 2007.] 1969s "Hot Wheels" would later be classified by the Federal Communications Commission as "advertising time", but the idea help to change the way in which toys were marketed and children's series were developed. Loomis went on to implement the toy merchandising for the "Star Wars" films.Sullivan, Patricia. "Washington Post". 4 June 2006. " [ Bernard Loomis; Merged Toy Marketing, Saturday Cartoons] " (part two). Accessed 21 August 2007.] In 1984 the United States Federal Trade Commission deregulated children's television. As part of this they removed a prohibition against cartoon series linked to toys, with "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" being one of the first to have an associated toy line. That same year Hasbro developed "Transformers", which would be released as an animated television series, comic book, and toy line.

The linking of toys to fast food advertising campaigns has been widely condemned for increasing childhood obesity. However the practice is still a very popular marketing technique. Starting in the late 1980s fast food chains began to realise that the over 30s market was dropping due to an increased awareness of health and thus the avoidance of junk food. They looked to children as a potential growth market because of their ability to influence their parents in deciding where to eat. The introduction of toys given away with meals has boosted sales dramatically, and the further tie-in to films and television series has further increased the marketing opportunities.Stay Free magazine. 14 February 1994. " [ Great Moments in Kiddie Marketing: Fast-Food Toys] ". Accessed 21 August 2007.]

The term "pester power" refers to children nagging their parents to buy a product. Children will repeatedly ask them to buy a toy they want, and such insistence often leads to a purchase.Media Awareness Network. " [ How Marketers Target Kids] ". Accessed 21 August 2007.]

The Internet has created a whole new environment for advertisers and new strategies have developed to take advantage of the lack of a regulatory body. Now a significant part of youth culture, marketing campaigns can target children without any parental supervision. Interactive games are a new medium which can be used to advertise toys to children without them realising that it is part of a gimmick.


In response to the perceived dangers of advertising to children some countries and districts have highly regulated or even banned these marketing avenues. In Sweden all advertisements aimed at children under the age of 12 have been banned and they are lobbying the European Union to do the same. Similarly Québec introduced the Consumer Protection Act to ban print and broadcast advertising aimed at children under the age of 13.

ee also

*List of Happy Meal toys
*Advertising to children


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