Marketing to Children
Citation: Sharon Beder, 'A Community View', Caring for Children in the Media Age, Papers from a national conference, edited by John Squires and Tracy Newlands, New College Institute for Values Research, Sydney, 1998, pp. 101-111. This is a final version submitted for publication.
Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made.
Sharon Beder's Other Publications
o The Development of a Consumer
o Forms of Marketing
o Advertising on the Internet
Advertisers spend 100s of billions of dollars a year worldwide encouraging, persuading and manipulating people into a consumer lifestyle that has devastating consequences for the environment through its extravagance and wastefulness. Advertising exploits individual insecurities, creates false needs and offers counterfeit solutions. It fosters dissatisfaction that leads to consumption. Children are particularly vulnerable to this sort of manipulation. Young children are increasingly the target of advertising and marketing because of the amount of money they spend themselves, the influence they have on their parents spending (the nag factor) and because of the money they will spend when they grow up. Whilst this child-targetted marketing used to concentrate on sweets and toys, it now includes clothes, shoes, a range of fast foods, sports equipment, computer products and toiletries as well as adult products such as cars and credit cards. In Australia, children under 18 have an average $31.60 to spend each week and they influence more than 70 per cent of their parents' clothes and fast food purchases. Advertisers attending a conference on Marketing to Kids and Youth were told that children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 17 spent $3.3 billion every year. In the US there are over 57 million school age children and teenagers who spend about $100 billion each year of their own and their family's money on sweets, food, drinks, video and electronic products, toys, games, movies, sports, clothes and shoes. Additionally children 12 and under spend more than $11 billion of their own money and influence family spending decisions worth another $165 billion on food, household items like furniture, electrical appliances and computers, vacations, the family car and other spending. For example, one study estimated that children influenced $9 billion worth of car sales in 1994. One car dealer explains: "Sometimes, the child literally is our customer. I have watched the child pick out the car." This means that car manufacturers cannot afford to ignore the children in their marketing. Companies such as Nissan sponsor the American Youth Soccer Organisation and a travelling geography exhibit in order to get exposure for their brand name and logo in child-friendly settings. Chrysler distributes 100s of thousands of glossy cardboard pop-up promotional books by direct mail that will appeal to children who love pop-up books. And Chevrolet has used advertisements featuring children. Some car dealers have added children's play areas and arcade games to their facilities. US advertisers are now beginning to recognise the potential of the international children's market. James McNeal in his book Kids as Customers estimates that there are about three quarters of a billion children in other industrialised countries: "Letting one's marketing imagination run wild for a moment, if these children spend only half of what U.S. children spend, their market potential would be equal to around $86.5 billion." Brandweek magazine, also enthusing about "the marketing opportunity that kids around the world represent" pointed out that even in China where children don't get much income and save most of it, their total spending amounts to $2.6 billion per year, "second only to the US". Brandweek cited a survey that showed McDonald's was the favourite fast food all over the world and...
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