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Should Corporations and Companies Advertise to Children?

By lleecpht Jul 03, 2012 1233 Words
Should corporations and companies advertise to children?
Since its modern-day origins to the early twentieth century, advertising has come a long way. All throughout history, advertising has been utilized. Sometimes the method used was as simple as a for sale sign, via word of mouth, and even in newspapers. In general, most methods of advertising were also directed at the general population, and not at any specific target group. Nowadays, advertising is all around us. Everyone is exposed to some form of media advertising: radio stations, magazines, product packaging, and even embedded within the World Wide Web. Advertisements have upgraded from word of mouth, to a vastly more efficient method to increase sales. What is the harm in that? Well, corporations and companies tend to focus on certain age groups when advertising products or services. One of the most highly targeted population groups that corporations and advertising agencies focus on is children. Thus, the issue at hand is the well-being of our children. To begin, let’s take a broad look into the art of advertising. Many in favor of advertising towards children, claim that advertising educates consumers about new products (children and adults alike), increases sales, helps the economy (creates jobs), and some free services can be funded (free radio and TV channels). As for the cons, some say advertising causes spending to be higher, due to high product prices. Small companies do not stand a chance because they cannot compete with larger companies with such massive advertising budgets. Too often, products are purchased on a want basis and not a need basis, which in turn, can lead to pollution and waste (good products are thrown away for newer ones). Constantly, consumers are strategically manipulated, especially children, because corporations and companies advertise to “get kids to nag their parents and nag them well” (Fast Food Nation, pg43). Can one really decide if advertising has an adverse effect on children with such a brief overview of the issue? No, a more detailed examination is necessary. What is advertising? Dictionary.com defines advertising as "the act or practice of calling...attention to one's product, service, need...especially by paid announcements in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, et cetera.” Essentially, the goal is to attract more consumers. The act of advertising is quite acceptable; however, the content of what is being advertised should be carefully analyzed. Common sense can be applied to deciding if certain products should be advertised: tobacco, alcohol, guns, et cetera. Of course, there are products that are beneficial and consumers should be encouraged to purchase them, like educational material. Then there is the gray area, in which products are based around human consumption: medicine and food. The question that needs to be asked now is, who decides what is allowed or not allowed to be advertised? Advertising censorship is too big of a job for one person. Plus, if one person could do the job, how does one prove him or herself to be qualified for the job? In lieu of the vastness of the number of products and services that exist, many organizations were created to assist in advertising censorship. Both government and nonprofit organizations alike have been formed to create or enforce advertising guidelines: the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), NARC (National Advertising Review Counsel), CBBB (Council of Better Business Bureaus), and CARU (Children's Advertising Review Unit). Many agencies exist with the purpose of "protecting America’s consumer" (www.ftc.gov), but few of them have the sole mission of protecting children. Guidelines have been carefully crafted to be impartial and clearly understandable in regards to managing any form of advertising. Content aside, other limitations are placed on when advertising is allowed as well. Typically advertising limits, such as the length of time one is exposed to advertisements, are not too big of an issue for standard material ads: billboards, banners, or newspapers. However, ads in any media form (radio, television, or computer) can be quite difficult to manage. According to Charles F. Adams in his book Common Sense in Advertising, throughout a sixteen hour period of exposing one to the many forms of media - ranging from newspapers to the television - an average adult would be "exposed to a minimum of 560 advertisements". Considering the amount of advertisements an average adult is exposed to, does that mean children are exposed less? Children are unfortunately more prone to advertisements than adults, because children are the intended focus these days. In fact, strictly speaking, the television aspect of media was mandated to follow limitations set up by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). In 1990, the Children's Television Act was passed by the FCC, which limited the amount of advertising allowed during children's programming. To set up guidelines on what is advertised is one thing, but to need to limit how much advertising is allowed per program down to the minute is bizarre. Before continuing, I feel that I should elaborate on the effect that advertising has on children. Early on, children are easy to manipulate and to mold into what society deems acceptable. To make matters worse, children do not have the life experience of deciphering what is real and not real. Many corporations and companies that have turned their focus on children "today [and] has an immediate goal...to give children a reason to ask for a product... [to turn children into] surrogate salesman”) Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, pg49). Aside from knowing the purpose of marketers, overall health related problems have also risen from certain products being advertised. In particular, a correlation has been made between fast food products and obesity. Obesity rates have almost "tripled in the last quarter century [and] approximately twenty percent of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates in preschool age children" (www.apa.org). I am unable to list all the ways children are being affected, because there are simply too many. By now, some of you must surely be thinking to yourself, how do we protect children from the barrage of advertisements? Is enough being done to protect them? Which brings up an issue that has been brought up countless times in countless places: should advertisements toward children be banned? Since this is an outstanding issue that can go either way, how about settling on some middle ground? How about banning advertisements in certain environments, like say, schools? School advertising is typically helpful in raising money to further education or even furnishing new facilities. Realistically, banning advertisements towards children is not feasible. I ask again, should corporations and companies advertise to children? Unfortunately, I believe they should. After all, the purpose of any company or corporation is to make money, period! Otherwise, they would not be in business. On top of that, the simplest answer is companies and corporations allow our economy to keep going. However, I do not believe it is the sole responsibility of corporations and companies to manage and censure what and how they advertise. I believe it is the parents who are duty-bound to raise their children to know what is right and what is wrong. The parents are accountable to teach them discipline and self-control. The parents are responsible to teach them how to not fall prey to society’s demands. At the end of the day, corporations and companies, in conjunction with parents/guardians, need to accept mutual responsibility in managing advertising towards children.

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