CHILDREN AND MARKETING ACTIVITIES
All over the world, attention is now being drawn to children as constituting a group that has an impact in marketing-related issues both at the family level and even in the society at large. The reasons for this are not farfetched. The extant literatures consistently emphasize three reasons which point to the significance of children in family purchases. These are - they constitute a primary market for goods and services spending their own money to fulfill their needs and wants; they influence the family decision making; and they are a future market for all goods and services that if cultivated now will provide steady stream for new customer when they reach adulthood when the particular goods and services are relevant (Berey and Polay, 1968; McNeal, 1999). This last reason is further supported by the view of Béjot and Doittau (2004) who affirm that children’s brand preference often remains unchanged throughout life. Therefore, children constitute a key target market for advertisers. Furthermore and with specific reference to the scope of this paper, it has been shown that Nigerian children influence their family purchases through the use of four major tactics which are direct request, emotional tactic, persuasion, and reference to others (Gbadamosi, 2007). Hence, this implies that children cannot be regarded as being totally naïve to marketing as a whole (Hill and Tilley, 2002) and should be given proper consideration in the formulation of strategies and policies associated with marketing of goods and services especially for those relevant to them. Furthermore, it is claimed that children as customers or potential customers are being influenced by parents, peers, and mass media in their consumption of goods and services (Ward, 1974; Wimalasiri, 2004; Marquis, 2004; Chan, 2006). Given that mass media constitute a major tool in advertising and exert great influence on children’s consumption behaviour, exploring the issue of advertising ethics in relation to them becomes very significant and deserves proper attention by the relevant stakeholders.
ADVERTISING AND CHILDREN
As a key background to the discussion of the issue of advertising to children in Nigeria, it appears logical to explore the link between advertising and children. As reported by Volz et al. (2005), during the middle ages, children were not accorded the desired value even in Europe, but nowadays the level of protection of children is now considered an indicator of maturity in civilized societies. This attention being diverted to children’s protection and care also pervades marketing activities, which include advertising. In general advertising plays multiple roles both to the sponsor and the target audience. To the sponsor, it is very common to associate advertising with creating awareness of a new product or brand, informing customers of the features and benefits of the product or brand, creating desired perceptions of the product or brand, creating preference for the product or brand, and persuading customers to purchase the product or brand (Bendixen, 1993). To the target audience, advertising provides information about the product, its use, and sometimes reassures them of the efficacy of their choices among the available alternatives. Specifically, advertising plays many positive roles in the lives of children such as in their socialization process. This is emphasized by Preston (2005: p61) who states that ‘advertising is part of the socialization process, as it educates children as to the meaning associated with consumption’. The seminal works of Piaget (1966), McNeal and Yeh (1993), and John (1999) on children’s developmental stages add to the fascination inherent in how children make sense of marketing activities such as advertising messages. Preston (2005: p62) states further that ‘children use [advertising] to find out what brands means (and sometimes, when an explanation is...
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