Children Interacting with Television Advertising I Essay

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Children Interacting with Television Advertising Introduction

Children Interacting with Television Advertising Introduction The following research has
sought to understand the influence of television on children over the past twenty years
using a variety of social models, from public policy and industry self-regulation, to how
children receive and process media messages and the parental responsibility in monitoring
what is acceptable for children to view. As a baseline, our research used a model of
children interacting with television. We expounded on this model in an effort to seek
current data and information that affects children today. Our group divided this model
into the following categories: · Decision to View Television ·Public Policy Makers
·Consumer Protectionists ·Industry Self-Regulation ·Television Advertising Message
·Receiving and Processing Message ·Cognitions ·Behaviors ·Parents After analyzing this
model, we conducted our own research to study current trends and determine whether
childrens' behavior has changed significantly in the past 20 years. Our empirical research
includes studies in contemporary advertising techniques, changes in children's television
viewing preferences, and the relationship to childhood development. Each category explains
a different element of the process of how children interpret and act upon the medias
influence. The Decision to View Television and Parental Influence Today, children in the
United States watch an average of 3 to 5 hours of television every day, and up to an
average of 24 hours of television a week. Did you know that on average, children will see
576 or more commercials each week? Children's programming devotes up to 12 hours to
advertising a week. Research has demonstrated that the effect of television viewing on
children leads to a number of possible problems. Television affects social and emotional
behavior, creativity and language skills, and school achievement. There is an organization
out there in support of children and parents who are concerned with the way television is
being viewed. The name of this organization is CARU, Children's Advertising Review Unit,
and it is an industry supported self-regulatory system of the children's advertising
industry. "CARU works with the industry to ensure that advertising directed to kids is
truthful, and above all fair." (Better Business Bureau) The purpose of CARU is to maintain
a balance between controlling the message children receive from advertising, and promoting
the important information to children through advertising. Another organization working
towards controlling advertising towards children is the "Children's Television Act of 1990
who limited advertising on children's programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12
minutes per hour on weekdays." ( Food advertising makes up the
largest category of advertisements directed towards children. Breakfast cereals and fast
food restaurants account for over half of all food advertisements aimed at children. In
the United States less than one percent of advertisements were for healthier foods such as
fruit and vegetables. There are three advertising methods, which are the most popular with
advertisers. The first form of advertising is called premiums and has been around since
Dick Tracy decoder rings and Little Orphan Annie stickers, over 50 years. The problem with
this form of advertising is that children have difficulty telling the difference between
the actual product and the premium, or in other words, the prize. The second popular form
of advertising to children is through sweepstakes. Children find this very exciting, and
in turn this raises children's expectations of their chances of winning a prize. Most
young children have trouble realizing that not every child wins and so sweepstakes usually
require some form of parent involvement. The last form of advertisements that is geared
toward children is what we call "Kids Clubs". For an advertiser to use the word "club" a
few requirements need to be met. Interactivity needs to be met which means that a child
should perform some kind of an action to join the club, and in return receives a reward,
membership to the club. Also continuity needs to be performed, this is an ongoing
relationship between the club members either through a newsletter or some other
interaction with the members. Parents can guide their children's television viewing in
many ways. First, parents should set limits to the amount of TV a child should watch in a
given day. Because television watching is often habit, 1 to 2 hours a day should be
enough. An easy way to accomplish this would be to set a few basic rules, such as no
television during meals, or before completing homework. Second, help plan a child's
television viewing with the child. Sit down with a newspaper listing of shows and plan the
television schedule for the week. Third, to know what a child is watching on the
television means that a parent needs to participate. By watching television with a child
and then talking about what was watched will give the parent greater control of what kinds
of programs are watched in the home. Monitoring the programs that a child watches is the
fourth rule for parents. Encourage children to watch programs about characters that
cooperate and care for each other. The fifth rule is to analyze commercials. "Children
need help to critically evaluate the validity of the many products advertised on
television." ( The last rule is to express your views. Call your local
television station if you are not happy with what is being shown. Stations, networks, and
sponsors are all concerned about the effects of television viewing on children, and are
willing to listen to parents concerns. Public Policy and Consumer Protectionism Children's
advertising is mainly governed by CARU, the Children's Advertising Review Board, which is
part of the Better Business Bureau. The board reviews advertising that is directed towards
children in all forms of media and seek change through voluntary and self-regulating
cooperation of advertisers. CARU's seeks to find misleading, inaccurate or inconsistent
advertising under the Self Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising. The
Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus was
established in 1974 by the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) to promote
responsible children's advertising and to respond to public concerns. Its Board of
Directors comprises key executives from the CBBB, the American Association of Advertising
Agencies (AAAA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the Association of National
Advertisers (ANA). The NARC Board sets policy for CARU's self-regulatory program, which is
administered by the CBBB and is funded directly by members of the children's advertising
industry. CARU's Self-Regulatory Guidelines are subjective, going beyond the issues of
truthfulness and accuracy to take into account the uniquely impressionable and
vulnerability of the child audience. They recognize that the special nature and needs of
children require particular care and dedication on the part of advertisers. In 1998, CARU
monitored more than 11,700 television commercials, often with the assistance of local
BBBs, and reviewed advertisements in print and on the internet. ( To keep
the CARU guidelines relevant, the Council's Children's Advertising Review Unit and its
Business and Academic Advisory Committees regularly review CARU's Self-Regulatory
Guidelines to insure that they remain current in the rapidly evolving children's market.
CARU's board consists of academic and business leaders and experts in education,
communication and child development. In addition, prominent business and industry leaders
advise on general issues and guideline revisions. CARU provides a general advisory service
for advertisers and agencies and also is a source of informational material for children,
parents and educators. CARU encourages advertisers to develop and promote educational
messages to children consistent with the Children's Television Act of 1990. In addition,
CARU publishes a wealth of materials made available to those seeking to be more informed.
There are six basic principles that underlie CARU's Guidelines for Advertising, directed
at children under age 12. They are intended to be illustrative rather than limiting and
are: 1. Advertisers should always take into account the level of knowledge, sophistication
and maturity of the audience to which their message is primarily directed. Younger
children have a limited capacity for evaluating the credibility of information they
receive. They also may lack the ability to understand the nature of the information they
provide. Advertisers, therefore, have a special responsibility to protect children from
their own susceptibilities. 2. Realizing that children are imaginative and that
make-believe play constitutes an important part of the growing up process, advertisers
should exercise care not to exploit unfairly the imaginative quality of children.
Advertising should not stimulate unreasonable expectations of product quality or
performance either directly or indirectly. 3. Recognizing that advertising may play an
important part in educating the child, advertisers should communicate information in a
truthful and accurate manner and in language understandable to young children with full
recognition that the child may learn practices from advertising which can affect his or
her health and well-being. 4. Advertisers are urged to capitalize on the potential of
advertising to influence behavior by developing advertising that, wherever possible,
addresses itself to positive and beneficial social behavior, such as friendship, kindness,
honesty, justice, generosity and respect for others. 5. Care should be taken to
incorporate minority and other groups in advertisements in order to present positive and
pro-social roles and role models wherever possible. Social stereotyping and appeals to
prejudice should be avoided. 6. Although many influences affect a child's personal and
social development, it remains the prime responsibility of the parents to provide guidance
for children. Advertisers should contribute to this parent-child relationship in a
constructive manner. Because children are still developing their minds and knowledge and
they are limited in their experiences and skills required to evaluate advertising and thus
to make purchasing decisions, CARU assists advertisers in general advisory service and
recommendations as well as pre-approving advertisements that meet their guidelines. Care
is advocated in regards to product presentations and claims, sales pressure, disclosures
and disclaimers, comparative claims, endorsements and promotions by program characters,
premiums and sweepstakes and safety. Industry Self-regulation Self-regulation is a ruling
by the National Association of Broadcasters that lessens the need for advertising agencies
to comply with statutory regulations and other issues dealing with state and federal laws.
Large organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications
Commission exercise certain power to control and regulate some content, which is broadcast
over television media. The self-regulation ruling protects broadcasters from the controls
and constraints of the FTC and FCC guidelines. The Federal Trade Commission was
established in 1914 as an independent U.S. agency. The purpose is to keep business
competition free and fair, prevent the distribution of false and/ or deceptive
advertising, and to enforce antitrust laws. The FTC defines deceptive advertising as a
misrepresentation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead. The FTC also regulates
the labeling and packaging of commodities, and gathers information concerning a companies
business decisions. All of this information is made available to the public. The FTC may
require corporations to submit information about their business practices if they feel
there is evidence of unlawful activity. In addition, the FTC is empowered to issue cease
and desist orders to take violators to court. The Federal Communications Commission was
created in 1934. The FCC exercises the power of licensing and license renewal for radio
and television stations. It has the power to revoke or issue fines to a broadcast licensee
for violating its regulations. These measures can be invoked when a licensee has aired
obscene or indecent language, revealed confidential lottery information, or obtained money
under false pretenses. The FCC is not allowed to censor material or enforce regulations
that interfere with freedom of expression. The subject matter of the programming is up to
the discretion of the individual broadcast station. Because the FTC and FCC guidelines are
broad and subject to interpretation, it is difficult to define what is considered obscene,
what is age appropriate for children to view, and what subject matter is acceptable. The
FCC does have some provisions for licensees concerning children's television programming.
Every commercial and non-commercial educational television licensee is obligated to foster
the educational and informational needs of children 16 years and under. The programs must
serve a specific purpose and must be aired regularly between 7:00 am and 10:00 pm, and
must be at least 30 minutes long. Licensees must identify programs specifically designed
to educate and inform children at the beginning of the program, and it must classify such
programs to publishers of program guides. In addition, television programs aimed at
children 12 and under cannot advertise commercials for more that 10.5 minutes an hour on
weekends and 12 minutes on weekdays. Television is one of the most encompassing and
persuasive forms of media available to children today. The subject of children's
programming is highly controversial and at the forefront of American politics today. It is
important for advertisers and advertising agencies to have a certain amount of autonomy
and self-regulation. It is in the publics' interest for advertisers to protect themselves
through self-regulation from the restrictions and costly lawsuits that can deny freedom of
speech and expression. Receiving and Processing Messages Obviously, a majority of the
television advertising to children is in the product category of toys and food. The ads
attempt to provoke children to request that their parents purchase the advertised brand.
In order to stimulate this type of reaction, advertisers must appeal to certain needs. The
table below shows the results of a 1985 study of the needs appealed to in television ads
during children's programming. Needs Appealed to in Television Advertising during
Children's Programming, November 1985 Advertisements Appealing to Need Need (%) Sentience
(to seek sensuous gratification) 64 Play (to relax or have fun) 52 Affiliation (to have
cooperative relationships with others) 33 Nurturance (to protect and care for others) 21
Achievement (to accomplish something difficult) 14 Harm avoidance (to avoid physical pain
or harm) 9 Aggression (to overcome opposition) 9 Understand (to analyze or experience
ideas or objects) 8 Exhibition (to make an impression) 8 Dominance (to influence behavior
of others) 5 Autonomy (to resist influence or coercion) 4 Infavoidance (to avoid
embarrassment) 4 Deference (to admire or support a superior) 4 Source: McNeal (1987) When
appealing to these needs it is important for advertisers not to deceive children with
their advertisements. There are five ways in which advertisements may deceive their young
audience (McNeal 1987): 1. They may use celebrity presenters, which can exploit children's
trust in authority figures (McNeal 1987). Celebrity endorsements which are common in many
advertisements today, could be a bit too effective if the brand associated with the
celebrity or role model does not hold enough merit on its own. Children might be swayed to
ask their parents to purchase products because their favorite athlete, cartoon character,
or actor "uses" the product, not because the product would improve the quality of their
life in any way. 2. They may present products such as candy bars, toys, and hamburgers,
without reference to a scale which may exploit children's limited perception skills
(McNeal 1987). It is unfair to coerce children to make unhealthy choices because they lack
the necessary cognition to know any better. That should go without saying however, the
bottom line is the bottom line, and advertisers are in the business to sell their
products. 3. They may focus on premiums rather than on the product, which may cause
children to use wrong standards for assessing the product (McNeal 1987). Anything that
adds false merit to a product should be eliminated from advertising to children. This is
an unfair advantage advertisers have over there young audience because they can project an
image of a particular brand without providing any support for that image other than the
superficial benefits of the product. 4. They may use adult terminology and contrived
terms, which take advantage of children's limited knowledge (McNeal 1987). Sometimes
adults don't understand "adult terminology." It is unfair to children for advertisers to
use language that might prevent them from making correct judgements about advertised
brands. 5. They may make excessive use of emotional terms and/or intense sounds or colors,
which may exploit children's gullibility (McNeal 1987). Sensory overload is rightfully off
limits because children are emotional enough and don't need the extra help from television
advertisements. Advertisers attempt to cover up any possibly misleading message with
disclaimers (McNeal 1987). Disclaimers such as "some assembly required," "batteries not
included," or "accessories sold separately," serve as the prerequisite for a moral,
non-deceptive message. Research has shown that "these disclaimers do not have their
intended result," (McNeal 1987), and that "this incorrect impression may be passed on to
parents" (McNeal 1987). This shows that children not understanding disclaimers can lead to
frustration in parents and a very unsatisfied customer. The ad was successful in that it
provoked a sale of the product, yet no brand loyalty would be built between those
frustrated parents and the company selling the product. One area under dispute is that
children cannot distinguish between children's programming and advertisements. Separators
like "after these messages, we'll be right back," forecast to children that commercials
are coming. Separators are also under criticism because they are not specific enough for
children to understand. A study by Stutts, Vance, and Huddleson in 1981 showed that "seven
year olds more quickly recognized commercial material when ‘The Bugs Bunny Show will be
right back after these messages' was changed to ‘Hey Kids. The next thing you will see
will be a commercial and not part of the program you've been watching'" (McNeal 1987). It
seems that if advertisers were more specific with respect to disclaimers and separators,
they would be attacked less for their unethical practices when advertising to children.
For children to begin processing the message, they must pay attention to the message.
Children's attention to the advertisements is affected by both personal and stimulus
factors (McNeal 1987). The following table summarizes these types of factors. Factors That
Affect Children's Attention to Television Advertisements Personal Factors Level of
motivation The child may desire to watch commercials, or certain commercials, for
information or entertainment value. Attitudes toward commercials Children have developed
negative feelings towards ads because the ads interrupt programming or because they are
perceived as generally dishonest. Influence of parents and peers Parents and peers can
distract children from commercials because of conversation that may begin at commercial
time or because of warnings about commercial content. Lack of knowledge about commercials
Children's attention may remain constant as programming changes to commercials because the
youngsters do not know the difference between the two. Stimulus Factors Programming nature
Attention to commercials may vary because programs are boring or interesting; for example,
boring programs may invite attention to entertaining commercials Commercial content
Advertisers use a variety of practices to get and keep children's attention: music,
singing, jingles, sound effects, animation, celebrities, and well-known characters. Some
are more effective than others. Product advertised Certainly the involvement children have
with the products in commercials will influence their attention to the ads, for example,
attention might be expected to vary depending on whether the products advertised are for
children or adults. Public service announcements Because public service announcements are
different from commercial announcements (they may even be contrary to them), children may
give them special attention. Source: McNeal (1987) These factors represent a challenge
facing advertisers today. Advertisers know that they cannot control most of these factors.
However, they know that if a child does not pay attention to an ad, that child can have no
cognition or display the desired purchase behavior. It is critically important that ads
grab the attention of their young audience or they will be completely ineffective.
Cognitive Analysis of Children's Behavior in Regards to Consumer Advertising Cognition is
the mental faculty or process by which knowledge is acquired. It is knowledge gained as
through perception, reasoning, or intuition. (Webster's II, 1984) It is important to
understand that there are many differences between children and adults who watch T.V.
Children are different not only in the values and standards they bring, but also in the
years of experience they have behind them, the physiological bases of their needs, and
their abilities. I hope to clear up the reasons behind all of these differences and will
start with a child's basic cognitive process and then move into more specific situations.
We want to start out by discussing Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory, but first
here is a definition of cognitive theory. It is concerned with central organizing
processes in higher animals, and it recognizes a partial autonomy of these processes, such
that the animal becomes an actor upon, rather than simply a reactor to its environment.
(Phillips, Jr. John L.,1969) The cognitive approach is concerned more with structure
rather than content with how the mind works. Cognitive development probably begins before
birth according to many psychologists. Piaget has come up with four separate stages of
cognitive development humans go through from birth do adulthood. The concept of cognitive
states has several implications for how children perceive and think. First, stages imply
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