Advertising is a pervasive influence on children and adolescents. Young people view more than 40 000 ads per year on television alone and increasingly are being exposed to advertising on the Internet, in magazines, and in schools. This exposure may contribute significantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use. Media education has been shown to be effective in mitigating some of the negative effects of advertising on children and adolescents.
Several European countries forbid or severely curtail advertising to children; in the United States, on the other hand, selling to children is simply “business as usual.” The average young person views more than 3000 ads per day on television (TV), on the Internet, on billboards, and in magazines.Increasingly, advertisers are targeting younger and younger children in an effort to establish “brand-name preference” at as early an age as possible. This targeting occurs because advertising is a $250 billion/year industry with 900 000 brands to sell, and children and adolescents are attractive consumers: teenagers spend $155 billion/year, children younger than 12 years spend another $25 billion, and both groups influence perhaps another $200 billion of their parents' spending per year.Increasingly, advertisers are seeking to find new and creative ways of targeting young consumers via the Internet, in schools, and even in bathroom stalls.
THE EFFECTS OF ADVERTISING ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
Research has shown that young children—younger than 8 years—are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising. They do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value. In fact, in the late 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held hearings, reviewed the existing research, and came to the conclusion that it was unfair and deceptive to advertise to children younger than 6 years. What kept the FTC from banning such ads was that it was thought to be impractical to implement such a ban. However, some Western countries have done exactly that: Sweden and Norway forbid all advertising directed at children younger than 12 years, Greece bans toy advertising until after 10 PM, and Denmark and Belgium severely restrict advertising aimed at children.
ADVERTISING IN DIFFERENT MEDIA
Children and adolescents view 400 00 ads per year on TV alone. This occurs despite the fact that the Children's Television Act of 1990 (Pub L No. 101–437) limits advertising on children's programming to 10.5 minutes/hour on weekends and 12 minutes/hour on weekdays. However, much of children's viewing occurs during prime time, which features nearly 16 minutes/hour of advertising. A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl now costs $2.3 million but reaches 80 million people.
According to the Consumer's Union, more than 160 magazines are now targeted at children. Young people see 45% more beer ads and 27% more ads for hard liquor in teen magazines than adults do in their magazines.Despite the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry in 1998, tobacco advertising expenditures in 38 youth-oriented magazines amounted to $217 million in 2000.
An increasing number of Web sites try to entice children and teenagers to make direct sales. Teenagers account for more than $1 billion in e-commerce dollars, and the industry spent $21.6 million on Internet banner ads alone in 2002. More than 100 commercial Web sites promote alcohol products. The content of these sites varies widely, from little more than basic brand information to chat rooms, “virtual bars,” drink recipes, games, contests, and merchandise catalogues. Many of these sites use slick promotional techniques to target young people. In 1998, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (Pub L No. 105–277) was passed, which mandates that commercial Web sites cannot knowingly collect information from children younger than 13 years. These sites are required to provide notice on the site to parents about their collection, use, and disclosure of children's personal information and must obtain “verifiable parental consent” before collecting, using, or disclosing this information.
Advertisers have traditionally used techniques to which children and adolescents are more susceptible, such as product placements in movies and TV shows, tie-ins between movies and fast food restaurants, tie-ins between TV shows and toy action figures or other products, kids' clubs that are linked to popular shows, and celebrity endorsements. Cellular phones are currently being marketed to 6- to 12-year-olds, with the potential for directing specific advertisers to children and preteens. Coca-Cola reportedly paid Warner Bros. Studios $150 million for the global marketing rights to the movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” and nearly 20% of fast food restaurant ads now mention a toy premium in their ads. Certain tie-in products may be inappropriate for children (eg, action figures from the World Wrestling Federation or an action doll that mutters profanities from an R-ratedAustin Powers movie).