Magazine article Management Today

Protect the Parents

Magazine article Management Today

Protect the Parents

Article excerpt

With their spending power at an all-time high, kids have become a major advertising target. But what determines whether an ad is exploiting children - or their parents?

Child pester power - where children who have been specifically targeted with commercial messages harass their parents into buying the product - is either a monster let loose on unsuspecting parents by a cynical British advertising industry, or a toothless beast so heavily weighed down with regulations that its influence is about as potent as a McDonald's milkshake.

The background to the whole debate is that children are growing up younger. 'The critical thing to understand about reaching children,' says Nikki Mendonca, a media group head at advertising agency Leo Burnett, is that they're not how you were at that age. They're already talking about contraception at eight or nine.'

Recent research confirms how sophisticated today's children are. The ABC Global Kids study, designed by Just Kid Inc. and conducted by Roper Starch, surveyed 2,400 7-12 year olds, and their mothers, in the UK, US, France, Germany, China and Japan. It found that children have far greater spending power than ever before - with German children who enjoy pocket money and presents worth about $569 (about [pounds]350) a year each coming top, followed by the UK at $506 and the US at $493 - and more influence over what is bought.

The survey showed that when their average yearly incomes are multiplied by the total child population, the segment's potential spending power in the UK totals $2.3 billion and in the US $11.3 billion. On average across the six countries, 31% of spending is on snacks and drinks, 25% on toys and games, 14% on entertainment and recreation; 10% on school supplies, and 8% on clothing.

The commercial considerations have proved too juicy for companies to ignore. The problem is that while children have been identified as important targets, they are becoming harder to reach through traditional TV advertising, as - in the UK at least - their TV viewing is declining faster than that of the population overall.

Average weekly viewing by children has declined by almost two hours since 1993 to 19 hours, 23 minutes a week, with the BBC holding up well and commercial channels suffering the decline. Children are spending more time on PCs and electronic games and, in any case, children's increasing sophistication makes them very 'media-literate' as the admen would phrase it. The children's TV market has for some time reflected this level of sophistication. It is among the most developed with satellite, cable and terrestrial channels - such as the Cartoon Network at the lower end of the age range, Nickelodeon for 8-12 year olds and the recently launched Fox Kids - competing for attention. …

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