Other issues that have been raised are the ban of smoking and violent computer games. It has brought up the concern that tobacco advertisement, sponsorship and promotion has increased the number of children smoking. Smoking can also have very harmful effects on children and lead to death. Tobacco companies have always maintained that they do not target the youth. Other people believe that smoking should not be banned, as it is a pastime and that the marketing of tobacco products is for smokers over 16. The independent survey shows that approximately 60 percent of smokers start by the age of 13 and fully 90 percent before the age of 20. Even computer games are using violent and explicit material to sell games knowing that a game with scenes of shooting and stealing cars will want children to have it. Not only can it affect a child's eyesight but can lead to children doing crime. Recently in America, one friend killed another friend after playing a computer game containing violence. The issue has now been raised that violent games should have an age restriction and should not be sold to any one under that age.
In the UK, the ITC and ASA regulations are there to help and control children's advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is an independent body set up to exercise control over and monitors advertising in the U.K. Its role is to protect consumer interest. It is responsible for ensuring that advertisers conform to the British code of Advertising Practice. The code works on the assumption that all advertisements should be legal, decent, truthful and honest.
The ASA gives guidance to advertisers on whether a proposed advertisement would be regarded as acceptable and deals with complaints from the general public about cases of allegedly untruthful, misleading or offensive advertisements. Although the ASA tries to prevent the media carrying advertisements it does not enforce the law.
The code of Advertising Practice Committee meets on regular basis to monitor the advertisements and to investigate written complaints from the public.
What ever the issue is, the main benefit will go to the marketers of the advertisements. Knowing that children have needs and wants they will try to promote and sell products, which they could survive without. Quick 30 seconds advert on a toy with bright colourful images will want a child to have it, as it will be ingrained in their minds. A good example Kellogg's cereal that shows cartoon characters on the packaging with a toy inside. Children will buy the cereal not to eat but just to collect the toy from inside. Low-income family can be affected, as they may not be able to afford products such as Nike trainers or Designer clothes as it can be very expensive. It can be seen that advertising has a big effect on children. At different age groups, children have different needs and desires. 'J K Galbraith writing in 'The Dependence Effect' claims that the adverting industry creates needs and desires that the consumer would not have had without the advertising'. At a young age between three through seven children often want whatever they have seen on television. Toys such as the Power Rangers for boys and Barbie Dolls for girls. In the early teens, children want to fit in with their friends and will buy either the same or a similar product that the friend has. The difficulty at this point is the potential conflict areas in marketing ethics such as the product safety, responsibilities to consumers and the ethical issues in marketing communication.
It is very important for organisations to provide details of anything that maybe dangerous or cause problems on the product. Children may be aware of the good points about the product and may not see the bad points, as this will most likely not be shown on advertisements. At times children are let down due the sudden change of the product in a short period of time. For example the frequent changes in football shirts, which cost over £40. It therefore important those responsibilities to consumers are met in areas such as product safety, fair pricing and honest advertising. This way children will not be mislead.
One area that I have not mentioned is the Internet. Numerous web sites feature advertising to children and has been estimated around four million children using the Internet world wide. Children can be spending many hours on the Internet viewing commercial content as there is unlimited time compared to television or the radio. The Internet is giving the children more content to view and can access greater choice of material targeted at them. Many web sites such as nickelodeon and Disney are set up for children with many of the sites asking for personal information. Alcohol sites tend to state that the user is to leave the site if not over 18, but of course they have no means of enforcing this. Some adverts have themes with youth appeal, for example a French vodka site has images of space adventures and stories based on the Star Wars theme, under its “Alcoholics War” section.
On the other hand, marketing to children has been seen to other people as an ethical issue. Some organisations believe that marketing to children is a part of growing up and those parents have a big role as to what their children are influenced by. Many people believe that having a ban on advertisements would be pointless as children would most likely still see marketing of products on the streets, posters or magazines. Critics believe that advertising widens knowledge from the product or service and deficient information about products may lead to market failure if the consumers find out about the hidden facts. F A Hayek argues that consumer’s needs and wants are determined by culture and that advertising is one part that shapes our desires. He also believes that from a libertarian approach that consumers should always have choice and that the government and other agencies have no right to interfere in the way the market works. Living in free society and having the freedom of speech, advertisers have the right to inform consumers about the product or service, and the consumer has the right to receive the product. Children can also benefit from advertising as it helps to raise money or school equipment such as computers to help them in their education. Many marketers feel that targeting children is a part of life and will grow out of it as they grow older. A Kantian would conclude that under certain conditions advertising cannot be censured and therefore morally acceptable.
In a recent case study by Sharon Beder, she explains that advertising exploits individuals in insecurities and creates false needs and offers counterfeit solutions. Marketers target children because they spend sufficient amount of money on themselves and they pester there parents to buy them the latest products such as clothes, toys and computer products. She also states that companies expose there brand name to children in the child friendly settings. For example Chrysler distributes thousands of glossy cardboard pop-up promotional books to children who love pop-up books. Advertisers know that if children are targeted at an early age the brand loyalties and consumer habits will be carried through adulthood. Television is a great form of marketing since it reaches children so spend more time watching TV than attending classes.( Quote: in Australia, where in one in four homes children have there own television sets, children spend an average of a quarter of there spare time in front of the television). The case also points out that advertisers use cartoon characters from children favourite programmes to promote their products. This has had a big impact as children will feel a great affection for these characters therefore will be influenced to buy the product. (Quote: television advertising makes up about 70% of the total amount spent on advertising to children in the U.S). Overall Sharon Beder believes that children can easily be deceived and manipulated and therefore children under the age of 8 or 9 years old should not be exploited to advertising.
Advertising on children definitely has both positive and negative benefits that help and impede the development of the child. Regardless of the effects that marketers have on the youth, advertisement will continue. Mainly due to the high amount of money involved. Galbraith argues that advertising is a waste of money and that companies are losing out without improving the quality of the product or service. Some believe that children are been taken advantage of and must be protected from exploitation while others say that if it’s legal to sell something, it should be legal to advertise it. Critics say that children cannot be isolated from the commercial world but can be better educated in how to manage it. The main stakeholders involved in the marketing of children are parents, advertising organisations, government, public health sector (NHS) and children. These stakeholders have an interest in the way the business runs, therefore the business’s actions must not have a negative effect on stakeholders.
In conclusion I believe that marketing towards children should continue as long as it is not causing any mental or physical damage to the child. If McDonalds is going to advertise unhealthy food it should also advertise nutritious food. Any adverts that may harm or affect a child such as alcohol and cigarettes should be viewed on television at late hours so those children do not see it. I believe that advertising is a legitimate practice providing the advertising is itself responsible. Pester power will also continue by children as they are very susceptible to advertising, as parents will not deny there children of goods that they want. Children are young consumers and are interested in making choices for them self. A ban on advertisement will not have any effect on children, as marketers will advertise in any other form of media such as the Internet to get the attention of the children. In my opinion, a good relationship and communication between the child and its parents can acknowledge the child to know what is ethical and what is unethical in marketing.
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Tom McEwan ‘Managing Values and Beliefs in Organisations’ FT Prentice Hall 2001.
Fisher C & Lovell A ‘Business Ethics and Values’ FT Prentice Hall 2003