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How Advertising Targets Children

Instructor: Michelle Blessing

Michelle is a former therapist and adult education/college instructor. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.

Children are the perfect targets for advertisers. They are not only impressionable but highly influential in regard to their parents. In this lesson, we will explore advertising directed at families. Test your knowledge afterward with a quiz.

Advertising or Entertainment?

You are sitting on the couch with your five-year-old daughter watching her favorite cartoon. Suddenly a toy commercial fills the screen. Right away she begins to beg you for the toy. Sound familiar? This scenario happens every day to families around the world. Advertising has pervaded almost every form of media - from television to the Internet. And because children under the age of seven have difficulty understanding the difference between advertising and entertainment, your job as a parent becomes more complicated.

Advertising has a major impact on young children.
child watching tv

Advertising companies pay huge amounts of money to research firms who analyze the habits of children and their families. As a result, these companies get 'insider info' - tons of data that allows them to market their new fads to younger and younger children. Since statistically family size has decreased over time and incomes have increased, parents are more willing to indulge their children with toys, games and other material goods - and advertisers know this.

Pester Power and Buzz Marketing

One way advertisers market their products to young children is by a technique known as pester power. Pester power is basically what it sounds like - the ability of children to nag their parents about a product until the parents give in and buy it. Pester power can be broken down into two specific categories - persistence and importance. Persistence refers to a child's repeated asking until the parent gives in to the child's demands and buys a product. It is usually not as effective as importance, which refers to a child making a parent believe the product is in his best interest and convincing the parent to buy it. Importance appeals to parental concern and guilt because most parents want to provide the best advantages for their children.

Buzz marketing uses social media to influence kids to buy products.
social media icons

Buzz marketing is another way advertisers target children. Buzz marketing is the new 'word of mouth.' Based on research data, companies will target young people in an influential community and provide them free samples of a new product. The idea behind buzz marketing is that if the young people targeted are well-connected on social media, they will share their experience with other young people. This expands the advertiser's reach for minimal cost.

A Well-Known Face

Celebrity endorsements can boost sales of some products tremendously. Well-known athletes or actors can persuade children to jump on the bandwagon because the product becomes associated with the characteristics of the famous individual. Children with great imaginations believe they will develop the athletic skills of a soccer star if they drink a certain sports drink or will be as famous as their favorite television star if they wear a particular brand of clothing.

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