Advertising Effects on Children’s Buying Habits in the US

by Janie R Gregg and Peter J. Gordon
published by Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 2000
Ref AMSJ04-11
 

Children in the US control billions of buyer-power dollars, write the authors of this article, and marketers are striving to get a stronghold on their share of the money. Research has shown that children begin to show branding preferences by the age of 23 months, and advert recall among younger children is significantly higher than for older children.

The writers also quote research that shows for children aged six to 13, ‘fitting in’ is of huge importance to their mental growth, with peer pressure being so intense that it overrides family and their own assessment of what is desirable and what is not. Many parents admit that they over-extend their budgets to buy the latest ‘must-have’ toys for their children, especially at Christmas and birthdays.

Television advertising is the number one source of information about new products, and adverts aimed at children are big business. The writers note that the methods used to target children via advertising can be highly controversial, for example, the use of celebrities popular with children, exploiting their trust in authority figures, or the use of adult terminology, emotion, or intense sound and colour, that may exploit a child’s limited knowledge or gullibility.

The authors conclude by considering ways that parents can help children make good buying decisions, but note that such active involvement can be difficult in many cases. Legislative intervention might work instead, they say, but agreeing on the nature of the legislation would be a very difficult task.

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About the author

Janie R Gregg is Associate Professor of Management at The University of West Alabama.
Peter J. Gordon is a Professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

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