Issuu on Google+

Catering  to  Kids  

1  

                             

                                             

Catering  to  Kids           Jourdan  Block   Persuasion  4200     April  25,  2011  


Catering  to  Kids    

2  

  “To  me,  the  problem  is  not  the  young  people;  the  problem  is  we  as  a  society  

continue  to  buckle  to  [corporate  interests].  As  a  society,  we  are  failing  our  young   people.  Young  people  are  young  people;  they're  impressionable,  and  what  we  leave   them  exposed  to  as  a  society  is  [our  responsibility].”-­  Anonymous       Today  the  innocence  of  learning  and  making  decisions  is  primarily  influenced   by  the  mass  media  and  the  messages  they  portray  through  their  branding  and   marketing.    In  an  age  where  media  dominates  our  life,  it  is  inevitable  that  these   messages  will  be  created  to  target  specific  demographics.      These  demographics   consist  of  gender,  class,  geography,  religion,  and  amongst  many  others,  age.     Unfortunately,  many,  if  not  all,  marketing  companies  have  come  to  manipulate   certain  messages  and  gear  their  communication  towards  a  very  receptive  audience   with  a  high  degree  of  influence.      Children  have  very  readily  become  the  target   market  for  advertising  campaigns  due  to  their  high  level  of  absorption  and  heavy   percentage  of  consumption.    Marketing  directives  of  food  companies  such  as  fast   food  chains  and  snack  companies  are  aimed  at  children  audiences  through  the  use  of   multiple  strategies,  including  identification  theory  in  conjunction  with  attribution   theory  in  an  attempt  to  brand  and  manipulate  the  members  of  this  young  audience.       Advertising  constantly  bombards  children,  as  it  is  pervasive  in  every  aspect   of  their  lives.    It  is  estimated  that  children  are  exposed  to  40,000  commercials  a  year   with  food  and  beverage  companies  spending  more  than  1.5  billion  dollars  a  year  to   reach  this  specific  audience.    This  is  due  to  the  fact  that  children  control  a  large   portion  of  the  purchasing  power  in  families  and  even  dominate  a  considerable  


Catering  to  Kids  

3  

amount  of  decision-­‐making  processes  (Own,  Lewis,  Berridge,  2007).    These   advertisements  invade  all  areas  of  daily  activity;  they  range  from  broadcast,  print,   endorsement,  logo  recognition,  and  even  in  school  product  placement  (Mello,  2010).     These  constant  messages  are  most  commonly  a  product  of  the  food  industry  and  are   responsible  for  issues  such  as  health  and  obesity,  body  image,  materialism,  sexual   attitudes,  violence,  stereotypes,  and  mental  health.       There  is  a  question  of  ethics  that  is  raised  due  to  all  the  outside  influence   upon  children  through  marketing.    This  question  asks  whether  the  amount  of   influential  advertising  is  appropriate  when  considering  the  cognitive  development   of  the  intended  audience  members.    The  “recognition  of  persuasive  intent”  is  a   crucial  component  to  understanding  the  nature  of  the  messages  that  children  are   interpreting  (Biaocco,  D’Alessia,  Laghi,  2009).      The  issue  is  whether  the  information   is  recognized  and  differentiated  from  reality,  and  a  motive  can  be  discerned.  Connor   states  that:   “Preschool-­‐aged  children  are  likely  to  view  advertisements  as  objective   statements  of  fact,  that  is,  unbiased  informational  pieces  designed  to  tell   them  about  a  toy  or  food  product,  and  lack  the  ability  to  comprehend  an   advertisement's  intent  to  sell.”     Commercials  have  a  very  strong  influence  on  the  developing  beliefs,  values,  and   morality  of  children  as  they  are  easily  persuaded  by  TV  messages.    They  often  lack   the  ability  to  distinguish  between  animation  and  reality  (Connor,  2006).    The  issue   then  lies  in  the  fact  that  although  children  recognize  and  respond  to  advertisements,   they  are  unable  to  understand  their  purpose  and  motive.      

 


Catering  to  Kids  

4  

This  premature  exposure  quickly  leads  to  the  development  of  brand  loyalty   and  preference.    This  branding  can  begin  as  early  as  the  age  of  two  and  is  intended   to  create  life  long  customers  (Connor,  2006).    This  method  of  branding  is  achieved   through  the  influence  of  animated  or  representative  characters  such  as  Ronald   McDonald  or  Tony  the  Tiger.    They  appeal  to  fun,  action,  and  excitement  and  often   employ  catchy  phrases  or  slogans  that  are  associated  with  emotional  responses.     These  institutions  disguise  there  purchasing  incentive  by  associating  their  brand   with  activities  and  feelings  rather  than  the  actual  physical  product.    For  example,   kids  enjoy  the  experience  of  MacDonald’s  not  only  for  the  happy  meals,  but  for  the   playground  as  well.    In  this  sense,  food  equals  fun.    These  corporations  are   succeeding  at  very  early  ages,  creating  mass  brand  loyalty  through  preschoolers  and   toddlers  (Connor,  2006).           Perhaps  these  companies  are  so  persuasive  due  to  the  application  of   identification  theory  and  attribution  theory.    The  first  applies  to  the  concept  of   relation.    Kenneth  Burke  defines  identification  as  “you  persuade  a  [person]  only   insofar  as  you  can  talk  that  [person’s]  language  by  speech,  gesture,  tonality,  order,   image,  attitude,  identifying  your  ways  this  [person’s].”    In  this  manner,  animation,   excitement,  and  fantasy  are  all  readily  exhibited  by  corporations  to  appeal  to  the   innocence  of  their  immature  audience  members.    Children  thus  attempt  to  identify   with  these  magical  characterizations.    The  idea  of  identity  salience  is  key  concept  in   creating  this  relationship.    Companies  enhance  their  product  to  create  consumer   recognition  that  generates  feelings  of  prestige,  participation,  and  identity  (Michalski,   Helmig,  2008).    The  identity  theory  helps  demonstrate  how  society  shapes  


Catering  to  Kids  

5  

behaviors  and  expectations.    It  explains  how  individuals  may  perceive  numerous   identifications  and  how  they  are  arranged  (Spangle).    This  identification  allows  a   child  to  define  whom  they  wish  to  be  perceived  as  or  different  from.       The  attribution  theory  asserts  how  individuals  interpret  events  and  how  they   relate  their  own  actions  to  others.    Children  attempt  to  make  sense  of  their   surrounding  by  associating  relationships  and  meaning  to  their  environment.    This   process  allows  a  sense  of  casualty  and  begins  at  a  very  young  age  (Robertson,   Rossiter,  1974).    Though  as  a  child  experiences  this  attribution  with  marketing  they   must  initially  be  able  to  differentiate  commercials  from  TV  programs  and   understand  the  intent  of  persuasion.    Through  research  it  is  determined  that   children  view  commercials  as  either  ‘assistive’  or  ‘persuasive.’    This  meaning  that   children  feel  informed  or  influenced  by  the  constant  messages  they  view  on  a  daily   basis  (Robertson,  Rossiter,  1974).         With  all  the  pervasive  messages  attacking  children’s  livelihoods,  it  is   unsettling  to  see  how  disturbing  some  of  the  advertisements  are  and  what  they   communicate.    For  example,  McDonalds  recently  revamped  their  image  with  the   slogan  “I’m  Lovin’  It.”    They  provide  a  family  friendly,  fun,  entertaining  environment   where  kids  can  eat  and  play.    They  create  a  branded  image  with  their  highly   recognizable  golden  arches  and  kid  friendly  parade  led  by  Ronald  McDonald  and   fellow  cartoon  characters.      They  are  fed  “happy  meals”  and  persuaded  to  believe   that  this  corporation  has  their  best  interests  at  heart.    In  reality,  McDonalds  has   been  unbelievably  successful  in  marketing  an  experience  to  children.    An  experience  


Catering  to  Kids  

6  

that  invariably  will  do  harm  to  their  future  while  leading  children  to  believe  they  are   participating  in  an  excellent  phenomenon.        

    Through  marketing  that  consists  of  imagery  portraying  sing-­‐a-­‐long  sessions   with  a  giant  clown,  running  around  McDonald’s  “playplaces,”  and  eating  boxed   lunched  containing  a  surprise  toy,  what  more  could  a  child  ask  for?    

   

 


Catering  to  Kids  

7  

With  this  implication  of  identity  theory,  children  are  able  identify  with  the   characters  and  other  children  enjoying  themselves  and  participating  in  outgoing   activities.    They  are  able  to  socially  relate  and  identify  as  a  participant  with  other   children.    They  feel  involved  and  included  into  this  club  of  characters.    They  can   imagine  or  relate  to  a  specific  cartoon  figure  as  well  as  feel  a  sense  of  belonging.     McDonalds  employs  terminology  and  imagery  that  can  easily  be  connected  to  the   rationality  of  their  target  age  demographic.    They  understand  the  speech  and   gestures  of  this  audience  and  cater  their  message  to  appeal  to  children.       In  association  with  the  attribution  theory,  children  are  able  to  attribute  their   feelings  of  happiness  and  excitement  to  this  company  and  wish  to  continue  to   correspondence.    They  are  able  to  interpret  their  emotions  in  relation  to  the  other   children  and  affirm  their  joy.    Their  attitudes  soon  confirm  their  behavior,  as  the   idea  of  McDonalds  relays  associations  of  fun  and  excitement,  regardless  of  the  meal   it  sells.       To  solidify  this  connection  between  children  and  McDonalds,  the  marketing   branch  of  the  company  has  employed  numerous  advertising  strategies  that  are   extremely  effective.    These  various  tactics  include  heartstrings,  cute  celebrities,  and   ideal  kids  (Center  for  Media  Literacy).    The  heartstrings  strategy  makes  the  whole   family  feel  involved  while  connecting  around  a  dinner  table,  with  the  theme  music   “I’m  lovin’  it,”  playing  in  the  background.    The  use  of  cute  celebrities  is  embodied  in   the  image  of  Ronald  McDonald,  and  ideal  kids  surround  him  and  his  Ronald   McDonald  House  charity.    Where  as  previous,  commercial  were  targeted  to  mothers,   they  now  appeal  directly  to  children.      


Catering  to  Kids  

8  

The  problem  with  this  direct  appeal  is  that  it  neglects  the  health  and   protection  of  children  from  persuasive  advertising.    This  Federal  Trade  Commission   has  been  unsuccessful  in  regulating  advertising  aimed  at  children  and  therefore  our   society  must  suffer  the  consequences.      Because  most  of  today’s  advertising  is   supplied  by  the  food  and  beverage  industries,  there  is  a  heavy  incentive  to  overlook   the  health  component  of  the  material  shown.    The  large  majority  of  advertisements   are  for  food  products  that  are  high  in  fat,  sugar,  and  sodium  (Connor,  2006).    This   correlation  is  related  to  unhealthy  eating  habits  and  miscommunication  about   nutrition  which  overall  leads  to  obesity  in  children.      In  a  2005  study  researched  by   Mello,  it  was  found  that:     “Dietary  and  other  choices  influenced  by  exposure  to  these  advertisements   may  likely  contribute  to  energy  imbalance  and  weight  gain,  resulting  in   obesity.  Based  on  children’s  commercial  recall  and  product  preferences,  it  is   evident  that  advertising  achieves  its  intended  effects,  and  an  extensive   systematic  literature  review  concludes  that  food  advertisements  promote   food  requests  by  children  to  parents,  have  an  impact  on  children’s  product   and  brand  preferences,  and  affect  consumption  behavior.  .  .  .  Research   suggests  that  long-­‐term  exposure  to  such  advertisements  may  have  adverse   impacts  due  to  a  cumulate  effect  on  children’s  eating  and  exercise  habits.”    

  In  light  of  these  suggestive  findings,  relating  food  advertising  to  the  causes  of  

child  obesity,  many  procedures  have  been  taken  for  regulation.    The  Federal  Trade  


Catering  to  Kids  

9  

Commission  has  become  more  aggressive  exercising  its  authority  with  deceptive   and  unfair  practices.    The  unfair  doctrine  requires  that  advertisements  likely  to   cause  injury  outweighed  by  benefits  be  restricted  (Mello,  2006).    The  deceptive  rule   claims  that  an  advertisement  containing  misleading  information  about  a  product   must  be  restricted  as  well.    However  effective  the  Federal  Trade  commission   attempts  to  be  in  regulating  advertisements,  in  actuality  they  have  little  control  over   the  material  that  reaches  the  public.    Public  health  figures  have  suggested  the  need   for  education  and  prevention  concerning  the  effects  that  this  sort  of  advertising  may   have  on  younger  children  and  their  future.    These  measures  include  removing   television  set  from  children’s  rooms,  limit  and  monitoring  what  children  are   watching,  and  accompany  children  when  they  are  in  view  of  advertisements   (Connor  2006).    In  Sweden  authorities  have  gone  so  far  forbidding  television   marketing  aimed  at  children  under  the  age  of  twelve  with  the  belief  that  they  cannot   comprehend  the  persuasively  inherent  message  (Owen,  Auty,  Lewis,  Berridge,   2007).       In  a  world  where  messages  are  relayed  through  the  media,  and  dominate  our   daily  lives  it  is  important  to  have  awareness  about  the  intent  behind  the  marketing.     The  mass  media  have  wisely  employed  techniques  to  persuade  and  influence   intended  audience  members,  specifically  children.    With  the  use  of  identification   theory  along  with  attribution  theory,  these  marketing  teams  have  successfully   appealed  to  a  demographic  while  swaying  their  perceptions.    In  order  to  make  wise   and  healthy  decisions  it  is  important  to  educated  children  and  allow  for  channels  of  


Catering  to  Kids  

10  

expression  and  communication  to  better  understand  these  daily  messages  they   receive.      

                                                     

                       


Catering  to  Kids  

11  

References     Baiocco,  R.,  D'Alessio,  M.,  &  Laghi,  F.  (2009).  Discrepancies  Between  Parents'  and       Children's  Attitudes  Toward  TV  Advertising.  Journal  of  Genetic  Psychology,  170(2),   176-­‐192.  Retrieved  from  EBSCOhost.     Connor,  S.  M.  (2006).  Food-­‐Related  Advertising  on  Preschool  Television:  Building   Brand  Recognition  in  Young  Viewers.  Pediatrics,  118(4),  1478-­‐1485.   doi:10.1542/peds.2005-­‐2837     Mello,  M.  M.  (2010).  Federal  Trade  Commission  Regulation  of  Food  Advertising  to   Children:  Possibilities  for  a  Reinvigorated  Role.  Journal  of  Health  Politics,  Policy  &   Law,  35(2),  227-­‐276     Michalski,  S.,  &  Helmig,  B.  (2008).  What  Do  We  Know  About  the  Identity  Salience   Model  of  Relationship  Marketing  Success?  A  Review  of  the  Literature.  Journal  of   Relationship  Marketing,  7(1),  45.  Retrieved  from  EBSCOhost.     Owen,  L.,  Auty,  S.,  Lewis,  C.,  &  Berridge,  D.  (2007).  Children's  understanding  of   advertising:  an  investigation  using  verbal  and  pictorially  cued  methods.  Infant  &   Child  Development,  16(6),  617-­‐628     Robertson,  T.  S.,  &  Rossiter,  J.  R.  (1974).  Children  and  Commercial  Persuasion:  An   Attribution  Theory  Analysis.  Journal  of  Consumer  Research,  1(1),  13-­‐20.  Retrieved   from  EBSCOhost.     Spangle      


Persuasion Paper