OPINION: The Big Question - What are the ethical barriers to marketing to children? David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has accused the marketers behind the Pokemon cards craze of acting irresponsibly and fuelling c



’Successful marketing to children often throws up a minefield of ethical

dilemmas, so this is a very sensitive area. Just look at the commercials

on TV these days and you’ll notice an incredible sophistication in their

use and understanding of child psychology. Whether actively designed to

create peer pressure in the playground, or to boost ’pester power’ in

the home, those who market to kids are particularly adept at creating

inequalities between them. Dividing kids into ’haves’ and ’have-nots’

further pressurises parents into meeting their offspring’s demands for

fear their kids will be ostracised if they don’t. ’


’Ethics have little to do with the realities of a material society: kids

create demand and that demand will always be supplied. Crazes aren’t new

- Roman kids went mad for models of their gladiator heroes. Today we all

want what we don’t need - mobile phones that are cleverer than

ourselves, for example. The only difference is that kids actually know

how to use their Pokemon cards. And they really enjoy them - let’s not

forget that. Society gets the marketing it deserves: it tests the limits

of our common sense. The real fuel for kiddie crazes is money, not hype.

Therefore the only barriers that really count are a parent’s patience,

purse and ability to say no.’

GEOFF GLENDENNING - Third Planet International

’We should be concerned with the exaggeration of the entertainment value

of many toys and the hysteria created by the often-excessive media hype

which surrounds many huge, but short-term fashion fads. The aspirational

advertising imagery and media hyped communications which bombard our

kids have two main effects; firstly it sends them straight off to pester

the nearest parent, which creates friction in many households, and

secondly there is the potential of creating an extremely cynical and

media-literate consumer group for the future. The second would certainly

be terrible for the traditional agencies who seem to rely on huge

scatter gun campaigns. Creative integrity and product credibility, with

more emphasis on the quality of activity rather than the quantity, need

to be the benchmark for marketing to kids.’

GABRIELLE SHAW - Gabrielle Shaw Communications

’The critical issue here is that children do not have the in-built media

cynicism that their adult counterparts develop over time with which they

can filter a product’s claims. Companies must address this issue as part

of their overall marketing and communications strategies and set out

ethical guidelines which will allow them to have a lasting, but

reciprocal interaction with a young audience. There is a very fine line

between building a relationship with a child and exploiting their

vulnerability and in turn the pressure they put on their parents. I am

horrified about the recent Pokemon incidents. Wanting your child to be

accepted by their peers, yet to also have solid values, are often not


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