Advertising on Television is still the most common and significant way of transporting messages to people and particularly to children in view of affecting their intent to buy. The Nielsen Media Research found out that, very young children as early as age two, watch television more than three hours per day, (1998, in Singer & Singer, 2001, p.15) which makes the subject of how children understand advertising messages and what they do with these messages an important topic. The producers of advertising campaigns have still noticed the importance of children as a target group and the significant influence on their parents’ purchases. Furthermore children are “consumers of tomorrow”, consequently companies have to create awareness of their products and create preferences as well as brand loyalty in the very early stages of children’s consumerism.

Therefore it is an interesting topic to consider if commercials have an effect on children and if so, what they do with these messages. It is important to focus on the factors which have an influence on building up the mind of children. However, since this topic is very complex and the opinions differ, it is not possible to point out one general point of view. Every child is an individual with a different family background and an individual behaviour.

Firstly it is significant to look at some general properties of a successful campaign and the increasing influence of children on their parents purchase. To find an assertion why children are strongly influenced, it will be briefly looked at how many advertisings an average child watched.

Furthermore, another crucial point is how and to which extent television advertising does influence children on their brand perceptions.

This essay will discuss how children understand television advertising and what they do with the message they get from it.

For that reason it is essential to know and analyse the process of consumer socialization which will be mentioned afterwards. It will be considered how the family, the school, peer groups and the mass media influence a child.

A successful campaign for children has the concept of getting children to pester their parents to buy things for the whole family like special brand food or a car or only things for the child like toys. Moreover, a child’s attitude towards different brands, products and consumerism in general is strongly influenced by advertising, which increases the parental purchase influence of children in the age group of two to 14. In the 1950s, children’s influence was about $five billion dollars, by 1960 the figure was about $50 billion and by 2002 it may have peaked around $188 billion (Zoll, 2000). This figure demonstrates how the importance of marketing communication to children rises and it also shows the significance for advertisers and marketers, to understand how children are influenced in their attitudes towards advertising and their consumer behaviour in general.

Kunkel and Gantz (1992, in Singer & Singer, 2001, p.376) found out that children typically viewed more than 40,000 advertisings on television per year in 1990. A child might see about 130 commercials a day, or more than 900 a week (Himmelstein, 1983, in van Evra, 1998, p.94). For children’s programs, the level of commercial advertising found on cable channels appears to be substantially lower than on broadcast channels. For example, the largest study of advertising content in the published literature, which sampled more than 600 hours of children’s programs, found that network broadcasters aired the greatest amount of commercials, averaging 10:05 minutes per 1 hour of children’s shows (Kunkel & Gantz, 1992, in Singer & Singer, 2001, p.376).

Considering these figures it becomes obvious that especially TV advertisings have a considerable influence on children’s perception of products, brands and their consumption behaviour. The primary goal of advertising is not necessarily direct persuasion, but to put awareness of a product in the viewers’ conscious mind and to have them to associate it with something good or desirable (Cheney, 1993, in van Evra, 1998, p.101). Critically it must be also mentioned that not only advertising spots transport purchase messages to the children, the meaning of messages in a special context like in a specific program for children increase. In other words, product placement, which means that products were placed in a movie without being obvious, becomes an important factor to influence children in a not obvious way. It must be also mention, that all this figures only represent a very general overview.

The influence of advertising on children’s brand perception is another important point. The ability to identify commercials does not necessarily translate into an understanding of the “true” difference between commercials and programs. An understanding of advertising intent usually emerges by the time most children are seven to eight years old. Prior to this, young children tend to view advertising as entertainment or as a form of unbiased information. Only when children are beginning to think analytically, they are able to view advertisings from their own perspective as well as from the advertiser’s perspective (Singer & Singer, 2001, p.379).



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Institution / College
Macquarie University
Advertising Children Media Cultures



Title: Advertising to Children