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Should marketers advertise to young people?

22/05/2013

Although the emergence of mass-market advertising saw a flurry of pamphlets and academic papers discussing its potentially detrimental effect on the moral fibre of the populace - Vince Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders is a good example - we now largely accept marketing as part of the fabric of the modern world.

There is one area where some ambivalence remains, however, and that is in the process of targeting adverts towards children.

While people involved with online marketing recruitment will be aware that this can be a lucrative market, there are a number of ethical and moral concerns about how this advertising of this kind is carried out.

The debate has been brought to the forefront by the news that Coca-Cola has pledged to stop advertising to under-12s, as part of a series of measures designed to ward off criticism of the impact its sugary drinks have on the global obesity academic.

Although Coca-Cola may not have a reputation as the world's most ethical company, it has plenty of experience in warding off bad publicity. But will its decision have any impact on the industry as a whole?

Research carried out by YouGov SixthSense shown exclusively to Marketing Week has shown that just 21 per cent of parents accept advertising to young children, even if the product on offer is not an unhealthy food or drink.

Peer to peer advertising and word of mouth remain strong influencers for children, particularly when it comes to video games and toys, but 48 per cent admitted that the television remains key in their decision-making.

"Although parents are concerned about the corrosive effect it may have on their children, the large number of kids that already understand that ads are designed to sell implies that adults cannot control the influence advertising has on their offspring," said James McCoy, research director at YouGov SixthSense.