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Analyse the treatment of children by television food advertisers and decide if further

regulation is required.

Marketing and advertising to children has been growing exponentially in many countries. This
growth has been spurred on by a range of media devices through which marketers can now access
children. This unparalleled access has resulted in increasing amounts of money spent on advertising
targeting children, particularly in the area of food and beverages. Concurrently, there are many
critical debates amongst parents, government agencies, and industry as to the ethics of advertising
aimed at children on television. An ever growing body of research has focussed on the effects of
advertising on childrens nutritional habits (Hote, Caceres & Cousin 2010; Snyder 2011; Tarcza & Olar
2011). Additionally, several studies have outlined the importance of ethical standards and the need
for regulation and policy action in this area (Bakir & Vitell 2010; ONeill 2011; Turk 1979). In this
present paper, research into the treatment of children by food advertisers on television will be
analysed and what type of regulation, if any, needs to be applied.
A large amount of the work has emphasized that advertisers use techniques that can change
childrens nutritional habits, both positively and negatively. Scammon and Christopher (cited in
Hote, Caceres & Cousin 2010, p. 460) claimed that advertisers are able to take advantage of the
special abilities and limitations children have. This is supported by Hote, Caceres and Cousin (2010)
who found that children show highly favourable attitudes towards fantastic situations and elements
like monsters and science fiction. It can be demonstrated that advertisements that use production
techniques such as rapid movement, changes of scenes, animated voices, music and a great deal of
action have an advantage in maintaining the interest of a child viewer. Interestingly this research
was based on public service announcements which were used to have a positive effect on children
but it could be surmised that these same techniques may be used in a negative manner by
advertisers. Additionally, Snyder (2011) states the Internet is offering a whole new range of
techniques through which they can influence children such as profiling and games. Additional
research in this growing area will be needed as the Internet overtakes more traditional forms of
advertising in importance. These studies show that television advertising can directly influence
childrens eating behaviour through a range of techniques.
The following studies found that advertising can have a negative impact on childrens eating habits.
Snyder (2011) concluded that the unethical blurring of the line between advertising, on the one
hand, and editorial and entertainment, on the other, also is highly prevalent in advertisements
directed at children. He adds that children are particularly vulnerable to advertising due to
immaturity and developing evaluative skills. Supporting this, both Tarcza & Olar (2011) and ONeill
(2011) found some evidence that shows the negative impact of advertising on children. Tarcza &
Olar (2011) performed a study that showed that children are being bombarded by a large amount of
unhealthy food advertising every day. However this study had some major limitations connected to
the methodology used in their research. They would need a larger sample to make their finding
more valid. Finally ONeill (2011) offered a case study regarding a large Australian company which
used questionable techniques in their advertising when targeting teenagers. Once again a broader
body of research would provide stronger evidence.
The above research shows there is a problem and according to several authors stronger regulation is
required. When looking at regulating the advertising industry three major stakeholders need to be
taken into account: the advertisers, government and the public, especially parents. ONeill (2011)
presented that the most effective and efficient solution for advertising ethics is self-regulation. In
addition, ONeill posed the question of where boundaries should lie and who should be setting the
ethical standards. Concerning this question, Turk (1979) has given a response that the government
should take the responsibility of giving guidelines when industry morality conflicts with external
goals. Even though Turks research is out of date it still provides an opinion that is relevant today. In
addition, from the viewpoint of Bakir & Vitell (2010), parents hold the key and act as gatekeepers in
protecting their children from the negative impact of food advertising. Finally as a counter point,
Preston (2004) believes regulation should be placed on the food manufacturers not the advertisers
as they are to blame for the health issues of children. This statement requires more evidence if it is
to be proven true.
In conclusion, the overall research findings clearly reveal that unethical television advertising has
negative effects on children. In addition further regulation is required to protect young and
impressionable minds. Even though several possible theoretical solutions have been provided over
the years, just a few of them were put into practice. Therefore, any further research, should aim to
broaden the base of research into solutions and also look at how these can be put into practice.
Finally, the use of the Internet is growing at an amazing rate with children so any future research will
need to analyse the impact this is having on children in addition to the more traditional forms of

Bakir, A & Vitell, S, 2010, The ethics of food advertising targeted toward children:
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Hota, M, Cceres, RC, & Cousin, A 2010, Can public-service advertising change children's nutrition
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Preston, C 2004, Childrens advertising: the ethics of economic socialisation, International
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O'Neill, M 2011, Insight: Advertising - Regulating the industry - The complex world of ethics in
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Tarcza, T & Olar, A 2011, The impact of the 21st century food marketing on children's
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EBSCOhost, viewed 21 May 2012.

Turk, P 1979, Childrens Television Advertising: An Ethical Morass for Business and
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viewed 13 May 2012.