The Impact Of Advertising On Children

The world is struggling with the dilemma of choice, and businesses are expanding their efforts to differentiate their products. This means more money will be spent on marketing, advertising, and more attention-grabbing advertising.

While such ads can provide valuable information and help you make a well-informed decision, they may also have unintended consequences, particularly for youngsters.

Early exposure to a brand increases the likelihood that a child would seek out that brand in the future (or beg their parents to purchase it).

Since television is still the most popular medium for preschoolers, most marketing efforts target this age group through television (or streaming service) advertising.

Many billions of dollars are spent annually to ensure that preteens see advertisements for items across various mediums, including television, the Internet, video games, movies, and apps. Marketers realise advertising targeting children significantly impacts their parents’ spending habits to $500 billion annually.

However, the fact that preteens may now provide feedback is the most crucial component of marketing to this demographic.

Companies may not collect any personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13, but even so, they can still learn about their habits and interests to encourage children buying.

Finally, one of the most crucial groups for advertisers to target is teenagers. Brand loyalty is still forming, but kids have disposable income and a significant say in where their parents put it, even when it comes to major purchases like cars.

Twenty-five per cent of teenagers use mobile devices to get online, so advertisers focus on applications, games, and sites that provide streaming audio and video and digital downloads to reach them.

If you want to find out how important mobile advertising is around the world, be sure to check out our in depth blog post on the subject.

Brands aimed at younger children employ old and contemporary advertising strategies to sway consumers’ decisions with persuasive intent.


What Is Advertising?

Advertising is a form of promotion in which a business or organisation pays to get its message seen by a target audience. Ads, shorthand for “commercials,” refer to the promotional messages themselves. Advertising aims to attract potential customers eager to spend money on a product or service.

Advertising and Social Media Marketing is only going to get bigger and bigger as the ears go by, check out our blog post on the future of Advertising to find out where we think and project the industry to go in the future.

Methods Used By Marketers To Reach Preschool Children:

Hooking them young

A company’s ability to capture consumers “from the cradle to the grave” is enhanced by placing the product in front of the target audience as frequently as feasible. Consider diapers with cartoon characters printed on them for children younger.

Dividing and targeting genders

As early as feasible, brands attempt to establish a preference for gendered toys when advertising on children. The sooner your child desires “boy” or “girl” products, the sooner they become customers. This paves the way for even more gender-specific products in advertising messages.

Creating flavour preferences

Marketing junk food to children is a €2 billion per year industry, which is why childhood obesity is on the rise. Cartoon characters appear on cereal boxes, figurines are included in packages, and characters promote brands on television — for instance, Mr and Mrs Potato Head promote potato chips.

Methods Employed By Marketers To Target Preteens:

A requirement for stimulation

The commercials for pre-teens appear as a caffeinated jackrabbit filmed them because tween brains crave stimulation and respond strongly to it. And such media literacy pays off. If something is interesting, they will pay attention.

The urge to participate

To this demographic, brands bury their sales pitches to avoid risk of banning advertising. Games, applications, contests, and other interactive gimmicks are utilised to attract and retain preteens’ attention.

The desire for emotional intimacy

If you have a preteen, you know that what children watch at this age is not wholly rational. They are OBSESSED with a specific game, attire, or song, so this is where advertisers spend. So that children can identify with a product, marketers employ emotional and child psychology strategies in the ads.

Methods Used By Marketers To Target Teenagers

Using insecurities for gain

Teenage-targeted brands and mass media exploit their particular vulnerabilities: the desire to blend in, to be perceived as attractive, and to not be a complete dork.

Teens are acutely aware of their position in the social hierarchy, and advertising serves as a “super peer” in guiding them toward what is popular and acceptable. Teenage boys and girls are highly receptive to messages about body image; marketers capitalise on this fact.

Tracking data

Once children reach the age of 13, there are few restrictions on marketing to them and accumulating their data. The information they acquire cannot be used to identify an individual; it is significantly more valuable.

Tracking teenagers’ digital footprints enables businesses to precisely determine their tastes, interests, purchase histories, preferences, and even locations, allowing them to market products to them or sell this information to other businesses.

Discuss with adolescents the importance of using privacy settings and comprehending the data they unwittingly provide to companies.

Utilising peer influence on social media platforms

Advertisers actively recruit adolescent social media followers to promote their products. This is available in online stores like J. Crew’s, where you can share items with your peers.

On social media, numerous brands encourage adolescents to share their interactions with the brand (e.g., uploading photos of themselves with a particular purse, drink, or attire). It is essential to assist adolescents in understanding that their self-worth is not determined by what they possess (or do not possess).

Recognising Prevalent Marketing Techniques

Common marketing approaches are outlined below. Playing a “spot the strategies” game with your kid could be fun.

  • The bribe. For example, toys come with some fast food meals, little toys can be found in cereal boxes, and consumers are pushed to collect them all.
  • The game. By making a purchase, you are entered into a game for a chance to win a reward.
  • A promise. A product has a fantastic flavour or is the greatest of its kind. Alternatively, a product will make your life more enjoyable and exciting in some way, whether by helping you meet new friends or allowing you to run faster.
  • The cartoon hero. Having a well-liked cartoon character endorse a product might increase its appeal.
  • Those fancy visuals. Close-ups, hazy lighting, and elaborate sets can all be used to make a product appear larger or more impressive than it is.
  • A reiteration. Repeated exposure helps consumers recall and identify with a brand.
  • The tunes. Ads set to well-known songs or jingles tend to be more memorable and, by extension, more effective.
  • To get the joke. Ads that can make you laugh make you more likely to buy the thing being promoted.
  • Back to the tale. The commercial captures your attention by drawing you into its narrative.
  • A deal. Games often offer subscriptions at a discounted price (for a short time only), but the monthly fee quickly adds up.
  • Emotional reasoning. The commercial either makes you feel bad about yourself or unsafe.
  • The ultimate hero. In celebrity endorsements, the target audience is led to believe that they, too, can achieve fame and fortune by purchasing the product in question.

What Effects Does Advertising Have On Children?

Advertising can positively and negatively affect children depending on the advertisement’s content, quality, and presentation.

Positive Results

Some of the benefits of advertising for minors include:

  • They are a possible source of information. Certain advertisements, particularly public service announcements, can provide the child with an excellent opportunity to learn about technological advancements and innovations. In addition, they inform the infant about new products on the market.
  • A child may also select a more balanced diet if healthy food options are marketed effectively.
  • Certain advertisements, such as those for hygiene products, can help instil good practices in children.
  • Advertisements may also contain content encouraging children to pursue a particular profession or ambition. They can help them develop a passion for it and begin working towards it at an early age.
  • Children can be influenced by advertisements that depict other children of a similar age engaging in activities such as housework or saving.
  • Children may develop more empathy and a sense of civic duty if exposed to advertisements that contain content pertinent to social change.
  • Environmental protection advertisements also draw children’s attention to the issue and encourage them to participate in the solution.
  • Children can be persuaded to avoid alcohol and cigarettes if they know the dangers of alcohol and tobacco use through cautionary advertisements.

Negative Results

Although advertising has a few positive effects, they do not outweigh the negatives. Among the adverse effects of advertising on minors are the following:

  • The Nag Factor. Children might pester their parents for the advertised products. They may insist on a specific pair of branded jeans and reject all other apparel brands in the store. Additionally, they may insist on practising the lifestyle depicted in advertisements. Children may make unreasonable requests of their parents for products they see advertised. Occasionally, they will cry, pinch, and tug until their parents purchase the product. Some parents who cannot regulate their children may give in to their children’s tantrums when they have no other option. When children see these advertisements, it leaves a negative impression on their young minds, and they begin to place a high value on worldly pleasures.
  • The advertisement’s message may need to be understood, and children may focus primarily on the negatives rather than the positives.
  • Some advertisements depict potentially hazardous stunts. Although they come with a legal warning, it is frequently disregarded, and children may attempt to imitate these antics.
  • Every manufacturer desires repeat business, so they construct eye-catching advertisements. This leads to the development of a habit of purchasing on impulse among children.
  • Children are susceptible to advertisements that unrealistically depict objects or events due to the prevalence of deceptive imagery.
  • Children may also develop a materialistic worldview due to exposure to advertisements. Children may place excessive value on material possessions if they are regularly exposed to content that suggests having the best things is necessary for a happy existence.
  • Cultivating brand consciousness and an affinity for costly branded goods is possible. This may cause them to reject economic items that serve the same function.
  • Most advertised food items are junk food and are visually enticing. These can affect a child’s eating behaviours and promote an unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Advertisements may significantly influence a child’s preference for toys, clothing, or luxuries.
  • Children may also have lower self-esteem if they believe they are inferior for not possessing the various advertised products, particularly if their peers also own them.
  • As a result of the sexual objectification of women in some advertisements, children grow up to believe that this is the norm.
  • Because numerous advertisements have effectively blurred the line between reality and fiction, children tend to believe the facade and lose touch with reality.
  • Some advertisements employ visual comparisons that mock an individual using a competing product. This can instil in children the concept of inferior and superior as they compare themselves to others.
  • The visual depiction of certain inappropriate acts, such as lying or cheating, in advertisements can lead a vulnerable child to believe that the behaviour is permissible.

Parenting Advice

Many famous companies of children’s products and even some adult products today specifically target kids in their advertising.

As a result, parents need to be involved in their children’s lives to help them learn to evaluate commercials objectively and to show them the worth of things money cannot buy. Here are some steps to lessen the impact of commercials on kids.

  • Communicate with your kid about why they want that item when they ask. This is an excellent opportunity to educate them about the advertising process.
  • If you know or suspect that the item your child is requesting is terrible for them, resist the urge to give in to it.
  • Give your youngster an accurate image by pointing out the advertising defects you cannot protect them from. A child’s capacity for critical thinking may benefit from this.
  • Consider downloading shows to avoid commercials while watching TV with your kid.
  • Teach your kid to prioritise their necessities over their wants. In addition, instruct them to request only what is truly necessary.
  • Keep a close eye on your kid and (within reason) limit their exposure to commercials on TV, the Internet, and social media. Removing televisions from children’s bedrooms is one such practical measure, as is restricting the use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones to shared living spaces within the home.
  • Remember that youngsters of any age have difficulty comprehending and responding to advertising. Remember that your kid’s level of development determines how well they can process persuasive material. Therefore, while your child may have learned to recognise and resist some forms of advertising, they may still need help drawing upon particular cognitive competencies when faced with such messages.

Give youngsters cues to help them comprehend persuasive messages and urge them to think critically about them. While it is crucial to have open conversations with your kids about the motivations behind ads and marketers’ strategies, parents can do two more things to help their kids deal with persuasion.

As a first step, parents can help their kids learn to critically analyse messages by cueing their commercial awareness when they are together with them and watching commercial media. Second, in addition to providing factual remarks regarding the nature of the message, parents should give evaluative judgments of the commercial message (e.g., that food looks terrible).

This will teach kids to be more sceptical of advertisements, encouraging them to carefully analyse those messages. Parents and children can benefit from working together to identify the persuasive marketing messages embedded in new media environments. Many adults are still discovering how new media (such as social media) act as commercial vehicles.


Does A Kid’s Capacity To Process And Respond To Advertising Have Anything To Do With How Emotionally And Intellectually Developed They Are?

Yes, in both instances. Good data suggests that children need to share adults’ degree of understanding of commercial messages. Specifically, kids under eight are more inclined to attribute ulterior motives to commercial content they encounter. Growing research suggests that kids’ stages of development play a role in how well they can ignore marketing messages.

What Is The Role Of Government In Regulating Advertising To Children?

Governments can regulate advertising to children by setting standards for advertising content and limiting the types of products advertised to children.

What Are Some Alternative Methods Of Advertising That Are Less Harmful To Children?

Some alternative methods of advertising that are less harmful to children include product packaging and in-store displays, as well as sponsorships of educational or community events.

Should We Worry About General Commercials, Such As Those For Booze And Cigarettes, Even When They Are Not Aimed Specifically At Kids?

Yes. Adolescents exposed to more advertisements for alcoholic beverages tend to consume more frequently and begin drinking at a younger age.

What Types Of Advertising Are Most Harmful To Children?

Advertisements with a lot of violence or sexual content are considered harmful. Additionally, commercials targeting impressionable children with many sugary or unhealthy food products could adversely affect them.


It will be challenging to keep your child from seeing most of the creative commercials that pop up everywhere these days. Advertising agencies have used everything from television and print to outdoor billboards and airport luggage tags to promote their clients’ wares.

If you want to find out more information on the ethical side of social media marketing, we have a dedicated blog post on the topic.

Your kid will be exposed to and influenced by the material in these commercials. Therefore, teaching your child about the nuances of marketing is the most excellent approach to protect them from the harm that these ads can do.

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Dan Grant