From 2008 to 2011 the total media spending to promote child-targeted cereals increased by 34% from $197 million to $264 million. Despite these increases in advertising spending, the extent to which children understand that they are being advertised to is unknown.
Children see cereal commercials more than any other category of packaged food or beverage. While children are able to differentiate between advertisers and other forms of communication from a young age, they are vulnerable advertising messages that are outside of traditional media.
The 2014 study Tween’s Knowledge of Marketing Tactics, Skeptical Beyond Their Years set out to determine how children between the ages of 8 and 12 respond to marketing tactics. The study focused on how well this age group, categorized as tweens, understood and evaluated new and increasingly utilized marking tactics. The study found that covert marketing tactics are difficult for this age group to recognize as attempts by marketers to influence young audiences, particularly among those age 12 and younger. The findings of the study clearly show that using implicit marketing beyond the audience’s grasp is unethical. The authors’ concluding statement read, “there is a general lack of fairness associated with using such tactics when targeting tweens.”
Are new and emerging marketing tactics targeting children unethical? Does the impact that these tactics are having on children need to be explored and regulated?