Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ads Targeting Kids Reek Havoc

news you may not know

I Think I'll Go


It's confusing to say the least. You sat your teenage daughter down just last month - well, maybe it was two or three months ago - but, you definitely sat her down! And, to your credit, you found the perfect balance between your crazed-mom-warns-of-impending-doom and lets-be-buddies-and-chat-over-chai competing personas. You were direct, but not demanding. Friendly, but not frivolous. Intense, but not insensitive. In a stunning display of clarity, you distilled your parental directive down to its essence: "Just don't do it."

So, why is she not only doing it, but this, that and the other as well?

It would appear you're outgunned.

Advertisers are not so loathe to be demanding, insensitive and frivolous - as long as there are dollars involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in the December issue of Pediatrics, issued a policy statement on advertising directed at children. Their findings are stunning - and sobering. Consider:

-The average young person views over 3,000 ads per day on television, the Internet, billboards and in magazines.

-Children view 40,000 ads per year on television alone.

-Advertising is a $250 billion/year industry with over 900,000 brand names to promote.

-Tobacco producers spend $30 million dollars/day ($11.2 billion/year) promoting the puff.

-Alcohol manufacturers spend $5.7 billion/year encouraging individuals to imbibe.

-Food and restaurant interests spend $4.5 billion/year challenging us to chow down.

-Sex is the ubiquitous sizzle that packages the palpitations of propaganda.

The academy points to the billions of dollars being spent to influence children as, well... influencing children. Unfortunately, according to the academy, it's influencing children to become obese through eating fatty foods, become abusers of cigarettes and alcohol, and to consider sex at an early age to be the norm. On the flip side, though companies are becoming increasingly sensitive to criticism, the dollars spent promoting healthy foods and lifestyle choices are paltry at best.

What's a mother to do?

Try this. First, wipe away the tears from your eyes. It's a sign of weakness you can't afford in a battle with such high stakes. Now, march into your daughter's room and "sit her down." Grab her, gently, by the shoulders, look directly into her eyes and say, "Let's talk." Ah, yes... the weapon of womanhood. The one force against which advertisers have no power: the sound of a mother's voice. As long as you and your daughter are engaged in conversation, the advertisers will be left simply talking to themselves - a fate, it would seem, they most certainly deserve.

You may read the entire report from the academy at Pediatrics.


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