What do you want to do when you grow up? When asked that question a majority of children respond with, “I want to be an astronaut, a doctor, or maybe even a firefighter.” Well that used to be the case before advertising started making such a huge impact on kids and their futures. Nowadays the response will most likely be “make money.” Instead of helping children to succeed in life, commercials appear to be doing the exact opposite by exposing them to a world full of toys, food, and videogames that convince them that if they don’t purchase what they see, then they are missing out. Advertisements cause children to always want more than what they have therefore they end up insisting their parents to buy them everything and anything they recognize in stores from a commercial due to the different mascots, logos, and jingles that appeal to them.
According to Allen Kanner, a psychologist, “Advertising is a massive, multi-million dollar scheme that’s having a colossal effect on child development.” It leads to “narcissistic wounding” which pertains to children believing that they are inferior without having an infinite amount of new products. Advertising is literally consuming kids. “It’s making them materialistic,” says Kanner. Since the 1950’s companies have been advertising to kids on television, but at first items were generally sold at a reasonable and affordable cost. In order to be happy in today’s society, it requires spending loads of money, or at least that’s what children think. Advertising makes kids want what they really don’t need, which puts pressure on everyone in the family causing parents to either answer to their wishes or create tension for not giving in.
Bright colors, songs that become stuck in your head for days at a time, and spunky characters are all reasons for why children get sucked into the advertising phenomenon. Cartoon Branding is a technique used in many cases to capture their attention. Children prefer cereals that feature popular characters from the media such as Scooby Doo, SpongeBob, and Shrek regardless of how the contents may taste. Examples also include Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes with his catch phrase, “They’re Grreeaaat!” That’s the first image that pops into most children’s heads when browsing through the cereal aisle and coming across that blue carton. The same goes for toys. Children want the most expensive objects if they relate to something they have seen before and enjoy. Cost isn’t an issue when children’s feelings are involved. After all, Kunkel and Roberts stated that kids don’t fully understand the persuasive intent of an advertisement until the age of seven or eight, if that. They only want particular items because of what they liked seeing or hearing about them on TV and the way the commercial made them feel.
Then you have jingles such as, “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” which is sung as a means to get consumers to purchase the Big Mac from McDonalds. More people know that song than the Pledge of Allegiance, which should be a wake-up call to America. Click here to watch ad. McDonalds also closes out all their commercials with “Ba da da da I’m lovin it,” triggering people to go buy their food so they can be satisfied like the actor on the screen. A study that was done by Yale asserted that 84% of parents in America serve fast food to their children at a minimum of once a week. That’s a lot of money that could easily be saved up for another purpose.
All children appear to do is spend, spend, and spend more in our crazy evolving market that directs a majority of their advertising towards a younger demographic. It’s no wonder why they are frugal with their cash. Companies today are spending almost $17 billion a year on kid advertising; more than double of the amount that was spent back in 1992. Statistics show that children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend $30 billion of their own money annually and persuade their parents to buy products for them too resulting in another $150 billion out of their pockets.
It’s shocking to know how much money is spent by viewing commercials. The industry is rapidly changing and directing more ads at kids, which is causing children to lose the battle against their budget. Their demands exceed their parents supply. There used to be a fine line between a want and a need in the eyes of children, and now thanks to advertising the boundary between the two is slowly disappearing.