“For a young person with creative ambitions, copywriting is one of the coolest jobs around. I got a huge buzz when my ads appeared on TV or in magazines. (…) Who cared if it was all meaningless crap?” ~ Greg Foyster
There is a world between commercial copywriting and my job. A large part of what doctors do everyday, consists of undoing the damage caused by marketing and selling of unhealthy products.
That was the good news. The bad news is: Doctors are not winning.
What the industry says
Marketing to children is a controversial topic. There are people who feel we don’t need more regulation to protect our children from fast food or alcohol advertising.
Instead, parents should make sure their children don’t get exposed to these ads. And if they do – which is hard to avoid – parents must teach their children how to deal with marketing techniques.
The industry states their influence over children isn’t that big anyway, so why worry? Besides, they may say, complaints about advertising are really about the products and companies, and ads in itself are not the issue.
Purchasing power of kids
Although children wield power over their parents’ shopping behaviour, their critical judgement lags behind, and this makes kids vulnerable to marketing strategies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says:
“Research has shown that young children – younger than eight years – are cognitively and psychologically defenceless against advertising.They do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value.
According to experts it takes until the age of eleven or twelve before children understand the persuasive nature of advertising.
Why advertising is unhealthy
Our kids are overweight, drink too much alcohol, and may not live as long as their parents. Unhealthy habits are often taken into adulthood: Obese children are likely to become obese adults and parents. For a dramatic example, have a look at the video below.
Australian children between the ages of five and twelve are able to correctly match at least one sport with its relevant sponsor, according to a report by the Australian Alcohol Review Board. We know that advertising is effective in getting young people to start drinking, or to drink more if they already use alcohol.
Here are three reasons to stop marketing to children:
- Advertising teaches children to want what they don’t need
- Advertising encourages kids to make unhealthy purchasing decisions
- Advertising promotes materialistic values
Although I’m usually not in favour of more legislation, I feel we urgently need regulatory changes to protect our kids.
Journalist and writer Greg Foyster, whom I quoted above, quit his job in advertising and went on to live a basic and sustainable life. His well-researched book Changing Gears: A Pedal-Powered Detour from the Rat Race is worth a read.