Children power comes of age

Children are now not only increasingly brand aware but have more power to spend their own money, and to influence how adults spend it. John Shannon looks at the impact of this. John Shannon is president of Grey International

A major new survey, conducted in Germany by publishers Bastei Axel Springer and Bauer, suggests that children are becoming increasingly responsible for making purchasing decisions and are being allowed greater freedom by their parents to dictate brand choices.

The survey found that 40 per cent of six to nine-year-olds are allowed to decide how to spend their pocket money, a sum which it estimates could total DM3.8bn (1.33 bn) across the country per year.

In examining the relationship between children and advertised brands, the survey finds that children as young as six-years-old are becoming increasingly brand aware. It also suggests that rather than compelling children to make additional purchases, advertising is increasingly perceived by parents as a valuable mechanism to help them and their children make informed choices between brands.

Parallel to this increased power of independent individual child purchase decision-making, the survey finds that such was the influence of children on parent purchasing decisions that it is becoming increasingly important for advertising to address children, even for products which are int-ended for their parents.

Evidence for this included the finding that almost half (42 per cent) of children aged between 14 and 17-years-old have a major influence on purchases of electronic and technical equipment, and even on the purchase of cars.

While there was some considerable variation between age groups, it is clear from the survey that in general terms there is a high awareness of major brands across the six to 17-year-old spectrum; all ages within these parameters were aware of brands such as Magnum ice cream, Duplo chocolate, and Kellogg’s Cornflakes. This in itself may not seem so surprising given the brand building activity that supports such major brands. More significant is the fact that parents are less frightened of exposing their children to commercial communications and are willing to include them in the purchase decision-making process.

The advertising industry is required to meet stringent guidelines and regulations in retaining a balanced and honest approach to the development of all advertising. When advertising addresses children, it is even more important to ensure that they are in no way misled. This significant publisher’s survey clearly shows children are well able to make choices between brands, and that a majority of parents are content for this to happen.

In reflecting the keen involvement of all age groups in making purchasing choices, its findings should reassure governments who instinctively impose excessive restrictions rules on commercial communications on the grounds that they are protecting the public interest.

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