Not in front of the children?

While most people still think there is too much advertising to youngsters, opinion is divided on how much influence it has – and on which children

As calls from the European Union for restrictions on advertising to children intensify, the number of people who believe that advertising to children should be banned or restricted has actually fallen.

According to a survey by Capibus, commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), in November last year 74 per cent of people were in favour of a ban or a restriction. This is down from 79 per cent in September 2000. The percentage of people who are undecided on the issue has risen from one per cent to five per cent.

Older people are more likely to want to see advertising to children outlawed: while just 14 per cent of 15to 24-year-olds think advertising to children should be banned, the proportion increases to 23 per cent among 55to 64-year-olds and 26 per cent among the over-65s. It is also interesting that parents are more relaxed on the issue, and three-quarters of those who want to see a ban on advertising do not have children at home.

Two years ago, 75 per cent of those questioned thought that the laws relating to advertising to children should be strengthened. This figure had fallen slightly by 2002, to 71 per cent.

While 75 per cent of people still believe that children see too much advertising, this figure has fallen from 80 per cent two years ago. Again, older people are most likely to believe that children see too much advertising, and while 60 per cent of 15to 24-year-olds agree, the figure is higher among those most likely to be parents themselves. Eighty per cent of 35to 44-year-olds and 81 per cent of 45to 54-year-olds think children are exposed to too many ads. The number of people who believe that children see about the “right” amount of advertising remains unchanged, at 16 per cent.

Most people (90 per cent) believe that advertising does influence children. Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) think that it makes children want to buy the things they see advertised. However, these figures were even stronger in 2000, when 95 per cent agreed that advertising did have an influence and 82 per cent said that advertising tempted children to spend.

Younger people are less likely to believe that advertising makes children reach for their piggy banks – 64 per cent of 15to 24-year-olds think that it does make children want to spend, compared with 80 per cent of 35to 44-year-olds and 78 per cent of the over-65s.

Just under a third (30 per cent) of people say that advertising changes the way children think. Those aged between 35 and 54 are more inclined to agree that this is the case.

Over a third (37 per cent) of respondents believe that advertising is the most important factor influencing children’s desires. But the power of the playground remains persuasive – 34 per cent say that children’s friends are the most significant factor, whereas just 15 per cent cite parents as the deciding force. School is believed to be influential by a mere nine per cent of respondents.

Younger people are the least likely to believe that advertising is the most persuasive influence on children, and are also the most inclined to believe that friends are the most important. Those at the age to be parents of young children themselves are the least likely to believe that advertising carries much sway. These figures did not differ markedly from the results of the 2000 survey.

Most people believe that children can be influenced by advertising from an early age. But the number of people who say that children as young as five years old can be influenced by advertising has fallen, from 66 per cent in 2000 to 55 per cent in 2002. Older people are more likely to believe that very young children could be impressed – 66 per cent of 45to 54-year-olds agreed, compared to 48 per cent of 15to 24-year-olds.

Parents who actually have children under five are more likely to believe that young children are switched on to advertising – 64 per cent of this group agree that the under-fives could be influenced, compared with 55 per cent of those who do not have children in the house. Eighty-four per cent of those who believe that children under five can be influenced also say that children see too much advertising.

Just under a quarter of respondents say that children have to be at least six years old before they can be influenced by advertising, while 12 per cent think nine is the crucial age, three per cent believe it is 13 and just one per cent say it is 16 or over.

The CIM is taking a closer look at the stance marketers should take regarding advertising to children in the light of this and other recent research. The new policy unit will be developing guidelines to assist marketers working in this often controversial area.

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