Children’s Society blasts ‘exploitative’ advertising

The Children’s Society has published a scathing attack on brands and commercialisation, calling for a ban on “ruthless and exploitative” advertising directed at youngsters.

The report, out this week, says a public opinion poll published as part of its ongoing Good Childhood Inquiry shows adults agree increasing commercialisation is damaging children’s wellbeing.

It has also published a summary of the evidence submitted to the inquiry on the theme of children’s lifestyles, which says/ “Advertising to children was ruthless and exploitative and that they should not be viewed as small consumers, particularly for younger children with ‘impressionable minds’.”

Inquiry patron Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, waded into the debate by criticising brands for “selling lifestyles” to children, which “creates a culture of material competitiveness”.

The poll, conducted by GfK NOP, highlighted adults’ concern about various areas of children’s lifestyles, with 61% saying that the Government should ban the advertising of unhealthy food and seven in ten (69%) agreeing that violent video games make children more aggressive.

However, Peta Buscombe, chief executive of trade body the Advertising Association has warned that calls for ad bans are “ill considered”. She further points to the role advertising has in safeguarding and funding children’s TV. Mark Fawcett, chief executive of the National Schools Partnership, further warns against knee-jerk reactions, saying society must do more to understand the role of marketing as a tool rather than inherently “good” or “bad”.

Over the next 12 months the inquiry will hold meetings on the remaining themes of health and values before publishing its final report in early 2009.

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