How brands target children is not top of parents’ agenda

The Chartered Instituteof Marketing (CIM) claimsthat 90% of parents think brands are not marketing products and services to children responsibly (MWlinks.co.uk/BaileyAwareness). However, a proper understanding of this issue and an informed debate cannot begin with the snapshot that the CIM’s survey provides.

When the Bailey review (Letting Children Be Children) began last year, Credos – the research think-tank for the advertising industry – conducted detailed research into parents’ views on advertising. This provided authoritative evidence on whether parents have concerns, to what extent and in what context.

A 13,000-word academic literature review conducted by Cambridge University lecturer and child psychotherapist Dr Barbie Clarke was supported by extensive qualitative and quantitative research. It reveals a far more nuanced picture of parents’ views.

Advertising and marketing is a concern for parents but it is far from being chief among them. In fact, when prompted, advertising and marketing ranked 10th of 15 concerns for those with younger children and 15th of 15 concernsfor those who have older children.

Understandably, questionsabout sexual imagery in outdoor advertising provoke a reaction but a Credos focus group that examined the actual adverts that were banned or complained about to the ASA revealed that only 11% of those surveyed said they were likely to be offended by these ads.

We have invested heavily to understand not just whether parents are concerned about modern marketing to children but, more usefully, why?

What we have found is no cause for complacency but it is an evidence-base that can help the marketing industry and policy makers address the real concerns.

Karen Fraser
Director, Credos

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