What parents think of children’s advertising

Peter Robinson

According to a recent online focus group run by us for leading toy industry magazine, Toy News, parents aren’t too concerned about advertising aimed at children, they just rather there was less of it.

The focus group, which used our award-winning Clickroom online focus group software, involved seven parents, with children aged from one year old to thirteen. All regard their children as moderate TV viewers, enjoying staples like Mike the Knight and Bob the Builder. Most of their viewing is focused on children’s stations like Cbeebies and Nickelodeon. Older children are inclined to watch the likes of You’ve Been Framed and Charmed.

All the parents involved consider their children to be light internet users, with most spending their time in walled gardens like Cbeebies or brand-owned sites like Nickleodeon or Moshi Monsters. Ofcourse, YouTube was very popular, with the kids drawn to the short-form content.

TV Adverts

Although TV is their primary source of entertainment, the majority of the children’s TV viewing is done using digital video recorders, like Sky Plus. As one of the parents, Helen, commented: “We have loads of stuff on Sky Plus that they watch repeatedly. They could watch the same thing four times in a row and not get bored.” While this is a positive for parents, it’s obviously bad news for advertisers.

That’s not to say the adverts they do see are not having some success with children – even if the adverts aren’t aimed at them specifically. As stated by Sharon: “My three-year-old even wanted a car once. I had to tell him it wasn’t a toy one, it was a real one!” When asked which ads they remembered, catchy jingles really helped, regardless of whether the advert was for a toy shop or an insurance company. “For Smyths Toys Superstore, Samuel can sing the jingle!” said Helen. Hannah commented: “Arun saw an advert for a push along bike for babies and recited it for me so I knew what to get!” Sharon’s comment that her children were “all running around doing meerkat impressions!” was echoed by many in the group.

In a couple of cases the adverts were more enjoyable than the programme they interrupted, such as this example from Helen: “Samuel loves Skylanders and once saw an advert during a programme we had on Sky Plus. He then asked to watch the advert again rather than the programme!”

Online and Apps

Not one of the group were concerned about adverts on the internet, either because they see few of them or their child is instructed to avoid clicking the banners. The parents thought their children were more likely to notice ads in apps, but were relaxed about this, preferring “ad-supported” free apps to “paid-for” apps.

Although all the parents involved had an opinion on children’s advertising, they all agree that it was one of the lowest concerns, placing their child’s wellbeing, school time and health much higher. However, many think that this could change as their children grow up, when adverts can start to affect their perceptions of body image, and when the parent has less control over what media they consume.

Overall there was little concern about the content of advertising, unless they were disturbing (such as charity adverts). As a whole the group just wished there were fewer adverts.

While all involved agreed that adverts fuelled pester-power they all believed their own parenting meant their child knew what they could and couldn’t have, with rules such as waiting for their birthday or in Jax’s case: “asking for toys from adverts means they don’t get the toys”. Simple and effective.

Top Quotes

  • Sharon: it’s annoying when they suddenly burst into ‘go compare’ while they’re eating their dinner.
  • Helen: Sometimes the adverts these days are more interesting than the crap on the TV.
  • Kylie: I’d rather she didn’t watch adverts as I don’t want her to want things I can’t afford/don’t want her to have.
  • Helen: It’s funny because my two recognise McDonald’s but not Burger King. I wonder who spends more money on advertising.
  • Hannah: My son knows that if a banner ad comes up on the phone he’s not allowed to click on it because it costs money and I won’t pay for it.
  • Sharon: They notice adverts on busses a lot! I think that’s because kids love looking at busses, anything transport. You know – three boys and all that.
  • Kylie: I think my concern is that as she gets older she will be exposed to more and I’m not sure how much control I will have over that.
  • Helen: I tell them they have to wait until they have saved up their pocket money or it’s their birthday etc.

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Toy News.

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