Do kids need protection from ads?
I recently saw an educational ad campaign for kids sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission. It’s called Ad Mongo. It has an online game that engages kids, resources for teachers, and tips for parents. I thought, is this really necessary? I do remember hearing in Media & Society (intro ad course) that there are certain guidelines in place for targeting children. And then I thought back to being a kid and seeing commercials like this…
I actually had this G.I. Joe headquarters when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. After seeing that commercial, I just couldn’t live without it. I begged my dad for it so many times on our routine trips to Kmart and he eventually got it (got my mom to get it) for me as a Christmas gift. Looking back, I don’t see spots like this any more. I’m sure that somewhere along the line, a law was passed prohibiting guns and violence in ads for kids (each of which are in that spot). I don’t doubt that they have some effects, but I’m from the era just before government intervention in parenting.
Ad Mongo aims a bit higher. It’s geared toward “tweens” who have just enough money to be relevant. I would think that at that age, word of mouth (peer pressure) would trump everything. Dove launched a spot a while back called Onslaught. The tag line was “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” It makes sense because girls mature sooner than boys. Who else reads teen mags? The message is about being proactive rather than reactive and Ad Mongo is a step in the right direction in regards to social responsibility. Ads can be so influential that all it really takes is for the right “opinion leader” to get on board with a product and then all of his (or her) peers will fall right into place. That… is the danger!