Evolutionary consumers an investigation into the ethical implications of marketing to children

Van den Berg, Marinus (2012-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: When it comes to getting people to spend money on consumer goods, Madison Avenue have trust in the power of a whining child. The very young are more and more becoming the target of the advertising industry. As more and more companies are turning to child psychologists to help fine tune their messages, some specialists in child development are disturbed by the trend. As marketers are pitching to younger audiences, the question arises if children are being robbed of their innocence and childhood. Children are very naïve about advertising and can easily be manipulated and exploited. The general belief in the industry is that marketers can shape these children into lifelong customers with brand loyalties. Estimates have shown that children's aggregate spending has roughly doubled during the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's and almost tripled in the 1990's (Zoll, 2000). Why is this the case? What are the big corporations really up to: recruiting children to promote products on the playground, acting as their friends on social networks, repackaging junk food as a new health alternative and blurring the lines between what is advertising and what is not. Marketing that targets children are virtually everywhere - television, the internet, the playground and even the classroom. Product placements and other innovations have introduced more subtle ways of conveying their message. All this have created "commercialised children". The debate regarding the ethics of marketing to children is not a new development. Over the last three decades there were some fundamental questions asked about the fairness of marketing to children. Most of these questions are still unresolved. As the consumers started to understand their rights better over the last few years, this debate has started to move to the fore. While parents at home are struggling to set limits, marketing executives are working just as hard to undermine these efforts with irresistible offers. We need ask ourselves if too much marketing leads to unhappy families or will all these products lead to a more happy life. Because of the difficulty of gaining access to the child as a research subject, for the purpose of this thesis the focus was on secondary data available. This thesis is therefore a work of investigation, bringing research together from studies conducted in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and other European countries. The starting point was to gain knowledge of the cognitive development of a child. Using the work of Piaget as a basis and working with the developmental blind sports developed by Acuff and Reiher, vulnerabilities where identified for each of the developmental stages. Studies where then conducted into how the marketing industry targets each of those groupings and the products sold to them. In the end the products can be classified as: Inherently dangerous, safe and neutral. The classification of these products is an important aspect of the moral value of the companies selling them. It was necessary to look at the current legislation that is protecting the child and how the industry is finding their way around these. Finally, an ethical framework was designed that was used to look at the marketing industry's actions in each of the developmental phases and the products they sell. Because this thesis looks at the development of the child and the way that marketers target the child by focusing on the developmental blind spots, the feminine is also included when the masculine is used unless specifically stated that there is an important difference. In the end, it is clear that it is the ones who are in the daily "trenches" of homes everywhere who are under the most pressure. It is the parents and caretakers who are purposefully trying to design a healthy and enriching environment for their kids to grow up in who needs to be applauded. They are encouraging these children to have the courage to say no to the negative influences of materialism and irresponsible marketing. Although legislation does exist, it is in most cases not nearly strong enough to have a significant impact. In most cases the industry is left to regulate itself and the flow of money has the strongest pull. All over the world, parents are starting to form a united front against the irresponsible marketers and are forcing new laws and legislation to be implemented to help regulate the industry better.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Wanneer dit kom by die motivering vir mense om geld uit te gee op verbruiksgoedere, het Madison Avenue baie vertroue in die krag van 'n kermende kind. Die jong kind word al meer en meer geteiken deur die advertensie industrie. Meer en meer ondernemings gaan na kindersielkundiges toe om hulle te help om hul boodskap te verfyn. Sommige spesialiste in die ontwikkeling van die kind is baie bekommerd oor hierdie tendens. Soos wat bemarkers al meer na jonger markte neig, het die vraag begin ontstaan of hulle nie besig is om die jeug te beroof van hul onskuld nie. Sover dit die bemarkingsboodskap aangaan, is kinders baie naïef en kan hulle maklik gemanipuleer en uitgebuit word. Die algemene gevoel in die industrie is dat bemarkers hierdie kinders kan omskep in lewenslange kliënte deur gebruik te maak van handelsmerk lojalitiet. Skattings toon dat die kinders se gemiddelde spandering rofweg verdubbel het gedurende die 1960's 1970 en 1980's en amper verdriedubbel het in die 1990's (Zoll, 2000). Die vraag is nou, waarom is dit die geval? Waarmee is die groot maatskappye werklik besig wanneer hulle kinders werf om hul produkte op die speelgronde te bemark, of voorgee dat hulle vriende is op die sosiale netwerke, of kitskos herverpak asof dit gesond is en die lyne tussen realiteit en advertensie laat verdof. Bemaring wat kinders teiken kom amper orals voor - televisie, die internet, die speelgrond en selfs in die klas. Die plasing van produkte en ander innoverings maak die oordra van die boodskap baie meer subtiel. Dit alles is besig om 'n gekommersialiseerde kind te skep. Die debat oor die etiek van bemarking na kinders is nie 'n nuwe ontwikkeling nie. Oor die laaste drie dekades was daar reeds fundamentele vrae gevra oor die regverdigheid van bemarking na kinders toe. Die meeste van die vrae is steeds onbeantwoord. Soos wat verbruikers hulle regte oor die laaste paar jaar beter begin verstaan het, het dit die debat opnuut na die voorgrond gebring. Terwyl ouers tuis sukkel om grense te bepaal, werk die bemarkingsbestuurders net so hard daaraan om hierdie reëls te ondermyn met baie aantreklike en onweerstaanbare aanbiedings. Dit gee aanleiding tot die vraag vra of te veel bemarking kan aanleiding gee tot ongelukkige gesinne en of al hierdie produkte werklik sal lei tot 'n beter lewe. As gevolg van die beperkinge op die toegang tot kinders in navorsing, is daar vir die doel van die tesis gebruik gemaak van sekondêre data bronne. Die tesis is dus 'n ondersoek na bestaande navorsing gedoen in die Verenigde State van Amerika, Kanada, die Verenigde Koninkryke en ander Europese lande. Die begin punt van die studie was om kennis op te bou oor die kognitiewe ontwikkeling van 'n kind. Deur die werk van Piaget te gebruik en te werk met die ontwikkelingsblindekolle wat ontwikkel is deur Acuff en Reiher, is kwesbare areas geïdentifiseer vir elke stadium van die ontwikkelingsproses. 'n Studie is gedoen om te bepaal hoe die bemarkingsindustrie elk van hierdie groepe teiken en watter tipe produkte op elke vlak verkoop word. Die produkte is in drie kategorieë geklasifiseer: gevaarlik, veilig en neutraal. Die klassifikasie van die produkte is 'n belangrike aspek in die morele waarde van die onderneming wat dit verkoop. Dit was ook nodig om na die huidige wetgewing te kyk wat die kind beskerm en hoe die industrie rondom hierdie wette beweeg. Laastens is 'n etiese raamwerk opgestel waarteen die bemarkingsindustrie se aksies in elke ontwikkelingsfase gemeet word. Omdat hierdie tesis fokus op die kind en die wyse wat bemarkers die kind teiken deur te fokus op die ontwikkelingsblindekolle word die vroulik ingesluit elke keer waneer die manlike aanspreek vorm gebruik word, tensy daar spesifiek verwys na die feit dat daar 'n verskil is in die optrede. Op die uiteinde is dit duidelik dat die wat in die loopgrawe op die tuisfront is, is die wat onder die meeste druk verkeer. Dit is die ouers en die versorgers wat doelbewus probeer om 'n gesonde en verreikende omgewing te skep vir die kinders wat lof en waardeering verdien. Dit is hulle wat poog om die kinders te ondersteun en aan te moedig om nee te se vir die negatiewe invloede afkomstig van die materialistiese en onverantwoordelike bemarking. Alhoewel wetgewing wel bestaan, het dit in die meeste gevalle nie 'n sterk genoeg impak om die kind se belange te besterm nie. In die meeste gevalle is die industrie ook oorgelewer aan self-regulering en het die vloei van geld die sterkste aantrekking. Reg oor die wêreld is ouers besig om saam te staan teen die onverantwoordelike bemarkers en begin hulle druk uitoefen om die huidige wetgewing te verander en nuwe wette ingestel te kry om die industrie beter te reguleer.

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