Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Critics pan commercials aimed at children

September 11, 2001


— Sixth- and seventh-graders required to watch TV ads at school. The Teletubbies helping to promote giant burger chains. Advertisers seeking data on how children nag their parents to make a purchase.

Those were some of the practices targeted Monday as psychologists and parent activists met for a symposium on exploitive advertising aimed at children a counterpoint to a conference of children's advertisers at the same time and in the same Manhattan hotel.

While the advertising industry celebrated itself with the fourth-annual "Golden Marbles" awards, the activists moved from a meeting room to the sidewalk for a protest.

Corporations are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to woo children, said Susan Linn, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry instructor who helped organize the protest. Kids influence an estimated $300 billion of family spending each year.

"Comparing the marketing of yesteryear to marketing today is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb," Linn said. "It's enhanced by technology, honed by child psychologists, and brought to us by billions of corporate dollars."

Experts estimate that more than $12 billion a year is spent on advertising targeted at children.

Among the recipients of "Have You Lost Your Marbles?" awards, presented by activists concerned about ad influences on children: Reebok, for footwear ads featuring nude and bikini-clad models; the "Teletubbies" TV show, for campaigns with McDonald's and Burger King; and Channel One Network, which includes commercials in a daily newscast shown at 12,000 schools.

Shelley Middlebrook, publisher of KidScreen magazine, which sponsors the Golden Marble awards, said she empathized with some of the critics' goals.

But she disagreed with suggestions that the United States should emulate Sweden and Norway by banning TV advertising aimed at children.

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