Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. And these advertisements are also playing their part in shaping the lifestyle of the individuals at large, whether elders, teenagers or children. Especially, these advertisements are influencing the lifestyle of the children in much greater fashion, both in righteous and unrighteous direction. Advertisements directed with children used to appeal to the parents earlier but now they appeal directly to children who do not have the emotional or cognitive tools to evaluate what's being sold to them.
Advertising to children is the act of marketing or advertising products or services to children, as defined by national legislation and advertising standards. Rules on advertising to children have largely evolved in recent years. There is no universal definition of a child, on the basis of the widespread academic view that by the age of 12 children have developed their behavior as consumers, effectively recognize advertising and are able to adopt critical attitudes towards it.
In the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark, and Belgium advertising to children is restricted and in Quebec, Sweden and Norway advertising to children under the age of 12 is illegal. The EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive sets out several EU-wide rules on advertising and children: Advertising shall not cause moral or physical detriment to minors, and shall therefore comply with the following criteria for their protection:
A. it shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
B. it shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;
Media literacy is a relatively new discipline, aimed at teaching individuals and children in particular to understand and use the media to their advantage. Media literacy is increasingly recognized by governments and international organizations such as the European Union and the World Health Organization as a key tool to help children understand and deal with today's complex media environment. Media literacy programs are based around the need to "make children engage in media rather than solely consume it".
Advertisements have both a very short and long lasting impact. Where in a short impact the children persuade their parents to buy the product immediately, want to use it, and check if the effect shown in the advertisements are true. In a long lasting impact, they remember the product for the life time and would like to consume once they grow. Children are an enormously powerful medium for marketing consumer goods in India. They not only influence markets in terms of the parental decision-making to buy certain kinds of products, they are also future consumers. After all, brand impressions, once formed, can stay for a lifetime.
On the one hand, few televisions commercials are certainly informative and play their part in making the kids knowledgeable about the new arrivals and the range of the products available in the market. Advertising also helps the children's health in a positive way. Commercials by soap companies like Dettol, Lifebuoy etc. inspire children to stay clean.
Inclusion of children in TV commercials is not a new phenomenon to the world of advertisement. But if you look back, children could be seen in those commercials of products which are directly used by them, for example, biscuits, chocolates, beverages like Rasna etc. Today the scenario is totally different. We can see children in the commercials of insurance products, automobiles, and even home appliances. The reason is quite interesting - the role of children of current generation in decision making is much greater compared to the scenario 10 to 15 years ago. Children in current families dominate the family purchase decisions and one of the major reasons for this change is advertisement. It will not be an exaggeration if it is said that advertisements are shaping the attitudes and value systems of children by making them more and more demanding.
There should be proper governance in India in directing advertisements with children; they should not be engaged in commercials of products irrelevant to them.
About the author: The author of this article is S Banumathy. She can be reached at