An Investigation Into the Language Used in Childrens Advertising

Last Updated: 14 Feb 2023
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In my investigation I am going to analyse the language used in children’s television advertising looking specifically at whether the language used is aimed primarily at the children or their parents. Introduction I have chosen to look at the language used in children’s advertising because I am interested in how the language of advertising can be used to influence children and their parents and am specifically interested in trying to analyse this for girls.

I hope that I can also draw on my own early experiences to help me with some of my conclusions. When I was 4 years old I wanted the new ‘Baby Born’ doll really badly and kept asking my mum until I got it. When I did get it, I played with it constantly and gradually lost the different accessories that came with her. I remember clearly that when my little sister played with her Barbie dolls when she was younger that she would use an American accent when making the dolls speak.

I was never sure why she did this but I did find it amusing. I am aiming to find out whether language in advertising is manipulative, whether it reinforces traditional gender categories and whether I believe it to be a positive force or not. The use of language in television advertising is influenced by other factors such as whether voices used are that of a man, woman or child. The studies I have read indicate that voiceovers given by men are far more effective for successful marketing than those by women.

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The 1979 study found that quite often even if the product was seen as female, most girl targeted ad’s used men for the voice-overs and that where women voice-overs were used they were only for girls products which would seem to imply that these products didn’t warrant the recommendation of a man. Studies found that people respond better to male voices than female voices. I have read some studies on children’s’ advertising and a book on advertising (see Bibliography) and the findings of these made me interested in finding out whether modern advertising supports the findings of these studies. ‘Children learn personality and behaviour patterns through the imitation of their own parents attitudes and behaviours and will acquire the patterns of behaviour more rapidly where there is an attractive model whose behaviour is rewarded’’ (Smith, 1994). As part of my work I am looking at whether my adverts support traditional gender roles. Methodology I will watch advertisements on children’s television channels. The channels I am going to be watching are Nickelodeon and Nick Junior.

To carry out my investigation I needed data and the only way for me to collect this was to watch children’s’ TV, record the advertisements, transcribe them and then analyse my findings. My transcriptions have been included in my Appendix. To ensure that my data and any conclusions drawn from analysing it are valid I have used actual adverts and transcribed them carefully, and not made up any of my findings. I must not over generalise as it is easy to assume that what I find from my transcriptions is true of all advertisements and this is incorrect as all adverts are different.

To analyse my data I am going to look at pragmatics and grammar. I may also make observations on lexis and semantics. I decided to analyse my data this way because I am looking at the language of advertising, i. e. the words and how they are used and also how it influences and this will help me answer my key question. My data is organised by transcript and I am going to analyse each of my transcripts separately. I hope that this will give me common results that I can include in my conclusions. Analysis Transcript 1 Syllables |Total number of words. I was interested in seeing the complexity of the words used in these adverts and I looked at the number of syllables in each word in each advert.

The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the major part of this advert. Only one of the 3 syllable words is used in the main part of the advertisement which is aimed at the child, the other two are in the end part which is delivered by and directed at adults. This advert is for a Chou Chou doll that has bruises that disappear when the area is warmed up. This is going on the idea that parents make their children ‘all better’ if they are hurt.

This will appeal to young girls as not only is it a doll that they can play with but it is also something they can care for and ‘make better’ themselves, just as their parents do for them. The sing song voice used in the advert mirrors the way a lot of adults talk to their babies and small children and little children learn by copying or imitating their parents so this advertisement could influence little girls by letting them behave like a grown up on a doll that gives them a reaction.

They want the responsibility of looking after something and this doll pretends that they are responsible for making it better. Depending on how old the child is, they may believe that they are actually making the doll better. Every time the sing song voice is used it is delivered in the same way, in the same tone of voice and is to the same tune. This shows prosodic features: the effect of the sing song voice followed by the child’s statement is almost one of versification, in the pattern of.

The language used in the advertisement along with the visual triggers are likely to create desire for the product and if the parents feel that it will encourage their children to be caring and responsible then their purchasing decisions are likely to be influenced. It does encourage caring as the child playing with the doll makes the doll better and also reinforced caring by the use of caring language such as ‘Mummy be your doctor’, ‘Mummy make me better’, ‘Here’s your medicine’ (sing song voice) and ‘I love you’ (little girl).

The language in this is not openly manipulative but the constant repetition of the name of the doll, ‘Mummy make me better’ will ensure the child remembers the name of the product even if they are quite small, and will want it. By casting the little girl as the Mother figure, and using the sing song voice to indicate the little girls role i. e. ‘Mummy make me better’, ‘Mummy loves her daughter’, it encourages the child to want to take on that role. I feel that this advertisement reinforces the traditional gender behaviour patterns because the little girl playing with the doll is being encouraged to behave like a traditional caring mother.

There would be a very different impact if the sing song voiceover was that of a man because traditionally the parent that looks after sick children is the woman. I think that the language in this advert is primarily aimed at children. However because it encourages caring behaviour it can influence the parents Grammar This advertisement uses short sentences in the beginning which are aimed at the child watching the advert and at the end it says ‘bruises disappear with warm Chou Chou Mummy Make Me Better from Zaph Creation’, this is aimed at the parents as it is a longer and more complex sentence.

The words used are mostly one or two syllables, with the exception of three which are three syllables, ‘medicine’, ‘disappear’ and ‘Creation’. The use of simple words with a small number of syllables shows us that it is primarily aimed at children. The sing song voice featured in the advert uses repetition, ‘mummy make me better’, ‘mummy be your doctor’, ‘mummy make me better’, ‘mummy loves her daughter’ and ‘mummy make me better’. This emphasises the name of the product and helps whoever is listening to store the name in their memory. Pragmatics The language is simple and active rather than passive i. . shows the child ‘doing’ mummy make me better ‘here is your medicine’. Active language is involving and shows ‘doing’ rather that watching. Transcript 2 |Syllables |Total number of words | |1 |45 | |2 |7 | |3 |1 | |4 |0 |

Once again I looked at the complexity of the words used. The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the major part of this advert, with most of these being one syllable. This advert is for a digital house where the 6 pixelated girls living in it can earn points and get the best room in the house if they have the most points. Every pre-teen wants the best room with the best things and this is appealing to their interests. Im Queen of the house’ implies that the girl with the best room is the best and most popular out of them all. The fact that this advert is delivered mostly in song and in an American accent exaggerates its appeal because a lot of pre-teens use an American accent when they are playing because they imitate the role model in the advertisement, which in the case of this advert, is a teenage American girl. The language in this advert is aimed solely at children.

It appeals directly to the interests of pre-teens. Grammar The slogan pick pick pixel chick roomies emphasised the name of the product by repeating the first sound of the product name twice before it and also by using alliteration. This advert mainly comprises of a single long sentence punctuated by one second pauses which help give the advert impact. The viewer has time to absorb one part of the advert before the next part is delivered. Pragmatics ‘’There are lots of games to play yeah the fun never stops. ’ This will appeal to pre-teens as it is an environment over which they have full control and there are no adult figures involved, and what pre-teen hasn’t imagined or even fantasised about the fun they would like to have in a house with no adults and how late they would go to bed! It is not openly manipulative but it plays on the (rather attractive) idea of having as much fun as you want in your own house and will therefore encourage pre-teens to want this product.

The language used is simple and comprises mostly of one or two syllable words. The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the majority of this advert, with most of these being one syllable. This is an advert is for a glittery temporary tattoo set. It openly reinforces traditional gender categories as it is clearly aimed at young girls, and girls trying to make themselves pretty and girls that are looking for the ‘wow’ factor.

The language in this advert is aimed at children. Grammar This advert does use manipulative language ‘everything you need…’ indicated to the watcher that they need the product instead of just wanting it and ‘wow get these great glitter tattoos’ makes them more desirable and is almost acting as a command by using an imperative – get it, get it, get it! ‘They look so cool…’ all children want to be cool and will want a product that they think will make them cool. express your style’ gives the impression that this product will allow the user to be stylish by indicating that they have style and that this product will help them to express it. It is almost elliptical because it is economical with the number of words used and relies heavily on the visual accompaniment. Pragmatics It is delivered by a mature woman and shows the process of choosing and applying the tattoo. This makes the children watching the advert think that it is easy to use, fun, pretty and makes them want it.

I don’t believe that the language used is a positive force because it is openly encouraging young children to want and use tattoos at an age when they are not mature enough to understand the difference between temporary and permanent tattoos. It could influence a rash decision in later life to get a permanent tattoo because they had a cool glittery one when they were young. Children are a very easy target for advertising and so are very vulnerable to suggestion. They then use their parents as an easy target for pester power.

The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the most of this advert, with a lot of these being one syllable. Both of the 4 syllable words are used in the end of the adverts which is aimed specifically at parents This is an advert for a doll that has over 80 sounds and recognises her accessories and the name you give her. This advert is delivered as if the doll already belongs to the child; ‘you can name My Baby’.

This makes the child want it as it. Generally the language used is not manipulative but by saying ‘you can name My Baby’ it is making the statement personal to the viewer and is likely to create desire for the product. The majority of the language in this advert is aimed at children with the ending aimed at parents. Grammar The use of the word ‘can’ in this advert is makes the naming of the baby modal because it is allowing the child to choose the name of the baby.

Personal pronouns play a great part in this advert as the word ‘you’ is used 3 times and is always referring to ‘you’ as the child. This involves the child and is likely to make them want the product more as they feel a sense of ownership. Pragmatics The doll makes over 80 sounds which would also appeal to the child as real babies make more than 80 sounds and the child wants a doll that is as real and life-like as possible. The doll also comes with accessories that it recognises.

This is appealing as most parents want to spoil their child and the little girl will want to spoil her ‘baby’. I believe that this product will be attractive to parents as it encourages the child to be responsible as they can look after and interact with the doll. This makes the advert a positive force as it is teaching the child to be caring. This is stereotypical as there is the voice of a woman featured in the advert which acts like the mother figure of the child. The girl with the doll acts as the mother figure of the doll.

The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the most of this advert, with a lot of these being one syllable. Both of the 4 syllable words are used in the end of the adverts which is aimed specifically at parents This is an advert for a Baby Annabel accessory set consisting of a sheep toy that plays a soothing melody and a beautiful quilted bed set. It definitely reinforces traditional gender categories with the little girl ‘mother’ putting the baby to bed, playing a lullaby.

I think that this is a positive force as it is making bedtime appear to be fun instead of something that young children avoid as best they can. This will make it more attractive to parents for the same reason that it might make it easier for them to put their own children to sleep. This advert is exploiting bedtime as it can be used as a fun time. The parents may see buying the doll for their child as an easier way of getting them to go to sleep, as Annabel is in bed, they should be too! In a way this exploits the parental desire to get children to bed as the advert implies that this product will help.

The language used in this advert is aimed both at children and their parents. The majority of the advert targets the child but the ending targets the parents. Grammar The language is subtly manipulative as it says ‘you can lay your Baby Annabel in her bed’ which will make any child that already owns a Baby Annabel want the bed to put her in. The language used here is elliptical because the pauses in the advert create sentences which aren’t complete in their own right ‘but don’t be sad…’ and ‘listen to the sheep…’ The sentences are a mixture of complex : ‘here comes the night but don’t be ad you can lay your baby Annabel in her bed, time for sleep I wish you sweet dreams’ and compound : ‘the baby Annabel bed with soothing melody and a beautiful quilted bed set sweet dreams for your baby,’ sentences. Pragmatics ‘Sweet dreams for your Baby Annabel’ suggests that if you have the bed to put your doll in she will have sweet dreams. If you don’t have one of these accessories then your doll won’t have sweet dreams. This brings up that everyone wants the best for their child and wants them to be happy and therefore makes this set a must-have for young girls and their Baby Annabel dolls.

The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the most of this advert, with the majority of these being one syllable. This is an advert for a beauty kit from Bratz and includes airbrush colour, lip colour, stencils and body glitter. This advert is delivered as a set of instructions, and as instructions are meant to be followed it is manipulative in the way that it is telling the viewer how to apply the make-up to the doll.

There are only five instructions and not all of them are directing you to do something to the doll so it is attractive in the way that is simple. Parents may find this product appealing as if it is that simple it will keep the pre-teen safely occupied without parental assistance. The use of the word ‘magic’ 4 times in this short advert reinforces how amazing the product is. Anything that is magic is very likely to appeal to pre-teens. There are clues of traditional gender rules, a big one being that the advert is for a make-up product which is aimed at pre-teen girls.

The Bratz products are a pre-teen version of Barbie products and allow the girls to apply the make-up themselves in a way they want to do it. For the reason above I think that this advert is a negative force. The language in this advert is aimed only at children. Grammar This advertisement uses alliteration in the product name, ‘magic make-up’ and this is repeated 3 times throughout the advert. There are a lot of imperatives used, ‘turn it up’, ‘draw it on’ and ‘stencil it there’. Generally pre-teens respond to commands and this may increase the influence of the advertisement.

Rhyme is used in the middle of the instructions for the use of the product, ‘stencil it there…glitter everywhere’. Rhyme can make information more memorable which could increase the impact of this advert. Pragmatics Body image is an issue raised by this product as by glamorising airbrush techniques, girls may feel under pressure to look a certain way and to have matte skin. This issue is also big in the world of celebrities as women that girls look up to as role models never get seen without a perfect face as their pictures are airbrushed.

The language used is simple and comprises mostly of one or two syllable words. The table above shows the number of words with 1, 2, 3 and 4 syllables and clearly shows that simple words of 1 and 2 syllables comprise the most of this advert, with a lot of these being one syllable. I have found that it is unusual to have words of 3 or 4 syllables that are not featured in the product name. This is an advert for a Polly Pocket product that is a nursery with 5 newborn Dalmatian puppies.

The first thing that I noticed about this advert is the instant use of alliteration in the title of the product, Polly Pocket Puppy Playhouse. The language used by the young girl is delivered in rhyme; this makes it easier to remember as it is more likely to stick in your mind. It uses ‘young’ monosyllabic language such as ‘lots to do’, ‘so sweet’ and ‘fun for puppy and you’ so that the young girls understand exactly what the advert is trying to say. It also uses some slang, teen-speak, for example ‘wow neat’

It doesn’t teach the child to be caring as it is just a toy, they are not looking after the baby Dalmatians, they are playing with them on the Ferris wheel and the see-saw. I wouldn’t say that there is a positive or a negative force as the aim of the product is purely for fun. There is also no parental manipulation as there is nothing for them to gain or nothing for their child to learn by them having the product. The language in this advert is aimed purely at children. Grammar

The grammar used is elliptical, when I looked at the sentences in the light of where the pauses are I noticed that they are not complete in themselves, for example ‘lots to do’, ‘look a ferris wheel…’, ’a see-saw that’s a table too’ and ‘dalmation babies’. Pragmatics There is a change of register at the end of the advert. The major part of the advert is delivered in a child-like way. The end of the advert, which is delivered by a male voice-over, is a complete adult sentence ‘puppy playhouse with 5 newborns other puppies sold separately’.

There is no audio proof that this product is aimed at girls but as there are only girls featured in the advertisement we get the impression that it is, although the voice over is that of a man. Conclusion The language used in the majority of my adverts is aimed at children. Where the language is also aimed at parents it is usually towards the end of the advert, with the majority still being aimed at children. The following table shows a summary of whether the language used in my adverts is aimed at children, their parents or both children and their parents. If I had chosen educational toys for my study of language in advertising I think that more of the language would be aimed at parents. I think this because the parents would make a purchasing decision based on the educational value of the product as opposed to the play value which is offered in my chosen adverts.

Where my adverts are aimed at both children and their parents, there seems to be some positive benefit for the child, from the product. An example of this is My Baby Doll, see Transcript 4. It encourages the child to be responsible and caring and therefore appeals to the parents as well. Transcript 5 - Baby Annabel’s Bed Set, appeals to parents as well because it makes bedtime fun. The table below shows the total number of words in all the advertisements I looked at and shows how many syllables are in each. This shows conclusively that the words used in children’s advertising are generally very simple as there is a huge predominance of monosyllabic words. Syllables |Total number of words. Several of my advertisements were subtly manipulative, and appealed to the mercenary and materialistic side of the children.

I found this interesting because the results of one of my studies showed that advertising directed to children made them more materialistic and acquisitive. This study found that because the children were more acquisitive, it encouraged conflicts with both their friends and their parents. This study said that as children have under-developed reasoning, they can’t work out whether information is rational or realistic and that they could easily be deceived and influenced by advertising. Nearly all of my advertisements definitely reinforce gender categories i. e. the traditional role of the female, whether this be caring for children or making themselves look pretty. One of the studies I looked at (Lois. J.

Smith, 1994) showed that children learn a lot about sex-type behaviours from television and the characters used are attractive models to copy because they are generally good looking. Advertisements show children how to behave and they accept the images they see as real. Evaluation I think my study is quite effective in terms of looking at the language related to young girls. I think my study would have had more validity if I had used a much larger range of advertisements, and if I had covered both play value and educational toys. It would also have been interesting to have included an equal number of advertisements aimed at boys and at both sexes. This would have allowed me to compare the language used in different areas and would have made my results more valid.

On its own my key question was a little vague and if I had only addressed this question my study would have been very short. By including whether the language was manipulative, whether it reinforces traditional gender categories and whether or not it is a positive force I made my study more effective. I collected my data by watching and recording advertisements and transcribing exactly the language used in them. I don’t believe that there could have been a more effective way of collecting my data. I analysed my data by looking at grammar and pragmatics. This was interesting; however I could have improved my study by making more specific observations on lexis and semantics. Appendix.

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An Investigation Into the Language Used in Childrens Advertising. (2018, Aug 16). Retrieved from

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