In any marketing strategy, it is important to know your target before anything else. This is because when one knows the target market, then the means of promoting products and images can be specifically designed for that group. Having the criteria that will please the target audience will make advertising and sales easier. The objective is to have that specific group persuaded to purchase their products. It is creating desire among them (Adliterate).
In this light, there came debates about promoting products to children. This aspect of the public is long considered most vulnerable to the images advertisers portray. This is because the values and lessons one can learn from advertisements can be heavily regarded and easily applied by children. They are considered to as an easy target. They have the innocence that leads to vulnerability (Adliterate).
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With this, should one wonder if business can truly become a means of exploitation? Is intentional marketing to children ethical? Are we creating the generation generation easily defined by the items they purchase (Media Channel)? When advertising can be observed everywhere, are children really buying it?
I believe that the objective of intentional marketing to children remains to be strictly business. It does not abuse the presence of such a market, but merely being active in the competition. Unfortunately, to be completely immersed in sales and progress, it could lead to veering away from acceptable themes and topics in their advertisements. However, when does it become unethical?
I do not think the ethical standards should vary depending on the age of the target market. The different ages of the market divides the population into groups. This means that for each age group, there is a different approach or strategy. It is acceptable when companies intentionally sell their products to children. They should be careful, however, about the values they will tie with their products. They could be in that certain age wherein they are able to understand the kind of world they reside in (Adliterate). But they may take it rather negatively and attain a quite different perspective about the world.
Ethical standards are not dependent on the age of an individual. It is true that when people grow older they gain more wisdom and knowledge. Unfortunately, despite this growth, it does not mean that advertisers are given the liberty to use unsuitable means of selling their products to their market to older individuals.
Where their products are involved, it does not mean that when the item is less harmless, it becomes ethical to sell them. Perhaps the point of query here is not if it is unethical. They should instead ask if it is even appropriate. Why would companies try to sell harmful items to children? Hypothetically, if that is the purpose of these companies, in the long run, their businesses will eventually lose.
When trying to sell to kids through different media does not immediately affect the ethical standards. Although the message of these advertisements holds a greater responsibility to their market, it does not mean that they can simply use any media. However, the ethical dilemma lies on what they imply when they use this medium. I believe there is no good or bad medium. It all depends on how they use it.
One of these cases were expressed in an article by Alexander and Dichter. They mentioned that evading for popular media, many organizations resolved into using the school as an avenue to promote their products. Fast food and soda industries have pushed themselves within the bounds of the school campuses (Media Channel). This allowed them to sell more, be in more close contact with the market.
They are able to persuade their naïve minds into buying their products. Unfortunately, it is not just the companies who need changing certain standards. The schools should also be able to set restrictions about these industries from reaching their young students. They are not just there for the educational welfare of the students, but also their total beings.
Being direct or indirect about the method used in marketing to children depends on the level of capability of the child to absorb the information. Direct methods can only tell a part of the story. It is boring and children cannot appreciate it. When dealt with indirect methods, the child's imagination is tickled to react to the relay of images. It is not the method that carries the ethical standards. As a matter of fact, it has an affect on the efficiency of the company to promote their products and services. It would not be unethical if the children will not understand it.
In regards to the parents of these children, perhaps it is important that they see these ads. After all, they play an important role in what their children see. Since these young individuals are still incapable of protecting themselves from potential harm, their parents should stand to take that responsibility.
With this, marketers should allow their ads to pass through the parents of these children. This is not only to assure that the children are protected, but it is also to check if the ads they made were efficient and appropriate enough to be seen by children. It is probably a raise in their costs, but keeping the youth intact and safe from danger is a cost worth taking.
In conclusion, it is important that intentional marketing to children should be given a line, which they should be mindful not to cross. What they sell to children will ultimately have a long term effect on the growth of the whole society. Many ads today only offer temporary happiness, which can result to obesity, laziness and materialism. Parents play an important role in the items their children are exposed to. But the marketers also have a responsibility to the community they will advertise in. The children are even more difficult to market their products to, and that they are actually fair game in the competition (Adliterate). However, children are human beings, and not animals. To regard them as such will then brand them as unethical marketers.
(n.d.). The ethics of marketing to children. Retrieved April 17, 2008 from http://www.adliterate.com/archives/2005/03/the_ethics_of_m_1.html.
Alexander, D. and Dichter, A. (n.d.). Ads and kids: How young is too young? Retrieved April 17, 2008 from http://www.mediachannel.org/atissue/consumingkids/index.shtml.
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