Children demand advertised products on Television
Research on Television viewing of children in India
The west has a strong body of research on television viewing and also on how advertising on television affects children…but in India we have few reliable surveys on the subject.
One such rare survey on television viewing in India was carried out by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat and funded by Consumers International Federation, a consumer body with affiliations with over 250 consumer organisations from all over the world. The survey was carried out in Mumbai and 1000 children in the 5-15 age group were sampled along with 300 parents. Four out of five families interviewed had a cable connection.
Children were easily influenced
The findings would make any food advertiser jubilant because it was found that testimonials by stars, and tacit promises of academic success on consumption of the advertised food went down well with kids. The survey revealed that that 33.3 per cent of the children felt that they would become successful or would score better marks by consuming the advertised foods, while 23.3 per cent of the parents believed the same.
Parents are disapproving, but weak
However, a sizeable 36.1 per cent of the parents were not happy about the fact that their children demanded the advertised products because their favorite film star or sports star used the product. Also, 74.9 per cent of parents felt that TV ads created ‘unnecessary desires’ for the advertised products in the minds of children and 60.8 per cent of them cribbed about the fact that their monthly expenditure rose because of children’s demands. A good 72.2 per cent wanted a ban on ads during children’s programmes.
Some 70.7 per cent of the parents admitted that they submitted to these demands of their children.
Ad breaks not liked
Ofcourse, advertisers and marketers do have something to be unhappy about. The survey indicated that 78.6 per cent of the children felt irritated that their favorite programmes were interrupted by ads.
Companies are not bothered about children’s health in India
Well, it is a fact that advertisers all over the world over target children, not just because they are ‘persuaders’ but also because they are tomorrow’s buyers. In India however, ads on television advertise junk foods indiscriminately and this is harmful for children. Shirish Deshpande, Director, Consumer Protection, who spear-headed this survey says, ‘India should have a more effective regulatory frame-work for advertising aimed at children.’ He points out that in some Scandinavian countries, no ads are allowed during children’s programmes, or even five minutes before or after the programmes. And some western countries now have rules preventing certain foods from being advertised on TV during children’s programmes.
Ofcourse banning all ads during children’s programmes may not always be the best course. Kids, if they are kept cloistered from external messages for very long, might find it difficult to adapt to the choices available in the real world later. On the other hand, they might become avid consumers, spendthrifts even before they are able to earn a penny. Finally, individual countries have to figure it out for themselves. And surveys like this help.
(This is an abridged version of the article written by me and which appeared in A&M, the Advertising and Marketing Magazine)
(Pic by me)