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Some other groups such as the Center for Media Literacy are more strident in their criticism of consumerism in general and advertising to children in particular. There is no question that advertising directed to children operates differently today than in the early years of television and even in more recent decades. First, the industry has become pro-active in its self-regulation and has thereby cut down on some of the most egregious examples of inappropriate communications with young children.
The core principles of CARU illustrate the spirit of what the industry hopes to achieve. The following core principles apply to all practices covered by the self-regulatory program:. They should take into account the limited knowledge, experience, sophistication, and maturity of the audience to which the message is directed. They should recognize that younger children have a limited capacity to evaluate the credibility of information, may not understand the persuasive intent of advertising, and may not even understand that they are being subject to advertising.
Advertisers should contribute to this parent-child relationship in a constructive manner. A useful exercise is to watch television programming directed to children on channels like the major networks afternoons and Saturday mornings and cable such as the Cartoon Network and to ask such questions as: 1 How well do the CARU principles apply to the content and style of commercials directed to children? In , Kurnit, now head of his own marketing consulting company, KidShop, revisited the topic in another interview. For example, what happened to Saturday morning television for kids and how do you communicate to kids through means other than the traditional TV commercial?
What you see there are the powerful stereotypes of traditional male and female roles, a world where almost all of the kids are white, and a world where kids sometimes have mothers but almost never fathers who interact with them. We see boys operating the toys while girls look on.
Voiceover announcers are almost invariably male. Things seem remarkably different nowadays—perhaps because of the efforts of industry self-regulation and the effort to speak to a diverse market but also because society is itself very different. I hope we can talk about questions like these and about the general environment for advertising to children. Peggy Charren and ACT closed up shop, but we do hear from time to time about specific issues. The environment for advertising to children seems very different today from the one in the s, 60s, 70s, and even from the year PK: I recently re-read our interview and was struck by how compelling it still is.
The issues are still germane, but there have been some groundbreaking changes and trends. One of them clearly is the media and the Internet. You raised the issue of Saturday morning television. Another issue has been the dramatic reinvention of other traditional media like cinema. Animated feature films have returned and the Academy Awards now recognize feature-length animation as one of the few new awards. Another issue is the rise of the obesity epidemic, and what it means in the US and around the world. It obviously has implications socially and culturally, but also for advertising—for marketers and advertisers and how they respond to it.
Another issue would be literacy, books, and the Internet, and the interaction between those media. A recent newspaper article praised the positive virtues of the Internet for children in terms of literacy, social networking, and social development. One of the concerns of parents is that kids are on the Internet in the first place.
On the other hand, just as you say, parents have a feeling also that there are good reasons children should be there because of what they can access and learn. But the Internet is a highly charged environment for kids. What are the actual patterns of Internet use by children?
We talked about the Internet in , but not so much. And back in , Internet 1.
The idea of a new economy proved to be bogus. Internet businesses were going under and the idea of the new economy was blowing up with it. The dynamic interface is a comfortable space for kids.
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Remember when we talked last time, we discussed how quickly children can process information on television. Kids can process the quick pace of content as well as the different content forms much more readily than adults. Kids have taken to the Internet like ducks to water. PK: We see kids on computers as early as age two.
They are playing basic games. Very active, robust interaction with the Internet really sets in later, starting in a major way with tweens. But interestingly, much of the uproar and concern about really young kids on the Internet is simply not true. Do we really know what kids think?
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What we found in , , and is that kids were definitely on the Internet, but the amount of time was not nearly as much as the critics and other observers have suggested, at least not through age And from the CARU perspective, children are defined as 12 and under. PK: First of all, commercial messaging for kids on the Internet has been grossly overstated. PK: The amount of it, the tactics, the presence of it, the kid interaction.
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The number one thing that kids do on the Internet is play games. The games they most often play are corollaries to the TV programming they watch. So they go to Nick. The second online activity for kids is surfing the Web. Also, the same rules the FCC originally formulated for TV and commercials also apply to kids and advertising on the Internet. There has to be a separation of programming content from commercial content on the Web. The Internet is a self-controlled medium, not a temporal one. This is something that is closely monitored by CARU.
WMO: Like not having the characters in the game be the spokes characters for products?
PK: Yes, yes they do. The same rule applies. The genius of what we did in the rule making at CARU was rather than setting new guidelines for every new medium that comes along—and there was a lot of discussion about this—was articulating fundamental principles and guidelines that apply across all different types of media. There was no longer a profit incentive if you had to fully disclose that it was going to cost you a dollar, two dollars, or five dollars to talk to Barbie. When the Internet came along—and you may recall that CARU jumped on the issues of child protection and privacy long before the FTC did—our discussions centered on the idea that many of the guidelines and principles and protections that we had put in place for other media such as TV and telemarketing should apply to new media, including the Internet.
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So the Internet guidelines, from the beginning, were woven into the fundamental fabric of the CARU guidelines. Is this really the best way to handle regulation, where an industry or industry-based organization polices its activities, rather than allowing governmental supervision? Is it your personal view that this is the best way for society to manage this sort of thing, and if so, why? PK: I think that self-regulation is brilliant. We had our guidelines in place before the FTC started to consider these issues and put its own guidelines together. Interestingly, self-regulation done well, being closely tied to the industry, can anticipate more readily some of the upcoming issues, and confront the issues as they develop before government will.
Then she would whip out a breakfast cereal and start talking about it. It turned into a commercial. PK: Oh my goodness! Or are we really? From the beginning of CARU those guidelines were put in place. WMO: Do you know the process of deciding what was allowable and what was inappropriate? Part of the elegance of CARU when it came on stream was its construction as an advisory board of academics and industry people.
When I joined CARU more than 25 years ago, there were as many—and I even think more—academics on the board than industry people.