It is considered 'appropriate' by 74% of youth marketers to begin marketing to children at age seven - some two years before most children are thought to be able to view advertising critically - according to a survey by Harris Interactive and youth marketing firm Kid Power.
On average, children are 9.1 years old before they can view advertising critically, and they are 9.3 years old before being able to effectively separate fantasy from reality in media and advertising. But the youth marketers surveyed feel it is appropriate to target children for marketing campaigns almost five years before they feel most young people can make intelligent choices as consumers (at age 11.7 on average).
These are some of the findings of the Harris Interactive/Kid Power Poll of Youth Marketers conducted online by Harris Interactive in February 2004, examining the opinions of 878 individuals working in youth-related fields including youth marketing, market research, advertising and public relations, media, education, and non-profit organisations. The poll covered a number of topics regarding commercialism and youth, marketing in schools, youth obesity, and sexual and violent content in the media.
"The poll results show that youth marketers have a great deal of respect for the power and influence of children," explained Candi Schwartz, managing director for the Kid Power Exchange. "In fact, we found that youth marketers tend to define today's young generation as a consumer group."
Other findings of the study include:
- 91% of respondents feel that today's youth are more powerful consumers than young people were 10-15 years ago;
- 91% agree that young people are marketed to in ways that they don't even notice;
- 61% agree that advertising to children currently begins at too young an age;
- 91% feel that their organisation treats young people with respect;
- 90% feel their organisation treats parents with respect;
- 78% feel that their organisation plays a positive role in the lives of children;
- 74% feel that the positive impact their organisation has on children far outweighs any negatives.
Early brand building
"This poll shows that youth marketers are pressured by a sense of urgency to reach kids early so that brands will be familiar to them when they do reach an age where they make or influence purchase decisions," said John Geraci, vice president of youth research for Harris Interactive. "The study also shows that those working in youth fields are comfortable with and supportive of their organisation's practices, welcoming the challenge and responsibility that comes with serving the needs of young consumers and their parents."
"Youth industry professionals tell us that many of their most ethical practices occur out of the view of the public," added Geraci. "They see ideas discarded because they may not be suitable for young consumers even though those ideas may have strong commercial value."