Sunday, 14 April 2013

Ban TV advertising because some folk can't say 'no' to their children.

I've been busy so haven't touched on the latest anti-advertising campaign. A campaign of moronic ignorance but given acres of airtime and page space because, of course, it's 'for the children':

Mr Kent, a journalist and broadcaster, told the BBC he had seen the effect of advertising on his six-year-old son.

"He's like most children - if I don't get to the TV before him, he's grabbed the remote and found an ad," he said.

"It's like watching kiddie crack take hold, despite all our best efforts."

And what exactly does Kent Junior do when he's found an ad? We aren't told. Now maybe said junior has a vast trust fund and can spend it himself but somehow I suspect that the child only gets stuff that Mr or Mrs Kent buys for him.

Now let us be very clear about advertising "to children" - it is very rules bound (it you don't believe this check out the rules) and, when we speak of young children, they very rarely have any purchasing power. The advertising is directed to parents not children.

However, what should really bother us is that there is precisely and exactly no evidence - as in studies that test a scientific hypothesis - to support the contention being made by people like Mr Kent - indeed their cosy little lobby group, "Leave our kids alone", even admits this on its website:

The effect of advertising on children is an emerging area of research. As with most psychological studies the results are a little less clear cut than those in the field of physics or chemistry.

An the anti-advertising crowd then go on to cite three 'studies' none of which show any causal relationship between advertising and well-being let alone between advertising and parents giving into the pestering of their children. Let's take the National Consumer Council study - "Watching, Wanting and Well-being".(pdf) Apart from concluding that advertising bans won't work:

We found that, with children watching a much wider range of programmes than those made specifically for them, attempts to ban specific types of advertising in children’s programme time will not protect much of the under-14 population.

...the study finds that children weren't struggling or suffering as a result of watching TV:

Nearly nine in ten children believe that ‘I have a number of good qualities’ and 83 per cent say ‘I feel good about myself ’. Over seven in ten say ‘I feel that I’m a person of value, at least as valuable as other people’

Moreover, they discovered that children like stuff and knew (mostly) that to get the stuff you want you need money:

Over half of the children think they would be happier if they had more money to buy things for themselves. Nearly that many think the only kind of job they want when they grow up is one that gets them lots of money.

Rather than fretting about children being 'too materialistic' we should be celebrating the fact that half of them have recognised the central - and crucial - fact about our world: if you want the good stuff you need economic success.

The truth in all this is that adverting isn't the problem. The problem is parents who give in, who let their children pester them. In truth it's these nice middle-class parents like Mr Kent who are the problem - rather than facing up to their inability to resist advertising, they choose to first blame their children and secondly blame the advertisers. For what? For their inability to say "no".

So they compare TV advertising to smoking - that'll get a headline:

The tobacco industry managed to argue for years that cigarettes don't cause harm.

That's right folks, middle-class lefties journalists who can't say no to their children have this problem because of TV advertising. It is killing them! Look at the evidence:

Proving causality is difficult, especially when it's in an area as complex and nebulous as psychology

Bother. There isn't any evidence so let's just make stuff up:

Most parents will know instinctively that their children are deeply affected by advertising. They'll also know that children now are far more materialistic than children were 20 or 40 years ago

Are they? Show us the evidence? Oh dear, there isn't any. Here we go again.

Ban everything. It's for the children.


Junican at Boltonsmokersclub said...

It is a common phenomenon in these stories that the meaning of the word 'children' is never defined. We very often see the phrase 'young people' linked with the word 'children', as in "Children and Young Adults". Many people do not seem to see that, if 'Young Adults' means people up to the age of 25, there is a vast difference between the two, and that the two cannot be linked together.

Any attempt to generalise the effect on children's (defined by me as youngsters up to the age of, and including, 12) minds of adverts has to define reasonably the age group. Not to do so makes a mockery of any conclusions since there as so many other variables. For example, you could ask, "How long does it take for a man to run a mile?" Such a question would be nonsensical if you do not define what a mile is.

Botzarelli said...

My 6 year old son will fast forward past ads if he can or will change channel. Therefore, according to Mr Kent's logic I suppose I can safely conclude that advertising has no harmful impact on children.

Anonymous said...

Mt Kent could:-
a) Put the remote on a high shelf, out of reach of his brat.
b) Delete all channels with advertising from the list of available ones on his digital TV or set-top box.
c) Could whinge a lot and thus display his own impotence. (Wonder if the six-year-old son looks remarkably like the milkman ?)