Monday, June 14, 2010

Random thoughts on advertising and children...

When you sit around with children and watched TV with them, have you ever noticed the food advertising that goes on Australian TV? Sometimes its those Saturday morning shows and weekday afternoon shows that are just full of advertising targetting young children and giving them messages. Other times, they just come on especially cereals and fastfood chains. In these adverts, the themes are colourful, wacky, fun, happy and are often drivers of subtle messages directed at children promting empowerment, unhealthy habits and peer influence. Lets take this advert Coco Pops Creations – an advertisement about Kelloggs new Coco Pops that has four new flavours of coco pops, as an example.

The target audience is definitely children as can be seen by the child who is healthy and full of energy interacting with the animated figures of monkeys. The 30 second advertisement being communicated to a child conveys a sense of optimism, adventure, control, variety, taste and imagination. The two messages I picked up were:
1. Four different flavours, four times the fun – the new coco pops cereal had four different flavours thus making it would be equally fun four times over. Even though there is a mention of 'four choctasticlly' different types of coco pops cereals, they all look the same falling into the plate and there is no mention of how they are different.
The message is lively, music is bubbly and the child interacts with the characters by using his body and facial features indicating fun and excitement. This message and appeal may encourage the child to ask the parents to buy or obtain (Reece, Rifon, and Rodriguez 1999) the new coco pops. I mean what child wouldnt want something that is bright and funny?
2. Mix ‘em up and make your own special breakfast – The child who sees this advert may be compelled to make their own cereal breakfast as seen on TV(Signorielli 2001) because this message reinforces creativity in the child. It also promotes control and adventure in the child when is shows he can be able to make the meal without anybody’s help (as a parent is seen as being busy in the background). The motion of being in control is a theme can be seen later in the advert when the child puts on a mean face to force the crocodile to give back the coco pops back.

The dominant appeals are emotion, animation and reinforcement. There are bright colours, fun, lively background music and sounds, happy, healthy and smiling kid and kids can relate to that. The animated figures (monkey and crocodile) reinforce coco pops icons/branding and the child’s recognition of the Coco Pops Brand name. All these appeals are factors in the child’s ability to make decisions and often such adverts ‘take advantage of the child vulnerabilty’ (Wilson and Mair 1998). These appeals, replayed in each advert, over and over again will promote and shape a child’s perception that such food is fun and healthy (Dixon et al. 2007) and is normal for breakfast.

Another observation is that the scenes are very quick and there isn’t enough time to read the ‘small print’ displayed in the advert. But hey, why would someone want to read the fine print when you have colourful characeters bouncing everywhere! The first of this is the 'fine print' sentence is about the suggested serving size is 30gram. This writing is in white and cannot be read easily against the white background. The other sentence is 'Run around, have fun, eat a balanced diet' and again this sentence is hard to read as it is in coloured letters. It cannot be seen the first or second time as the person watching the advert is constantly watching what is happening between the boy and the animated characters.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children under section 2.12 of Food and Beverages advertising says an advert to children ‘should not create a false or misleading impression in the minds of Children about the nature of the content of the product’. However, the coco pops advert displays in writing that the suggested serving size is 30 grams yet the bowls of coco pops in the bowl is surely more than the 30 grams. It doesnt tell you in the advert that the sugar content is high also. The sugar content is also very high at 11grams per a 30grm serving (Kelloggs 2009), which close to half of a serving and while the energy content is just 6%, the sugar content is 9% per 30 grams serving. This Coco Pops advert is an example of television adverts that do not adhere to children’s television viewing of not promoting healthy eating habits.

Maybe Im baised, but should parents let their children eat coco pops for breakfast? What ever happened to the good old sandwhich and fruits?

Anyway, I think the most important thing I can say about this is that even though some parents dont have the time to make decent meals or lack the resources to do so, they as parents have the ultimate responsibility to promote healthy eating habits for their children. In a society like Australia, suburban children are frequented with television as they are growing up, their choices are influenced by mass media and peer pressure and so the challenge is for parents to still stand up and take charge of their children's health.


Dixon, H. G., M. L. Scully, M. A. Wakefield, V. M White, and D.A. Crawford. 2007. The effects of television advertisments for junk food versus nutritous food on children's food and attitudes and preferences. Social Science and Medicine 65 (7):1311-1323.
Kelloggs. Coco Pops - Product overview 2009 [cited 14 October 2009. Available from
Reece, B. , N. Rifon, and K. Rodriguez. 1999. Selling food to children: Is fun part if a balanced breakfast? Edited by M. Macklin and L. Carlson, Advertising to children: concepts and controversies. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Signorielli, N. 2001. Televison's gender role and contribution to stereotypring Edited by D. Singer and J. Singer. Thousand Oaks, Carliforna: Sage Publications.
Wilson, C., and A. Mair. 1998. Televison Food Advertisments - how they appeal to children: a report by Young Media Australia.

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