advertising-children-mark-simmonsAlmost 15 months ago, I experienced a milestone in my life like no other. I witnessed the birth of my daughter and immediately, I knew things would never be the same. I surrendered my sleep, aspects of my social life and sometimes, even my sanity. It’s all incredibly worth it. As she gets older and more aware of her surroundings, I’m beginning to think about her receptivity to all the advertising and product marketing we’re exposed to. Specifically, what’s geared towards children and how it will affect her.

It’s a situation for me, as a marketer, that I find particularly interesting. I tend to believe that folks in my industry are extremely aware of when we’re being marketed to on the web, in email and other places. I personally feel that I am immune to the persuasion tactics, but realistically I know I’m not. If I get the right email or see an ad at the right time, I’m sold. It usually happens when I’m in shopping mode, but not always. Let me give you a quick example.

Red Lobster and Their Incredibly Effective Ads

I really don’t think Red Lobster is anything special. I used to work there one summer after my freshman year at Duke. It was an eye-opening experience for me to be behind the scenes of a chain restaurant. No one wants to see how the sausage is made. After I quit, I vowed never to set foot in another Red Lobster again. Then, I noticed their commercials…


Red Lobster has found a gem of a video production company to produce their TV advertisements. The picture is crystal clear, the food looks amazing and incredibly fresh. Despite knowing that most of it is frozen and some of it microwaved, I still get coerced by their ads and eventually, my wife and I decide to go back to our closest location. I feel dirty afterwards.

Back To The Kids Stuff

Now that I’m a parent and thinking about the expense of raising a child as well as having more in the future, I’m sensitive to all of the advertising we’re exposed to every time we’re in a Target or watching any sort of kid TV show. The ads are aggressive, loud and effective. Right now, since she can’t speak in full sentences, we’re okay, but I know this is going to change soon.

My wife and I have vowed to not to get branded toys like anything from Dora The Explorer. Her products are everywhere and priced at a premium. It just doesn’t seem sensible to pay an extra 50% for the same book bag or sippy cup. While I think it’s admirable now that we have this plan, I am beginning to feel that it’s ambitious. Let’s think about it.


Brands Prey On Kids Emotions

Brands advertise to kids as often as they can and across all forms of media. If you really pay attention, you’ll not only notice the ads on TV, in the stores, on billboards but now on our tablet and phone apps. As behavioral targeting became popular online, you should also notice that you’re being served up toy ads as you browse the web because you visited WebMDBaby or Not to mention all the new direct mail pieces we started getting. As our kids get older and begin to start using our mobile devices, watch Disney and Pixar movies, they’re exposed to more and more advertising opportunities. Monster’s University is one big ad for Pixar merchandise and they know this will be effective. I feel like once it starts, it’s impossible to stop. As much as we may aim to fight against it.


The Future of Children’s Ads

In this technological age where our children are using mobile devices before they can talk, have we any hope to counter the advertising blitz? As I allow my daughter to play with game apps that help her development, there are branded and unbranded apps. Baby Bus is one set of games we download but of course Fisher Price and Disney have their fair share. They take the opportunity to introduce them to the Disney characters as early as possible. As we move forward and marketing gets more sophisticated, iPads are a requirement in grade school instead of just college and targeting methods improve, what can we expect? I feel that our children won’t stand a chance. Especially when they are young and extremely impressionable. As a marketer, I see opportunity for my clients. As a parent, I see negative dollar signs. What do you see?

 Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.


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Yours in success,



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