Youth quick to get the ad facts

By Published on .

Vulnerable? Too trusting? Don't let the kids hear you call them that.

Children 6 to 11 years old have spending money in their pockets, and they'll confidently tell you they know what to do with it and which advertising works.

Children's Market Research's "KidTrends 2001 Report" says these young people receive an average weekly allowance of $5 to $10, and that's not counting the influence they have on their parents' spending.

It adds up. Viacom, for example, reportedly generated $1 billion from the 1998 movie debut of kid-oriented Nickelodeon's "Rugrats," including box-office receipts, licensing deals and promotional partnerships with Burger King Corp. and Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln Mercury Co.

Marketers also are keenly aware of tween buying power.

"There's been a boom in advertising aimed at tweens," says Kathy Lalley, a senior VP at Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and co-founder of its KidLeo consultancy. "You see a lot more products marketed to tweens."

Advertising Age talked to some younger consumers of advertising. For instance, 6-year-old T'Keyah of Chicago says: "I like the McDonald's commercial with `102 Dalmatians.' I like the dogs. There's a mean lady in the commercial, but I don't like her." Sorry, Cruella.

The ad medium of choice for reaching young people remains TV. Studies show that about 60% of children watch 1 to 2 hours of TV each day, and about 30% watch 3 to 5 hours a day.

"I like commercials about food and videogames. My favorite commercial is about [Kellogg Co.'s] Pop-Tarts because of the different colors, contests and chances to win prizes," says 8-year-old Timothy of Atlanta. "I dislike the [General Mills] Chex cereal commercial. It's boring and plain."

Kids also are aware of products that are marketed to adults but use children in their advertising.

Asked to name a commercial, Cathy, 9, of Los Angeles responds: "Those cheese commercials [from Dairy Management Inc.]-especially the one with the little girl and her imaginary playmate, Mr. Giggles. Mr. Giggles kicks the girl's father out of the house because he won't give him any cheese. I want to eat cheese after seeing that commercial!"

However, such ad awareness at a tender age doesn't necessarily portend a future of marketing mind control, assures Elizabeth Berger, child psychiatrist and author of "Raising Children With Character." "Parents set the tone in the home by providing a home that is really passionately interested in human beings rather than things," Dr. Berger says.

But Selina Guber, president of Children's Market Research, says: "I think children are exposed generally to a marketing- and consumer-oriented society. Even if not targeted directly, they pick up things."

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