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The Effects of Advertising on Children

The Effects of Advertising on Children

Television Advertising to Children A review of contemporary research on the influence of television advertising directed to children Prepared for ACMA by Dr Jeffrey E. Brand May 2007 © Commonwealth of Australia 2007 This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Communications/Media, Australian Communications and Media Authority, PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010.

Published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority Canberra Central Office Purple Building, Benjamin Offices Chan Street, Belconnen PO Box 78, Belconnen ACT 2616 Tel: 02 6219 5555 Fax: 02 6219 5200 Melbourne Central Office Level 44, Melbourne Central Tower 360 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne PO Box 13112 Law Courts Melbourne Vic 8010 Tel: 03 9963 6800 Fax: 03 9963 6899 TTY: 03 9963 6948 Sydney Central Office Level 15, Tower 1 Darling Park 201 Sussex Street, Sydney PO Box Q500 Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230 Tel: 02 9334 7700, 1800 226 667 Fax: 02 9334 7799 Australian Communications and Media Authority i Contents PREFACE……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4 Research findings …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5 Cognitive development ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Advertising repetition ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Characters ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Premium offers …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 6 Pester power…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Food and beverage preferences……………………………………………………………………………………….. 6 Interactive media…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7 Media literacy ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7 Gendered, racial and cultural portrayals …………………………………………………………………………… The state and perspective of knowledge …………………………………………………………………………… 8 INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9 CTS provisions ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9 Children’s and preschool children’s programs ………………………………………………………………….. 9 All C and P programs must be classified by ACMA prior to broadcast. ………………………………. 9 Advertising directed to children…………………………………………………………………………………….. 10 Unsuitable material ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10 Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice …………………………………………………………… 10 Review of the CTS………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1 This research ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11 Research questions …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11 Key concepts………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 12 FINDINGS……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4 Child development………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14 Developmental stages of childhood ……………………………………………………………………………….. 14 Media literacy and influence of advertising…………………………………………………………………….. 19 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 0 Advertising repetition……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 21 Attention, recognition and recall……………………………………………………………………………………. 21 Australian Communications and Media Authority 1 Preferences and behaviour ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 22 Repetition and advertising effectiveness…………………………………………………………………………. 2 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 23 Characters ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 24 Attention and appeal ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25 Recall, recognition and attitudes……………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Purchase intention and selection ……………………………………………………………………………………. 26 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 26 Premium offers ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 27 Attention, preferences and behaviour …………………………………………………………………………….. 7 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 28 Pester power ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 29 Persuasion and purchase behaviour ………………………………………………………………….. …………… 29 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 0 Food and beverage preferences ………………………………………………………………………………………… 31 Children’s exposure to food and beverage advertising ……………………………………………………… 31 Knowledge, attitudes, preferences and behaviours…………………………………………………………… 34 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1 Interactive media ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 42 Interactive media ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 42 Forms of interactivity…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 43 Children’s response to interactivity ……………………………………………………………………………….. 4 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 45 Media literacy………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 45 The role of parents and guardians ………………………………………………………………………………….. 46 Effectiveness of formal media literacy programs …………………………………………………………….. 6 Cognitive development and media literacy……………………………………………………………………… 47 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 48 Gendered, racial and cultural portrayals…………………………………………………………………………….. 48 Role portrayals ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 8 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 49 The state and perspective of knowledge…………………………………………………………………………….. 49 APPENDIXES………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 52 Appendix A: Approach……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3 Appendix B: Search sources and tactics used …………………………………………………………………….. 55 Appendix C: References………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 57 Australian Communications and Media Authority 2 Summary Preface This report was prepared by the Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education between August and November 2006. The research team was Dr Jeffrey E. Brand (Director), Dr Mark Bahr (Psychology), Ms Jill Borchard and Ms Tanya Neves, (PhD students at the Centre).

This research was conducted by independent researchers and the conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of ACMA. Australian Communications and Media Authority 3 Television Advertising to Children Executive summary This report reviews the literature relevant to the provisions of the Children’s Television Standards (CTS) which govern television advertising to children. The report is drawn from more than 200 sources on children and television advertising, including 100 refereed primary sources and was prepared as input to a review of the CTS by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The objectives of the CTS are to provide for children to be specifically catered for in programming, including Australian programming, and to provide for the protection of children from the possible harmful effects of television. The advertising provisions are a subset of the CTS and regulate the amount, content and presentation of commercial advertising material directed to children. These provisions were designed to address concerns about advertising directed to children.

The underlying premise for these restrictions is to ensure that advertising material directed to children is presented clearly and in a way that children understand. The current CTS have remained fundamentally unchanged since their introduction in 1990, despite substantial changes to the media environment in Australia since that time. ACMA is reviewing the CTS in light of the changing media environment. Television was introduced in Australia 51 years ago, somewhat behind other jurisdictions such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

As it became the dominant household medium of the 1970s, that decade became the period of most active original research on children and television advertising. It was a time when the media landscape was arguably less complex and less fluid than the media landscape children experience today. Parents, teachers, politicians and researchers were interested in the many ways that television might affect the development and health of children. This interest encompassed television advertising, and a number of seminal studies were conducted in the 1970s and 1980s on the mpact of children’s cognitive development and various aspects of television advertising. Many hundreds of studies later, the initial concerns have given way to cautious pragmatism about television, while new media like computer games and the internet have captured the interests of today’s parents, teachers, politicians and researchers. Research topics tend to track public policy debates. Since the 1970s and 1980s, much of the research has been dominated by American imperatives of alcohol and tobacco research—of limited relevance to the contemporary Australian context.

More recently, public health concerns about childhood obesity in developed countries have shifted the focus of research activity. Australian Communications and Media Authority 4 Television Advertising to Children Research findings COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Research evidence demonstrates that cognitive development mediates children’s understanding of television advertising and their response to advertising. Other factors, such as parental intervention, media literacy, consumer experience and program/advertisement separators each play a role in helping children understand television advertising directed to them.

There are two critical stages that mark children’s capacity to understand important qualities of television commercials: at five or six years of age, when the majority of children begin to be able to distinguish advertising from program content, and around age seven, when children begin to recognise the persuasive intent of advertising. As a result, children aged two to six tend to view commercials as a form of ongoing entertainment in line with programs they are watching. Children slowly, but progressively, develop an understanding of the intent of advertising that can be conveyed both in linguistic and formal elements of advertisements.

Studies indicate that between the ages of six to 11 years children begin to develop the ability to think sceptically about advertising, but may not respond critically without being prompted to think about intent and appeals. In summary, cognitive development is the demonstrated leading mediator of children’s response to advertising. However, few empirical studies report a statistical relationship between children’s age and increasing advertising literacy, and the influence of advertising on children. ADVERTISING REPETITION

Research on effects of repetition on children’s understanding of advertising directed to them is equivocal and has not been substantively updated since the 1970s, with most of it conducted over 25 years ago in the United States. Early research demonstrated that children apply relatively low levels of attention to television advertisements, suggesting that the necessary antecedent to an effect of advertising— watching the commercial—is not always present. Further, memory of products advertised tends to be poor among children, indicating that repeated exposures are necessary to communicate advertising messages to children.

Recent research has shown that recall of information can be high for children with just one exposure and that additional exposure to advertisements increases comprehension. Repetition appears to be necessary to communicate an advertising message to children and may be necessary for children to obtain all the information they need to recall and understand the content in an advertisement. As to the effect of repetition on preferences and behaviour, early researchers argued that repetition improves recall accuracy and may affect attitudes and preferences but does not affect planned behaviour.

CHARACTERS Studies show that both real-life and animated characters are effective in attracting children’s attention to television programming and advertising. Characters attract positive responses when children identify features about the characters they like (younger children in particular); or identify emotionally with characters (older children in particular); and are positively associated with memory of and attitudes toward products advertised. Australian Communications and Media Authority 5 Television Advertising to Children

Owing to their cognitive underdevelopment, younger children fail to differentiate between animated and real-life characters. Further, cognitive development research demonstrates that children slowly but progressively develop the ability to distinguish advertising from programming content; therefore the use of characters in advertisements may confuse children about the distinction between advertising and programming content. PREMIUM OFFERS Empirical evidence indicates that premium offers work to attract children and create interest in the product.

The implications of research about children’s cognitive development tells us that younger children can only process one dimension of product information at a time, therefore a premium offer may be the only thing children are able to process in advertisements that employ premiums. Older children demonstrate the ability to evaluate advertised products on a range of criteria and dimensions. Although premiums may affect children’s interest in and preferences for products, behavioural outcomes, such as requests and purchases, do not necessarily follow as a result.

The research that relates to television advertising specifically suggests there is likely no link to behaviour, but cautions that further research is necessary. Broader advertising research demonstrates the potency of premiums generally. PESTER POWER Children who are exposed to television advertising are exposed to new ideas about products that interest them. Findings about pester power are often made in the context of the broader marketing mix, thus conclusions about the effect of television advertising specifically on pester power are not necessarily able to be drawn.

Nevertheless, a fairly clear associative, but not causal, link between television advertising and pester power is indicated. Pester power appears to be enhanced when advertising is part of a larger marketing mix, including in-store displays and labelling, and has the potential to interact with the use of characters and premium appeals. Simple correlation research in the US indicates that children in the pre-operational stage (typically aged two to six) who view more television advertising, request products more.

As children age, they develop the cognitive capacity to contextualise and act critically on the observations they make, with studies showing their requests for products decline. FOOD AND BEVERAGE PREFERENCES Food and beverage advertising, including for chain restaurants, comprises a major category of all advertising on Australian television (New South Wales Department of Health content analysis indicates approximately one quarter in 2006). The same content analysis found 43 per cent of all food advertising was for high fat/high sugar foods and 36 per cent was for core foods (such as dairy breads, pasta).

Around 48–49 per cent of food advertising in times defined by the study as ‘children’s viewing times’ was for high fat/high sugar foods. 1 Although estimates of children’s exposure to advertising for high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods vary considerably between studies, it seems that children are exposed to more advertising for HFSS foods compared with other food products that fulfill core dietary requirements. In the top 20 rated programs with children, the above study found around 66 per cent of food advertising was for high fat/high sugar foods. These programs tend to be 1

Children’s viewing hours were defined in the study as comprising Monday–Friday 6. 30–8. 00, 9. 00–9. 30, 15. 00–20. 30; and Saturday–Sunday 7. 00–20. 30. 6 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children broadcast in the evening and are popular with audiences generally. Overall, children’s exposure to television food advertising appears to be declining modestly as this category of advertisement decreases and children view less commercial television (140 minutes per day for 0–14 year olds in 2001 to 121 minutes in 2006). Empirical research shows correlations but not causal relationships between children’s exposure to advertising and knowledge about diet and nutrition, and preferences as indicated by requests (but not necessarily actual consumption) of advertised foods. The research also establishes correlations between television advertising and ‘healthy’ as well as ‘unhealthy’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours on a broad range of issues to do with diet and lifestyle. Research evidence establishes a correlational relationship between television viewing and obesity in children and teenagers (as distinct from viewing television advertising specifically).

While watching television is a sedentary activity, studies indicate that the association between viewing television and childhood obesity is not simply due to inactivity and relates to increased energy consumption associated with television viewing. This appears to be a consistent finding when other influences, such as hereditary and socio-demographic factors are controlled for. However, the relative contribution to increased energy intake of advertising, snacking, and other factors has not been isolated.

On the basis of a substantial body of work, Ofcom stated that it was difficult to determine the relative contribution of television advertising compared with all the other factors that influence children’s food choice and health. It also stated that it was difficult to disentangle the contribution of television viewing as a factor associated with obesity. Ofcom concluded that estimates vary, but some suggest ‘advertising/television’ exposure accounts for some two per cent of the variation in ‘food choice/obesity’ (Ofcom, 2006a, Annex 9, pp. 2, 13–14). INTERACTIVE MEDIA

There is an increasing range of media channels available to children today, with interactivity, including advertising and marketing in new media venues, having the potential to blur the distinction between commercial and non-commercial content. A review of industry activity indicates that advertisers are using interactive media, such as internet games on food product websites, to appeal to children. Children tend to be receptive to new technology in a way that older generations may not be, so it is reasonable to expect advertisers to develop campaigns for new media and to measure their effectiveness.

However, as distinct from children’s sophistication in adopting and using new media, studies indicate that their cognitive capacity to process advertising messages remains unchanged in the new media environment. Given the apparent popularity of interactive websites for children, children’s sophistication with new technology and the goal-directed and initiative-based approach of interactive media audiences, interactive marketing in new media environments may be highly effective.

On the other hand, interactive media may also be used effectively for non-commercial purposes (education and information) with children as well as for commercial purposes. MEDIA LITERACY Media literacy education includes a range of formal and informal lessons designed to help audiences understand both the techniques used by media producers to create media messages, 2 In 2006, children in the five to 12 age group watched television in their greatest numbers between the hours of 7. 00–8. 00 pm, with an average audience of 275,000 (representing 8. 1 per cent of the total viewing audience at that time).

This timeslot also attracted the highest average 0–14 age group audience in 2001 (579,000) and 2005 (487,000), which indicates a consistent pattern in children’s peak viewing time over the past five years. 7 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children including television advertising, and the intent of those messages to inform, entertain and persuade. Research shows that, where schools implement media literacy curriculum, this has a modest effect in equipping children with skills to understand commercial messages.

However, additional support from parents and other members of the community is generally needed if media literacy is to have a greater effect. While parents, in particular, appear to be influential in demonstrating appropriate media habits and demonstrating more robust understanding of media functions, it appears that they require media literacy to be able to assist their children. Furthermore, one study suggests that formal media literacy may be more useful for challenged learners, but that children who are more capable will gain little additional benefit.

This corresponds with the findings of cognitive development research which indicates that, compared with cognitive development, media literacy has only a limited effect on children’s understanding of commercial messages in the media. GENDERED, RACIAL AND CULTURAL PORTRAYALS Content analyses of television advertising in the United Kingdom and the United States have examined portrayals of gender, race and culture, identifying a level of over- and underrepresentation of certain groups, as well as stereotyping of roles, in television advertising to children.

While researchers draw implications about these portrayals for children’s social perceptions, the UK and US contexts of these studies may limit their application to Australia. THE STATE AND PERSPECTIVE OF KNOWLEDGE The current review has found that the scope, consistency and quality of the research literature about children and television advertising is poor. However, Sonia Livingstone (2005) suggested that a view of the literature as weak may be based on unfair judgments about standards of evidence possible with social research about media and children generally.

Indeed, it is difficult to establish a causal relationship between popular media and audience outcomes. Furthermore a large proportion of the research into children and television advertising has review and reflection about the existing body of empirical literature, rather than conducting primary empirical research. It is a general view of the authors that there is little quality data available about the role of advertising in children’s lives early in the 21st century in Australia (and other developed countries).

New, systematic, ecologically valid, empirical research on effects of children’s exposure to advertising in all electronic media used by children should be commissioned and robustly funded. Who should fund this research is, of course, the critical but difficult question to answer. Any research that emerges in the coming years must address the multi-factorial relationship between advertising and children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Australian Communications and Media Authority 8 Television Advertising to Children Introduction The Children’s Television Standards (CTS) were implemented in their current form in 1990 by the then Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT). Compliance with the CTS is monitored by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. The CTS were developed following community and industry consultations and taking account of available research.

The CTS attempt to balance: • • • public interest concerns that children’s special viewing needs are met and they are protected from possible harmful effects of television the commercial television industry’s reliance upon advertising revenue and the need to fund quality programs for children the child audience’s lack of earning or ‘buying’ capacity, reflected in the limited range of product categories in advertising to children, and also in children’s reliance on others (parents most often) to obtain products they might see advertised on television. CTS provisions

CHILDREN’S AND PRESCHOOL CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS The objectives of the CTS are to provide for children to be specifically catered for in programming, including Australian programming and to provide for the protection of children from the possible harmful effects of television. Commercial television licensees must broadcast a total of at least 390 hours of C (children’s) and P (preschool) programs per year, of which 260 hours must be C programs and 130 hours must be P programs. For the purposes of the CTS, children are people younger than 14 years of age. •

Licensees must broadcast at least 30 minutes of C programs every weekday between the hours of 7. 00 am and 8. 00 am or 4. 00 pm and 8. 30 pm and, in addition, at least 130 hours per year at any time in the C band (the periods of time 7. 00 am to 8. 00 am Monday to Friday; 4. 00 pm to 8. 30 pm Monday to Friday; 7. 00 am to 8. 30 pm Saturday, Sunday and school holidays). Licensees must broadcast at least 30 mins of P programs every weekday in the P band (the period of time 7. 00 am to 4. 30 pm Monday to Friday). Licensees must nominate in advance the time slots during which C and P programs will be broadcast. • All C and P programs must be classified by ACMA prior to broadcast. Australian Communications and Media Authority 9 Television Advertising to Children ADVERTISING DIRECTED TO CHILDREN The advertising provisions of the CTS were designed to take account of children’s developmental stages and to address concerns about the effects of advertising on children. The relevant provisions are CTS 10 and CTS 13–23 (inclusive). The CTS prohibit advertising during P periods and place limitations on the broadcast of advertisements during C periods.

During a C period in which an Australian C Drama is broadcast, the maximum amount of advertisements, program promotions, station identifications and community service announcements is 13 minutes per hour. Otherwise, each 30 minutes of a C period may contain no more than five minutes of advertisements. In setting these limits, ACMA recognises the practical issues involved for the Australian freeto-air commercial stations in funding quality children’s programs and the role advertising plays in securing such funding. The CTS aim to ensure that advertising material directed to children is presented clearly and in a way that children understand.

The CTS include requirements for the presentation of advertising and other material to children, such as the presentation of prizes, competitions, and nutritional information. There are prohibitions on the host selling of products and on advertising alcoholic drinks, and restrictions on the number of times a commercial can be broadcast during C programs. The CTS prohibit misleading advertising and require factual and clear presentation. UNSUITABLE MATERIAL The CTS prohibit the broadcast of unsuitable material, both in programs and commercials, in designated children’s viewing times as determined by the CTS.

Programs and commercials must not: • • • • demean individuals or groups of people on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion or mental or physical disability; present images or events in a way which is unduly frightening or distressing to children; depict unsafe uses of a product or unsafe situations which may encourage children to engage in activities dangerous to them; or advertise products officially declared unsafe by a Commonwealth authority or by an authority having jurisdiction within a licensee’s service area. COMMERCIAL TELEVISION INDUSTRY CODE OF PRACTICE Under section 6. 0 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, commercials and community service announcements directed to children ‘must exercise special care and judgement’, and comply with the requirements in CTS 17–21. Accordingly, CTS rules about content of advertisements, pressure in advertisements, clear presentation, disclaimers and premium offers and competitions apply, under the Code of Practice, to all advertising directed to children (defined in the code as people younger than 14 years of age). The Code of Practice also contains three provisions which restrain advertising directed to children for food and beverages.

The Code of Practice states that these types of advertisements: • • • 6. 23. 1 should not encourage or promote an inactive lifestyle; 6. 23. 2 should not encourage or promote unhealthy eating or drinking habits; 6. 23. 3 must not contain any misleading or incorrect information about the nutritional value of the product. 10 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children Section 6. 24 of the code prohibits the selling or promotion of products and services by the host or any other regular presenter or character (host selling) in programs directed to children. REVIEW OF THE CTS

Whilst there have been various technical changes to the CTS since they were implemented by the ABT, they have not been subject to major change. 3 ACMA is undertaking a full review of the CTS. THIS RESEARCH This report reviews the literature relevant to the provisions of the CTS that govern television advertising to children. The report is intended to update ACMA’s understanding of the current state of research knowledge about these issues and assist ACMA’s consideration of whether the advertising provisions of the CTS continue to serve the public interest in the context of the current review.

Similar research summaries completed elsewhere such as Childhood obesity – food advertising in context by the Office of Communications in the United Kingdom (Ofcom, 2004) and Marketing food to children: the global regulatory environment by the World Health Organization (Hawkes, 2004) have demonstrated the need for such a review in part because they focused on the narrower issue of food advertising on diet and physical activity, so offered little evidence about other advertising content and effects, and in part because they were developed in the policy and regulatory context of other countries.

The review of research reported here considers the influence of television advertising on young people and attempts to reflect the contemporary state of research, which has progressed since the early 1990s when the CTS were last considered. Research questions Eight research questions were developed by ACMA in conjunction with the research brief. These questions were generated from the provisions of the CTS dealing with advertising to children.

Additional research questions were suggested by the Centre for New Media Research and Education (CNMRE) research team’s work with the literature. RQ1. What are the key developmental stages of childhood that influence children’s response to television advertising? This goes to questions such as the age at which children can distinguish advertising from other program content and children’s understanding of the intent behind advertising. RQ2. What is the available evidence about the impact of, and concerns about repetition of advertising on children? RQ3.

What is the research evidence concerning children’s understanding of, and response to the use of program characters, figures, cartoons and children’s celebrities in television advertising directed to them? RQ4. What is the available evidence about children’s response to premium offers in television advertising directed to them? RQ5. What is the available evidence around television advertising and the behaviour and attitudes of children? For example, the onset of socially inappropriate behaviour and children’s use of ‘pester-power’? 3 An overview of the history of the regulation can be found at www. cma. gov. au/ACMAINTER. 65654:STANDARD:1240125723:pc=PC_91816 11 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children RQ6. What is the relationship between children’s television advertising exposure and their food and beverage preferences? What is the evidence in relation to Australian children? RQ7. What is the available evidence about children’s response to different forms of interactivity for example, competitions, short message service (text messaging), interactivity in digital pay television, direction to brand/program affiliated websites?

RQ8. What is the role of children’s media literacy in mitigating the influence of television advertising? RQ9. What is the available evidence about gendered, racial and cultural television advertising portrayals and children? RQ10. What are the research methodology and quality issues that affect the conclusions drawn about the impact of television advertising on children? KEY CONCEPTS Concepts used throughout this report are often treated casually in the literature.

For the purposes of using them with some level of precision, the following definitions provided the research team with a standardised framework. Advertising Limited in this report to paid commercial time for messages targeted to children and carried over television, and using television advertising in conjunction with other media, such as redirection to a web page, is included in this definition. Advertising not connected with television is noted accordingly. This report will substitute commercial for advertising intermittently for the purpose of varying expression.

An affective response to a stimulus object, as distinct from behaviour, in that an attitude may inform behaviour, but predicting behaviour from an attitude is not supported by social-cognition, cognitive or behavioural research findings. An action performed either individually or jointly with others, often assumed, but not always demonstrated, to be caused by an exogenous stimulus. The progression of physical and mental change in human maturation from infancy to adulthood—accepted contemporary theories of child development predict patterned changes that can be grouped into progressively more complex stages of maturity.

An idea or thought—accepted contemporary theories of human cognition account for perception, attention, storage and retrieval of information. Cognition may incorporate negative, neutral and positive evaluation. An emotion formed from care joined with fear, anxiety or sympathy for a thing. Targeting a particular audience. A change in state resulting from a demonstrated causal agent— generally accepted as having been demonstrated when the Attitude Behaviour Child development

Cognition Concern Directed (to) Effect/impact Australian Communications and Media Authority 12 Television Advertising to Children relationship between a causal agent and the changed state are observed in a controlled study of the relationship. Emotion Evidence Exposure A mental feeling—generally, may be anchored negatively (such as grief or sorrow) or anchored positively (such as joy or gratification). Knowledge based on propositions that have been tested using careful observation.

Viewing television content—viewing television advertising may be direct by virtue of choosing or being directed to view content or it may be incidental by virtue of presence in a room in which others are purposefully viewing or in which one is engaged in other activities but within sight or hearing distance of the content. High in fat salt and sugar content—used to describe foods that may be unhealthy if they constitute a disproportionately large part of a person’s diet. The five most common foods in this category are confectionery, soft drinks, crisps, fast food and sugared breakfast cereals.

The promotion of products or services by the host, presenter, or any regular character of a program The actions of children, such as multiple requests and complaining, to persuade parents to purchase goods that parents might not otherwise intend to purchase. The choice of one activity or content over another. Clarity and precision of communication as well as objective and evidentiary basis of claims in research may determine the usefulness or application of the research for making pre-emptive judgments about how television advertising works on or effects child audiences.

Absence of these factors may render a work subject to claims of low research quality while presence of these factors may render a work subject to claims of high research quality. Resulting reaction to a stimulus—in advertising to children, the term is imprecise until adjoined with a modifier such as cognitive, emotional or behavioural. A behavioural response is more precisely understood and classified distinctive from other types of responses such as cognitive and emotional. A degree of mental grasp about a thing associated with the ability to recognise it based on experience or conceptual or categorical classification. HFSS

Host selling Pester power Preference Research quality Response Understanding Australian Communications and Media Authority 13 Television Advertising to Children Findings Child development RQ1: What are the key developmental stages of childhood that influence children’s response to television advertising? This goes to questions such as the age at which children can distinguish advertising from other program content and children’s understanding of the intent behind advertising. The view that children progress through stages of maturation from infancy through to adulthood remains the dominant paradigm in the social and medical sciences.

Indeed, contemporary development theories continue through the life-span until death (Neville, Thomas, & Bauman, 2005; Sly, Hopkins, Trapido, & Ray, 2001). A review of 25 years of research on children’s television found that children’s understanding of television progresses throughout childhood and adolescence (John, 1999). This understanding changes in a series of cumulative steps from basic ability to distinguish advertisements from programming content, through to an understanding of the persuasive intent of advertisements, to detecting bias and deception, to knowledge of selling tactics and scepticism as well as appreciation of dvertising as a source of social meaning (John, 1999). The research presented in this literature review places the stages of cognitive development relevant to television advertising within an age-based continuum. However, while cognitive development operates universally in the same sequence, it does not operate universally at exactly the same ages. The research on cognitive development presented here is from a range of jurisdictions and is a body of work that underpins the majority of research on children and advertising, including the research questions considered in the remainder of this literature review.

DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES OF CHILDHOOD Researchers who considered the potential impact of television advertising on children have adopted the prevailing view of staged development, particularly Jean Piaget’s cognitive stages (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969), and have also published their research in paradigmatically-aligned journals such as the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics and Child Development (Anderson & Levin, 1976; Galst, 1980; Galst & White, 1976; Greer, Potts, Wright, & Huston, 1982; Levin, Petros, & Petrella, 1982; Ruble, Balaban, & Cooper, 1981; Strasburger, 2001; Zuckerman, Ziegler, & Stevenson, 1978).

The common academic and industry approach to studying the relationship between children and their media is to examine the kinds and quantities of content children are exposed to against the different ways children use that content, based on their staged level of development (Harrison, 2004). Australian Communications and Media Authority 14 Television Advertising to Children

In 2002, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) commissioned research to determine whether creating programs for the child audience requires particular attention to the unique characteristics of children at different Piagetian stages of cognitive development (Durkin, 2002). Particular interest was directed at Australian C Drama and whether the CTS focus on children younger than 14 years of age was appropriate. Durkin found that regardless of environmental factors, children develop toward adulthood bounded by predictable stages of cognitive capacity.

Durkin noted that, though environmental factors such as quality of education and social and material resources contribute to variability found in children’s cognitive capacities within stages, these factors are not determinative of children’s abilities. Piagetian stages of cognitive development follow the same sequence regardless of culture, but vary modestly in their timing across any population, meaning that while most children will reach a given stage at around the same age, some will arrive earlier and some later.

The four main stages, each of which incorporates substages, follow this basic sequence: • • • • birth to two years – sensorimotor stage; two to six years – pre-operational stage; six to 11 years – concrete operational stage; and 11 years to adult – formal operational stage. Progressively over these stages, children develop a range of faculties relevant to television advertising, including: • • • • • distinguishing advertising from program content; recalling and awareness of advertising; recognising and understanding persuasive intent of advertising; liking and skepticism of advertising; and cognitive defence to advertising.

Birth to two years The sensorimotor stage is marked by the child learning about and mastering the spatial and object-oriented world by developing and using reflexes, habits, reactions, coordination, early logic; understanding of objects as permanent even when out of sight; formulating and attaining goals; and emergence of creativity. Imitation of others’ actions, even machine actions, is an important part of the way the youngest of children learn about the spatial and object-oriented world.

Children at this stage usually view television, including advertising, with their parents; see the way their parents watch television advertising; and attend to interesting sounds, patterns and colours in advertisements (McNeal, 1992). Infants and toddlers can express desire for particular sounds smells and tastes and develop early feelings of want, early preferences for objects shown in advertisements and interest in, and preferences for, certain features of television advertisements themselves (Valkenburg & Cantor, 2002).

Two to six years The pre-operational stage is when children use mental symbols like words or pictures; demonstrate intuition; focus on the self; misrepresent the physical world (such as not understand complex cause and effect); focus on one characteristic of a thing (such as colour or shape); group objects on the basis of one dimension; and see some features (such as tallness) as larger than other features (such as wideness). Australian Communications and Media Authority 15 Television Advertising to Children

The implications for the role of television advertising at the preoperational stage can be broken down into a progression from age two until about age six or seven. Beginning around the age of two, children taken shopping by their parents begin to make requests for products during shopping visits (McNeal, 1992). Known as ‘pester power,’ 4 children at this age begin to nag and negotiate with their parents for items, demonstrating their focus on self and single qualities, or aspects of a product such as its ‘advertised fun’ (Valkenburg & Cantor, 2002).

By the time children are three years of age, they may start to exercise selection of products with their parents’ permission and supervision and sometimes make independent purchases or product selection decisions with parental supervision (McNeal, 1992). Distinguishing advertising from program content Children at the pre-operational stage do not distinguish advertising from program content and tend to view commercials as a form of ongoing entertainment in line with the programs they are watching (Blosser & Roberts, 1985; Buijzen & Valkenburg, 2003; Gunter, Oates, & Blades, 2005; Millwood Hargrave & Livingstone, 2006; Wartella, 1980).

It is not until about the age of five that children can demonstrate very simple awareness of advertising as distinct from television programming (McNeal, 1992; Kunkel et al. , 2004; Kunkel, 2001) where they can usually do no more than identify and label advertisements (John, 1999). Programs may separate advertising messages from programming content, either by prohibiting advertising during children’s programming or by using visual, aural or temporal buffers (such as bumper messages like ‘we’ll be back after these messages’) to indicate to children when a block of advertising begins and when it ends (Kunkel et al. 2004). The use of a bumper or separator between programming and advertising is effective at informing children of a change in content, even if it does not advise them specifically what the nature of that change is (for example, from entertainment to persuasion) or why it is presented (Ward et al. , 1977; Weigel & Watt, 1992). However Weigel and Watt (1992) found that between ages four and six, children were unreliable in their ability to understand the difference between a program and a commercial, even when separators between the two were used. Before the age of six, children do not understand the selling intent of advertising (Adler et al. , 1977; Bever, Smith, Bengen, & Johnson, 1975; Donohue, Meyer, & Henke, 1978; Meyer, Donohue, & Henke, 1978; Sheikh, Prasad, & Rao, 1974; Ward, Wackman, & Wartella, 1977) and are likely to see television advertising as an information source (Blosser & Roberts, 1985). Six to 11 years Called the concrete operational stage, this is a period in which children’s logical thinking is more developed.

At this stage, children can conceptualise multiple dimensions of a task or problem; easily reverse processes or orders of tasks to understand their relationships (such as in addition and subtraction of numbers); order objects or steps in serial fashion; recognise that physical objects can conserve their properties even though they may change other properties (such as the shape of a fixed amount of clay not changing the overall mass of the clay); classify objects according to one characteristic; and take the perspectives of others and imagine different physical points of view. 5 See RQ 5 for research on television advertising and children’s ‘pester power’. One explanation for this finding is that even children’s ability to identify ‘program’ from ’commercial’ increases between three and five years of age, but not between three and four or four and five. In other words, statistically robust differences in this line of research can only be discerned by relatively large developmental differences as determined by age as a proxy (Levin et al. 1982). Cognitive development operates universally in the same sequence, but not universally at exactly the same ages, which explains this measurement problem in research on advertising and children. 16 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children

The implications for the role of television advertising at this stage include slowly developing cognitive, rather than simple emotional, defences against advertising messages (Robertson & Rossiter, 1974); beginning to understand the persuasive intent of messages and the purpose of advertising; and having the ability to explain the persuasive purpose of advertising to others (John, 1999), but usually only when prompted by the questions of adults (Brucks, Armstrong, & Goldberg, 1988; Millwood Hargrave & Livingstone, 2006; Moore, 2004), because the persuasive purpose of advertising is not an extant and spontaneous concern of children of this age. The dimensions children use to discriminate among brands and to establish brand preferences increases by age. Their abilities may also be determined by whether they have experience with the particular class of product such as food versus toys versus apparel (Bahn, 1986). Thus, as children age, they develop more direct experience with consumer behaviour and have higher-level schema or pre-existing experiences on which to draw for their understanding. In other words, age and experience are paramount in understanding advertising and consumer domains.

Where there is interest in a product, children in the later years of the concrete operational stage demonstrate the ability to evaluate advertised products on a range of criteria and dimensions and consider alternative products to those advertised in specific advertisements (Valkenburg & Cantor, 2002). Recall and awareness of advertising Both recall and awareness of advertising develop and improve as children develop cognitive skills. Recall is the ability of children to remember products and brands that they have seen in television commercials, and awareness is their ability to recognise and understand the content of the message they are seeing. However, recall and awareness do not indicate children’s ability to comprehend the persuasive intent of advertising. Young children’s ability to recall advertising is poor and their ability to understand advertising is also limited.

A recent study of brand awareness and recall for 12 brand logos found that among 196 children aged two to eight years, older age related to improved memory, but not to improved brand recognition (Valkenburg & Buijzen, 2005). Another way of looking at this finding is to say that children have capacity to recall minor details, but that this capacity does not appear to predict comprehension in earlier years. The implication is that perception and recognition are developed early, but stimulus, storage and subsequent retrieval are abilities linked directly to developmental progression over a longer period. Children aged four to 10 years were tested for their recall and understanding of television advertisements in a study by Oates, Blades and Gunter (2002).

The researchers found that recall of advertising content increased by age and number of exposures, with children requiring only one exposure to the advertisement to recognise a product brand, but with the youngest children mainly unable to recall brand names after multiple exposures. 6 The researchers also found that ‘none of the 6-year-olds, only a quarter of the 8-year-olds and a third of the 10-year-olds discussed advertising in terms of persuasion,’ suggesting that recall does not indicate an ability to understand persuasive intent. Taken together, these studies indicate that the ability of children to recall television advertisements is primarily dependent on their cognitive capacity. Moreover, advertising awareness (recognition and understand messages) becomes more sophisticated over time. Recognise and understand persuasive intent of advertising

American research has found that children under seven years of age are unable to recognise the persuasive intent of advertising messages on television but that, by age seven or eight, 6 See further RQ 2 for research on the repetition of television advertising and children. 17 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children children have rudimentary skills with which to discern persuasive appeals (Kunkel et al. , 2004; Kunkel, 2001). Swedish research, by comparison, has found that this skill was developed at 10 to 12 years of age (Jarlbro, 2001), three to five years later than was reported by Kunkel and his colleagues.

In a study of 153 children ranging from five to eight years old, Bijmolt, Claasen and Brus (1998) found that most children were able to distinguish commercials from program content at this age and that the children displayed some insight into advertising intent when assessed using non-verbal measures such as drawing (verbal measures produced less evidence of insight). As with other studies, a child’s age was positively related to better comprehension and ability to distinguish advertisements from programs. Recent focus group research with 50 UK children aged seven to 11 found that children believe the primary role of advertising is to inform and that advertising uses persuasion or pressure primarily to compensate for inferior product (Duff, 2004).

Children also believed that humour and surprise resolution of problems in commercials contributed to their enjoyment. Despite this level of understanding, children themselves thought television advertisements influenced their knowledge of, and demand for, advertised products. Liking and scepticism of advertising As children’s cognitive abilities develop, their positive attitude to advertising begins to decline. As positive attitudes toward advertising decline steadily during the concrete operational period (Robertson & Rossiter, 1974), scepticism grows, with older children in this stage independently voicing criticism and distrust of the persuasive and commercial intent of advertising (Boush, 2001; John, 1999; Millwood Hargrave & Livingstone, 2006).

Early US research on the abilities of 120 children aged between six and 12 to think critically about sugared food products demonstrated that, as children aged, they were better able to evaluate products sceptically (Lambo, 1981). 7 By age eight, children understand advertising appeals and have the ability to reject them; however, many choose not to use this ability and generally do not feel the need to think critically about, or reject, advertising without prompting by an adult (Brucks et al. , 1988). After age eight, children tend to think negatively about television advertising to the point of finding it an irritation and interruption to their more goal-directed pursuits, such as enjoying a television program (Riecken & Yavas, 1990; Sheikh & Moleski, 1977). Cognitive defence to advertising

Cognitive defence is the ability to deflect, see through and think sceptically about advertising appeals. Cognitive defence is developed with age as trust, liking, scepticism, exposure to the commercial world and so on, are learned and used to counteract the use of tactics used by advertisers and marketers. A number of mediators have been found to limit the impact of advertisements and improve ‘cognitive defences’ at each stage of development. Parental communication and parenting styles are most important among these. However, the effect appears to be tiered with parents first affecting media literacy skills, which in turn affect how advertisements are understood and the subsequent degree to which they have an impact (Boush, 2001). Brucks, Armstrong and Goldberg (1988) demonstrated that children ages eight and nine have robust cognitive filters to understand and deflect television advertising appeals, but may choose not to use them. A sample of 102 year four students were divided by treatment and control conditions in which some were exposed to an educational film about how to ‘read’ 7 8 See further RQ 6 for research on television advertising and children’s food and beverages preferences. See further RQ 8 for research on the role of children’s media literacy. 18 Australian Communications and Media Authority Television Advertising to Children advertisements, while others were not.

In their record of responses to advertisements they had just viewed, children from both groups did not appear to be thinking sceptically or critically. Three days later, when quizzed on the intent and appeals of advertisements they had just viewed, children from both groups did appear to think sceptically and critically. Though the treatment group scored slightly higher than the control (18 versus 15 out of 20), the control group scored high enough to suggest they were sceptical and critical of their own accord. The authors argued that when cued to think sceptically, children at this cognitive developmental level are able to do so, but may not feel the need to respond critically to advertisements without being prompted to think about intent and appeals.

Eleven years to adult The formal operational stage formulates into adulthood by allowing young people to function cognitively much like adults, for example, to think abstractly and make inferences; to think in terms of probabilities and grades rather than absolutes; and to begin processing information on everything from morality to sexuality and social conditions. The implications for the role of television advertising at this stage are similar to those for adult viewers. In the period between ages 11 and 14, older children and younger adolescents demonstrate higher levels of cognitive processing and these, more than the assistance of training or the intervention of others, contribute to higher order understanding of the role and function of advertising messages (Robertson & Rossiter, 1974).

For example, the specific tactics and techniques used by professional communicators are better understood and this is combined with more sophisticated scepticism and thinking about the role of advertising in contemporary society (Boush, Friestad, & Rose, 1994). Children in the formal operational stage may not always detect persuasive intent in advertising. A longitudinal qualitative study of the formal features used in advertisements (such as repetition, testimonials, music and imagery) and children’s understanding of advertisements, indicated that many students missed the intent and sponsor behind many messages (Fox, 1995). Of 150 students in grades six to 12, only five said they recognised a commercial source or business behind a Pepsi soft drink commercial that Pepsi had stylistically designed to look like a public service announcement (Fox, 1995).

The implication of this research is that even though cognitive development predicts understanding about the intent of advertising and the formal features commonly used to convey it, commercial designers and producers may use other tactics that confuse or challenge the growing sophistication of older children and adolescents. AGE, MEDIA LITERACY AND INFLUENCE OF ADVERTISING The age-related development of higher levels of understanding of the function of advertising and ability to think critically about its intent and appeals has lead to the policy conclusion that younger children are necessarily more influenced by advertising than are older children.

Studies such as Brucks, Armstrong and Goldberg (1988) and Fox (1995) support the view that development by older children of cognitive defences to advertising does not mean they are not influenced by advertising. Early research on the content of television advertising directed to children indicated that language in advertising, while used to promote products, may be purposefully constructed to confuse younger children at lower levels of cognitive development (Bloome & Ripich, 1979). More recently, Livingstone and Helsper (2004) reviewed research on the formal features of television advertisements directed to children. They noted that different age groups responded to different formal stimuli in commercials.

For example, colours and characters tended to attract and affect younger children, and message text attracted older children. This research indicates that advertising may be created Australian Communications and Media Authority 19 Television Advertising to Children for children with their cognitive abilities in mind to leverage or accommodate their stage of cognitive development. Based on a review of two linked research literatures about advertising and children’s food choice, Livingstone and Helsper (2006) concluded that there was little empirical evidence cited in support of the claim that younger children are more vulnerable to advertising influence (p. 565).

They note anomalies in the literature, for example, Moore and Lutz (2000, cited in Livingston & Helsper, 2006) who found older children were more attentive to