Children and marketing: Reg Bailey’s review entitled ‘Letting Children Be Children: the Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood‘ should be prescribed reading for educators concerned about the influence of marketing.
Bailey, Chief Executive of The Mothers’ Union, carried out the independent review to investigate the pressures on children to “grow up too quickly”.
Among the review’s many recommendations, the possibility of regulatory control over marketing messages by banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing is a contentious one. The current advertising landscape features children second only to women and pets as a emotional ‘hook’ in their selling propositions. It’s a truism that we all respond to a child’s innocence or mannerisms. We will all listen when a child speaks.
Self-regulation and more teeth for the ASA?
Reg Bailey himself and the Prime Minister David Cameron appear to agree that a self-regulatory understanding within the marketing industry would be preferable, with perhaps more teeth given to the Advertising Standards Authority for one. However, Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families at the Department of Education, said that the introduction of new legislation should not be ruled out and we should “crack down on irresponsible advertising and marketing.”
Legislation in this instance reminds me of the myth of Hans Brinker, the little dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. It may help stop the ‘flow’ of unwanted commercialisation from one rather debatable source.
Unfortunately, it is not the only hole in the dyke.