It is no secret that marketing professionals direct much of their attention towards the impressionable population. With over a quarter of the U.S. population being under the age of 20, advertisers have a large demographic who have yet to make up their mind on which brands and products they will be loyal to throughout their lives. Several media outlets that are primarily used by the younger generation are inundated with prospective marketing ideas that look to gain the customer loyalty of future adults. These ads range from mundane to very controversial and arguable inappropriate.
Whether it is the nature and appearance of the advertisement or simply the product being advertised, companies have continued to use tactics that look to exploit children by playing on their vulnerability and susceptibility to attractive ads.
Few platforms reach as many people as the social media site Facebook. As of 2014, there are nearly 180,000,000 users in the U.S with over 50% of these users being in the 18-34 demographic. Because this age group is of particular interest to advertisers, extreme measures have been taken to ensure that advertisements reach their intended audience. Several factors are being used and interpreted to target specific audiences in order to match them with the ads that would be of particular interest. Not only is the content of the advertisements controversial, but the methods used in the process are bordering on invasive to the user's privacy, especially unsuspecting children. With nearly 22 million children under the age of 18 frequenting the site (7 million under the age of 13, despite being a violation of Facebook's policies), the potential risks for advertisers is far outweighed by the benefit of being able to reach and influence such a large number of future consumers.
|Age statistics show that Facebook is nothing short of gold mine for advertisers.|
Fast Food Advertising & Obesity
It is no secret that the fast food industry spends a staggering amount of money on advertising each year. In fact, 4.6 billion dollars was spent in 2012 on advertising that glamorized their extremely unhealthy products. Because children make such a distinct impact in the industry, many marketing campaigns were aimed at children who have the ability to convince parents to spend their money at one of the many convenient establishments. Though only about a quarter of the population in the U.S. is under 20, fast food advertisers spend nearly half of their money on this vulnerable demographic.
In 2012 it was reported that nearly a third of all U.S. children could be considered obese or overweight. Ironically, over the same period that obesity grew exponentially, the amount of young smokers has decreased dramatically. A very strong reason for both of these trends can be traced back to the limited amount of advertising allowed for the tobacco industry and the vast amount of advertising permitted for fast food. Children are exposed to nearly 4,000 fast food-related ads per year and the effects of these can be seen in the obesity rate as well as the overall decline in the health of society. The same children who grew up watching thousands of fast food commercials have become obese and unhealthy adults, costing the government and taxpayers a significant amount of money. The impact of advertising on this nationwide downward health trend is not the only culprit, but remains a major factor in the obesity rates.
Advertisers are often presented with a plethora of moral and ethical decisions to make regarding the content they expose to the public. Due to the profitability of marketing to children, it is unlikely that we will see an end to campaigns directed at younger generations. It is the responsibility of the professionals in the industry to hold each other to a higher ethical standard.