A few years ago, a Eurisko research on children between 2 and 11 years old, showed that in the family, many of the purchasing decisions, including in the food sector, are taken directly on the instructions of the children. They decide what to eat, when and what to buy at the supermarket. Another survey not only confirms this trend but compares these data with the past: if in 1960 only 24% of children chose what to eat and in 1980 the percentage reached 53%, the current figure is that as many as 86% of children decide what to eat. This is the field means that children have taken on the role of consumer-guides and are therefore the target of the commercials dedicated to them.
In this regard, the Italian Society of Pediatrics carried out a survey whose results were presented to the “National Consensus on childhood obesity” (2006). If a child were to watch a national network for 2 hours a day in the time slot between 15 and 18, during which specific programs are broadcast for him, he would be subjected to 31,500 commercials in a year, of which 5,500 of food ( sweet and savory snacks, soft drinks, biscuits, snacks, etc.). This should make us reflect on the role that advertising has in influencing the desires, models, tastes, and eating habits of children. Furthermore, there is a further danger: the possibility of disrespectful and inadequate attitudes of the boys to whom the protagonists of the commercials are proposed as models, always thin, beautiful and in perfect shape while eating high-calorie products at will.
In fact, advertising is not limited to selling only products, but models and ways of being. The context of the advertisements and the settings with which they are processed are always positive. The protagonists of the TV commercials are always portrayed as winners, surrounded by friends and relatives, in a happy and dynamic environment. The models proposed have a highly attractive effect for the youngest, as they are linked to widespread and shared models and behaviors. In some ways, children and young people in front of advertising are exactly like adult consumers: they seek the satisfaction of a need through the purchase of a certain product. Advertising offers them attractive alternatives. But to increase the charm of the commercials and to make it one of the most popular genres by the younger generations, who gladly memorize a large number of commercials, as well as a series of details ranging from jingle to packaging, are above all other elements:
- The space-time brevity of the messages, which allows a type of intense fruition in a relatively short period of time;
- The simplicity of the situations; familiar and easily recognizable situations are usually presented;
- The verb-iconic simplicity of the commercials, in which terms associated with the images presented on the screen are privileged;
- The attraction of the proposed models, which contain widespread examples of behavior, therefore accepted by the peer group;
- The process of identification that occurs thanks to the everyday life of the scenes presented, which are easily associated with one’s personal experience. The presence of children in the commercials also contributes to this process, representing a real magnet for young spectators;
- The climate of the spot, which usually presents itself as cheerful and predominantly optimistic; moreover, in the commercials aimed specifically at children, all difficult situations are resolved positively and people are happy. We try to give, therefore, a reassuring vision of reality.
But the most important quality is the speed of memorization, which adapts to the limited attention spans of the youngest thanks to the presence of songs, simple rhythms, puns, and rhymes. Memorization is one of the purposes with which an advertising spot is created: the repetition of the same spot throughout the day is not accidental. All this has the aim of creating an awareness of the product, which must be associated with a good or desirable universe. In essence, it is a question of creating an impression rather than giving information, of persuading through emotional mechanisms, rather than through rational mechanisms. Therefore it is important to teach kids to reverse engineer advertisements and uncover the marketing strategies used by companies to sell their products.