Influence of Animated Characters in Tv Advertising Towards Young Children

On average children between two and five years old spend more than 25 hours a week in front of a TV screen. Children between six and eleven years spend on average 23 hours per week. Children between two and five years old are exposed to more television commercials than older children and 50% of the commercials are being seen in playback mode by them1. The USA has one of the highest numbers of advertisements per hour on television. These factors have contributed to concern among parents, governments, consumer organization, etc.

about the influence of advertisements on young children.

Young children fail to evoke and utilize cognitive plans for storing and retrieving information, this is one of their big weaknesses. This weakness can lead to the hypothesis that young children are unaware of the selling purposes of television advertisements and therefore the fairness of television advertisements addressed to young children. In this sentence young children are between the age of two and eight years old.

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Advertising companies are using various techniques for television advertisements addressed towards young children, one of these techniques is the use of animated characters.

This paper discusses some studies about the influence of animated characters in television advertisements. These studies discuss if this technique may lead to brand preferences, what emotions and feelings it evokes, how the companies use animation in advertisements and the responses of children towards these advertisements. Some of the trends in the use of animated characters in television advertising have changed during time. The use of animated characters is a technique which has been used for quite some time now, and the changes during this time are mainly technical oriented.

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Images are still an important and integrated part of commercials and especially in advertisements towards children good position of animation can be key success. 1October 26, 2009, Patricia McDonough, SVP Insights, Analysis and Policy, The Nielsen Company 2|Page 2. Television advertising comprehension of children 2. 1 Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development The degree of which children are affected by television advertising is related to the way they process information.

Television advertising is communicating information about a product or service to persuade consumers for a positive response towards the brand, product or service. One of the theories that discusses the responses of children towards television advertising is the ‘’Piaget’s theory of cognitive development’’. This theory states that children are in different stages of perceiving and handling information from the environment. The theory is characterized by several stages; one of them is the ‘’preoperational stage’’ which is headed towards children from two to seven years old.

In this stage ‘’children have poorly organized ways of thinking about objects or ideas, concentrating only on dominant dimensions of a stimulus’’. This stage is also characterized by the rapid conceptual development and the development of language of children (Wadsworth, 1989) 2. 2 The Information-Processing Theory Research has been done about the effectiveness of ‘’Piaget’s theory of cognitive development’’, and (Roedder, 1981) discusses the ‘’information-processing theory’’ as a more effective approach to understand the reaction of children in different age groups to television advertising.

The information processing theory interprets age differences in children’s reactions to television advertising in terms of cognitive abilities to store and retrieve information (Roedder, 1981). According to this theory there are three different types of information processors; young children are part of the so-called ‘’cued processors’’ which means that they have the capacity to storage and retrieval strategies for remembering information, but they only use these strategies when they are asked to do so .

Very young children from the age of two to five years old are part of the ‘’limited processors’’ which means that these children cannot use these strategies to retrieve information or enhance learning, even when they are encouraged to do so. 3. Children’s Understanding of Television Advertisement Tammo H. A. Bijmolt, Wilma Claassen and Britta Brus (1998) investigated children’s understanding of TV advertisement; as decomposed into their recognition of the difference between programs and commercials and their comprehension of the selling intent of commercials, the study consists of 153 Dutch children, ranging from five to eight years old.

The study’s authors decomposed their research into the recognition of children of the difference between programmes and commercials and the comprehension of children of the selling intent of commercials and the hypotheses were measured by verbal and non-verbal measurements. Although children between the age of five and eight have some understanding of TV advertising, they had difficulties in answering verbally, which enforces the ‘’theory of information-processing’’ (Roedder, 1981) and the ‘’Piaget’s theory of cognitive development’’ (Wadsworth, 1989).

Young children (below six years old) pay more attention to ‘’perceptual cues’’ such as the length of the story, or jingles, or other visual effects rather than really understanding the purpose of advertising: the selling content. (Tammo H. A. Bijmolt, 1998). The knowledge of the advertising purposes for children differs from study to study. (Nash, 2002) argues that only 19% of the children under the age of seven were able to define television advertisement and distinguish this from a television program. Only a few children from the study were able to express the selling purpose of advertising.

Up to the age of eight years old there is a low comprehension and between the ages of 9-12 there is a medium comprehension (Evra, 1995). In general studies show that the comprehension of the selling intends of television advertising increases with age. But studies show different results from what age a child is able to understand the purpose; this is due to different samples and different questions during those studies. And one of the biggest drawbacks in all the studies is the fact that young children are still learning how to communicate, either in words, gestures or drawings which can be interpreted in many different ways. . Animated Spokes-Characters in Advertising The Federal Communications Commission of the United States stated in 1974 the following: ‘’ ’hostselling policy’ prohibits the use of ‘program talent or other identifiable program characteristics to deliver commercials” during or adjacent to children’s programming featuring that character’’ (Children's Educational Television Guide). The Commission found host-selling unfair towards children because it interweaves programs and commercials and it takes advantage of the trust that children places in program characters.

With this in mind Atkin (1975) researched the impact of host-selling in programs and commercials towards children from two to ten years old. Atkin (1975) was looking if the children were able to make a distinction between a commercial and a television program when using a ‘’animated’’ character. The method of this study was showing children a ‘Flintstone’ cartoon and directly afterwards a commercial which promoted a Flintstone character (host) or a Bugs Bunny character (nonhost) for ‘Pebbles’ cereals, then the question for the children was when did you see the Flintstone family eating cereals.

The results were that one fourth of the children said they saw Flintstone eating cereals in the television program rather than during the commercial. This result indicated that children of a younger age had trouble of distinguishing a television program from a commercial because of the use of the ‘Flintstone’ character (Mariea Grubbs Hoy, 1986) Margaret F. Callcot and Wei-Na Lee (1994) did research about the use of animated spokescharacters in commercials and explored what the overall level of animation is used in current television advertising.

She researched the following; ‘’How the use of animation differ among program audiences, product classes and product categories’’ and ‘’how the type of character employed is distributed across television program audiences and product categories’’. At last ‘’in what form do the majority of animated characters appear in, and how do they convey their message? ’’. The research compromises a total of 2,343 commercials, of these commercials 2. 2% were animated, 12. 2% contained a mixture of animation and live action and 85. 6% were non-animated. The research showed that 40. % of the animated advertisements are shown in stations such as Nickelodeon and Fox. Both of these stations have as audience children and youth. Animated commercials appeared most frequently during children’s programming and cartoons and the products which it advertised were mostly nondurable goods. Examples of nondurable goods are; snacks, cereals, toys and games. This research study has been done in 1994 and the most popular animated spokes-character used in this time was Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble, which appeared in 10 commercials (Margaret F. Callcott, 1994).

The findings of this research shows that children are mostly exposed to advertisements with animated characters. The animation market has changed a lot since 1994 therefore the animation used nowadays in television advertising differs in technique but also the characters have changed. ‘’Branded characters which are media characters that are associated with a company, and hence promote its brand name, appeal to children and youth’’ (Calvert, 2008). Companies have been using these branded characters by licensing to help selling a product of that company.

By using these characters marketers try to associate the products with the characters which appeal to children. A study done by Lu Yi Lan. (2010) reveals that ‘’spokes-characters with cartoon-like facial appearance and child voice-lip-synchronization create more ad credibility and ad attention. Acuff and Reither (1997) researched that children between the age of two and three years start recognizing and identifying characters when they are frequently exposed to them. This can be in the form of television programs, commercials, products, etc.

These children do not only recognize these characters but also start to desire the products of which a particular character is exposed. Acuff and Reither (1997) also recommended marketers to use animated spokes-characters in their marketing efforts toward children. (Acuff S. Dan, 1997). Research showed that children between the age of three and seven years old will relate positive to most cartoon characters within their age range such as ‘Disney’ characters, ‘Warner Brothers’ characters, ‘Pixar’ characters, etc.

Neeley and Schumann (2004) found that the sight and sound of spokes-characters influence audience attention to advertising. 5. Use of Animated Spokes-Characters Influence on Behavior 5. 1 Attitude towards Product Atkin (1975) found that television advertising does influence children and that according to his research children attend to and learn from commercials. Not only does it influence children but it also influences the attitudes and the desire towards products that are being advertised, mostly it creates a positive attitude.

Hoy (1986) also researched this area and used the same animations and cereals as Atkin (1975) but used a different sample of children and added some other research areas. Results that are found in both studies show that ‘’the type of cartoon, or host, the children viewed significantly affected an attitude change towards the product’’ (Mariea Grubbs Hoy, 1986). There was a difference however in one of the outcomes, Hoy (1986) results showed that the attitude towards the ‘’Pebbles’’ cereal almost remained unchanged when they had viewed a ‘’Flintstones’’ cartoon. ’ In contrast they liked the cereal more when they had seen the Bugs Bunny Cartoon. If a child likes the product because of the use of animated spokes-characters remains uncertain. Hoy (1986) proposed that the use of an animated character creates a positive attitude towards the product. Acuff and Reither (1997) state that ‘’A child’s beliefs and desires about a product (or product entity) may be moderated by the child’s affective evaluation of the character’’ 5. Attitude towards Brand Preference A study concerning children below 7 years in the United Kingdom researched the impact of television advertising on the children’s wish list for Santa Claus (Nash, 2002). During this study 118 children took part and several factors were examined, among these factors were the amount of time the children were watching television and the proportion of branded and non-branded products requested by children in their letters to Santa Claus.

The result of this study showed that children who watched more television were more likely to request more goods and also more branded goods. Nash (2011) notes that ‘’91% of heavy viewers of commercial television requested advertised products’’. The two most popular branded products were ‘Action Man’ and ‘Barbie’ as shown in table 1 (appendix 1). These results are not completely valid because these brand names are more frequently exposed to the children in advertisements and these brand names have been exposed for a longer time period then other branded goods or brand names.

This study does not show a direct correlation with the influence of animated characters in advertising but it does show to a certain degree if children tend to choose for branded products over non branded products. Studies generally do not reveal apparent results that a child has a brand preference for a product because of the use of an animated spokes-character nor is it certain that a child will intentionally choose for the product. (Schumann, 2004) 6. Conclusion

Animated spokes-characters are created to represent products in television advertising and some of these animated spokes-characters are already familiar with children because of the use of them in carious television programs. Several studies indicate that young children are affected by television commercials and the use of animated characters in three areas; character and product recognition, a high level of attention towards the commercial and a high degree of product liking. But the use of animated characters in commercials does not necessarily lead to brand or product preference or intention to choose the product over other products.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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Influence of Animated Characters in Tv Advertising Towards Young Children. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Influence of Animated Characters in Tv Advertising Towards Young Children essay
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