Calls to ban advertising to children are valid and necessary to protect them because they are a vulnerable group that should be protected in marketing efforts. Concerns about the impact of marketing on this group are valid because of their information processing capability. Children might be unable to process and understand the targeted message to use them correctly during their decision-making process. According to Hudders et al. (2017), children are unable to process and understand embedded advertisements. Furthermore, advertisers take advantage of this fact to unethically target children with their campaigns because children “naively” accept whatever they hear or see and cannot decipher the impact of the information. They believe that the marketed benefits of the product are real. For example, when a Coke advert shows the kind of pleasure they will generate from consuming the product, children readily believe without considering the impact of the calories contained in the product. Therefore, as a society, a ban on advertising to children is valid to protect them from the detrimental effect of marketing campaigns that target them.
Many advertisements targeting children are manipulative and take advantage of their inability to process the information and understand the actual impact of the product. Since marketersunderstand that children are young and lack the developmental capability to comprehend their messages, they design and package the information and content in a way that will persuade them to buy. Although children are not the actual buyers, their influence plays a crucial role in the parent’s buying decision (Shabbir, 2016). Unfortunately, children cannot understand or decipher the advertising process and the impact of the information contained in them, which contributes to child-parent conflict when they fail to understand why their parents disagree with their choice of product (Khanna, P 2016). Children might be good learners able to interpret texts but have limited capacity to engage with the message and decipher its actual meaning or impact (Parry, 2016). For example, while an adult might understand that a tennis ball will not instantly make them famous, a child will desire the product in an advert that shows a tennis ball helping a player conquer the world. Unfortunately, marketers take advantage of this vulnerability to present targeted information to children to improve their sales (Elliott, 2017). As a result, society is responsible for protecting them from negative influence until they are old enough to distinguish the “good” and “bad” advertising.
The administration in the country and globally should understand and mitigate the severe impact of advertisements targeting children. Unlike in the past, when they only received information from the conventional media, they are in worse danger today due to the increase in the number of media platforms with targeted information, including social media (Lapierre et al. 2017). The different advertising environment, such as the myriad information available on social media is challenging and detrimental to children (Verhellen et al. 2014). For example, it is now common for children to come across a company advertising a tasty burger on social media, which instantly influences their decision without considering the detrimental impact on their health. Arguably, unethical marketing to children is one contributor to the high rate of obesity (García et al. 2019). Such are the claims that have led to current calls and campaigns to end marketing and advertising targeting children directly.
Advertisement targeting children ignore the fact that they are still developing and have not attained the cognitive potential to make critical decisions, making them vulnerable to misleading information. In many marketing studies, 12 years is regarded as a milestone for advertising purposes (De Jans et al. 2018). However, many marketers target children below this age with information that could mislead their decision regardless of their lack of cognitive and emotional capacity to decide they are incapable of understanding the detrimental implications of some products, such as food, on their health (Lavriša &Pravst, 2019; Vergeer et al. 2019). Furthermore, before age 12, children cannot critically and skeptically process advertising messages and use them to make misleading decisions about what they consume (De Jans et al. 2018). Besides, they lack self-control and can consume anything oblivious of the impact as long as a marketer indicates its positive attributes. Hence, they can consume unhealthy and detrimental products due to the marketing influence. As a result, many marketing campaigns are more harmful to children than useful, especially those advertising appealing high-calorie foods, and society should ban them to protect children.
Children have limited sources of information that they might use to make informed decisions about their consumption patterns. Unlike adults who can interact with information and gather more facts from other sources, children are limited to whatever they view in the media, such as TV adverts. For instance, they also lack personal experience or have the cognitive capacity to seek knowledge elsewhere. Thus, whatever message they get from the media, they are likely to use it immediately without further exploration. Besides, they are also unaware that media advertisement is persuasive and that marketers are unlikely to include any information to harm their campaigns. They use the positive attributes only, which is significantly misleading. They are unaware that marketers could easily deceive them into believing what they want the audience to believe (De Veirman et al. 2019). Even parents agree that advertisement to children, especially the current use of influencers, is meant to charm them into believing misleading information. Thus, policymakers should take the initiative to ban advertisements targeting children to protect them from misleading information.
Marketing to children is one of the most feasible activities for companies because children are an important segment. However, calls abound regarding the negative impact of marketing on this vulnerable population. Children lack the cognitive capacity to process information and make informed decisions. As a result, they can be easily misled to believe whatever they hear or see instead of rationally considering the consequences. For example, while a mother takes time to analyze information about buying a toy, a child will believe that a doll can cry while it is only a marketing strategy. Therefore, they need protection from negative marketing and related effects. The vulnerability and effects necessitate means to protect them, such as creating measures to ban marketing campaigns targeting children. The government and other stakeholders should develop policies that bar advertising, which is targeting this vulnerable population.
Marketing and Gender
The role of gender in media is a topic that research has focused on for a long time, considering the role of communication in perpetuating traditional gender roles. As a result, even marketing reflects the gendered reality of women assigned to either men or women. Marketing communications adapt to the conventional ideas since they are also social constructs, and marketers are part of the social or cultural space. Marketing and advertising use the gendered images of the male and female models because it is what the audience seeks. For example, they believe the audience wants to have a female figure in a marketing campaign for a cleaning product. Besides, they also want to conform to culture since marketing and advertising occur within a cultural context. Unfortunately, only a few marketing campaigns strive to challenge gendered ideas in marketing and advertising. Regardless of any change in gender roles and the improvement of women in many areas of life, marketing and advertising still perpetuate stereotypes, sexism, gender inequality, and heteronormative practices.
The marketing and advertising industry has always been gendered and reflects women’s traditional subordination in society. The image of admen has ruled the industry and made its way into modernity, focusing on modernity and masculinity of ad and marketing campaigns production (Prieler et al. 2015; Timke&O’Barr 2017). The media has always asserted female subordination in capitalism and mass consumption, creating gendered divisions within the industry and gender construction in society at large. Male dominance in the advertising and marketing industry is still evident regardless of the efforts of women to achieve equality (Otterbring et al. 2018). Women have, for decades, fought the inequality, but they are strongly entrenched in society such that gender segregation is evident in social production processes, including advertising and marketing.
Regardless of the emergence of “femvertising” (which focuses on ads that show women in empowered roles and higher status), gender stereotypes, sexism, gender inequality, and heteronormative practices persist in marketing. Marketing ads still depict them mainly in traditional disempowered roles and lower status (Grau & Zotos 2016). The patterns of female portrayal in marketing ads are evident globally. Research on the effectiveness of this kind of marketing presents contradictory findings, some confirming effectiveness, others suggesting adverse outcomes (Zawisza et al. 2018). For example, questions emerge regarding the traditional versus non-traditional portrayal in media ads for food and cleaning products. There is a widespread perception that portraying women in stereotyped and sexist roles will be more effective than using men in similar roles in such ads. However, the actual impact on perpetuating the traditional negative portrayals of women cannot be ignored.
Marketing and advertising focus on the gendered role of most societies around the world. While it is more common in some societies than others, especially in paternalistic settings, no part of the world has completely addressed it. Marketing campaigns align with the target gender, perpetuating gender stereotypes and sexism. For example, in India and other traditionally paternalistic communities, gender roles remain unchallenged in social marketing. Family hierarchy and traditional marriage practices remain common in marketing since marketers believe it is what the audience seeks. A good illustration of this gendered marketing in India is the prominent MTR advertisement shows (Jain & Pareek, 2018). In one of the shows, a daughter-in-law is cast in the kitchen preparing various foods for the larger family, and immediately she begins cooking, she develops multiple hands, replicating Goddess Durga. She finishes preparing all the dishes without any help to her family’s surprise. In such societies, it is almost impossible to challenge gendered roles. Besides, the ad reflects heteronormative practices since they give women the role of wife and family nurturer while the man waits to be served. Overall, they affirm the traditional place of the women and wife in the kitchen.
Evidently, many marketing and advertising campaigns have engaged in minimal efforts to challenge gendered stereotypes and gender inequality in society. Conversely, they have welcomed the idea and aligned themselves with the conventional gender roles. They have created marketing and advertising campaigns that focus on the differences between the two genders (Grau & Zotos, 2016). For example, marketing campaigns targeting men as the primary audience and tend to use women in a sexualized manner to satisfy the male gaze and attract them to the campaign. Women are used in numerous marketing efforts to sell various products and services because the campaigns believe that the audience wants to see women in such roles. The female figure has been used for marketing for many years and remains evident to support the male gaze.
Companies have always created products categorized as men and women. Thus, marketers perceive gender stereotypes are the most effective way to sell their gendered product (Åkestam et al. 2021). For instance, they manufacture goods meant for each gender and market them to achieve their objectives. After all, they work according to traditional gender roles that society has already constructed. They also affirm that although women are empowered, they are not equal in their communities (Al-Bakr et al. 2017). Therefore, they will use women to market feminine perfume or lotion and do the same with men’s products. However, they also use women in a sexualized manner to sell male products (Andersson & Schytt 2017). In essence, marketers use the female body in a sexist way to appeal to males.
Media has always played a role in perpetuating gender roles and stereotypes. For example, it has always worsened gender inequality instead of engaging in efforts to create equality between men and women. This issue has been more evident in marketing and advertising, where gendered roles determine which role the creator assigns to men or women. Since the issue is apparent globally but worse in patriarchal communities, marketers believe that the audience expects the differences and will accept the stereotyped roles. Therefore, regardless of efforts to addresses the stereotypes and inequality, they will persist in the future of marketing and advertising since no movement has effectively challenged stereotypes, sexism, gender inequality, and heteronormative practices.
Ethical consumer behavior is necessary for the modern environment in which there is a lack of proper balance between marketing and demands for sustainability. Ethical consumers evaluate their buying decisions and use information from different alternatives before purchasing one over others. Since they ensure that businesses operate ethically and responsibly, their motives include political, religious, spiritual, environmental, social, and other factors that influence their decision-making when buying or interacting with businesses. For example, concerns about the environment could influence a decision to purchase products from companies marketed as green or environmentally conscious. Ethical consumers are concerned about the impact of their buying decision and the consumption of a specific brand over another. The process also affects producers of goods since they have to understand other criteria that consumers are likely to use when making their buying decision. While consumers increasingly purport to have entered the ethical consumer movement, the argument is that the movement is misleading, and it is impossible to be ethical consumers.
The potential of ethical consumption is one of the most controversial topics in marketing. The most debatable question is whether being socially and environmentally responsible would attract consumers while violating corporate social responsibility goals would lead to customers boycotting products or services from the company (Carrigan & Attalla 2001). After all, such decision-making is at the core of ethical consumption. However, the decision-making to purchase or boycott products or services is not as simple or straightforward as it appears because many other factors influence the process. Consumers consider various other factors besides business ethics before deciding which company to buy from. For example, some customers consider the cost of a product or service to decide whether to buy it or choose an alternative. Thus, some scholars argue that companies may obtain minimal rewards for being ethically responsible. Some firms have already established strong consumer following and loyal customers who rarely consider ethics to purchase their products. They wait for the next product in the market to purchase regardless of information regarding their ethical production or marketing (Iglesias et al. 2020). The behavior makes the idea of ethical marketing a fallacy.
The ethical consumer is simply a type of consumer activism conservatively founded on the ideas of dollar voting. The model is evident through the increasing notion of “positive buying” or “moral boycott” of products that do not meet ethical or socially responsible production or marketing (Giesler & Veresiu 2014). The movement has taken roots in all regions globally, primarily through technology that sends a message about the importance of ethical consumption. For example, apps such as Good Guide, Good On You, iRecycle, and Joule Bug, increasingly inform consumers what to purchase and consume and boycott in the market. Besides, ethical consumer advocates have substantial social media following with people seeking information about companies that embrace ethical decision-making in their production (Doyle 2016). For example, a celebrity vegan will influence many people to consume or boycott brands based on ethical production and marketing. Overall, they have created a debatable idea of ethical consumption that might not be relevant in reality.
Ethical consumption is primarily limited to the information provided by marketers about their corporate social responsibility, which might not be factual in reality. The information is biased and objective since it is one-sided, and consumers might lack any means of validating it (Wang et al. 2021). For example, in the fair trade movement, consumers increasingly seek companies that have adopted social and environmental sustainability criteria in their production and marketing. However, the question remains about the criteria consumers use to validate compliance with demands at the firm level (Jones 2019). The bulk of information about the product or brand will emanate from the company and their marketing departments, which will provide the “facts” that they are sure consumers want to hear (Gillani & Kutaula, 2018). Companies carefully craft their corporate social responsibility message to ensure that it aligns with what consumers are seeking. Since they decide based on misleading information, any ethical consumption based on subjective information is actually not valid and could be highly misleading, causing the conclusion that ethical marketing is a myth.
Information to support the impossibility of ethical consumerism is the ongoing evidence of unethical business operations in companies operating in various parts of the world, such as poor working conditions, sweatshops, and child labor. The success of some of these companies supports the claim that there are few rewards for being ethical and fewer penalties for firms that violate ethical production and marketing (Carrigan, 2017). Besides, globally, there is limited information regarding ethical consumption, leading consumers to seek products that meet their needs without considering how ethically they are produced. Consumer attitude-behavior gaps remain evident despite increasing interest in producing goods globally (Shaw 2016). Besides, evidence exists showing that some companies actually “greenwash” their credentials, suggesting that the information they provide about their ethical activities is actually misleading (Kubiak (2016). With all such claims, it is challenging to uphold ethical consumerism since ethical consumerism operates from a theoretical point but has practically failed to make companies accountable.
The rise of ethical consumerism is a great idea, but it is impossible to achieve in the capitalist economy. The world would be a better place if consumers bought from ethical companies and boycotted those with unethical practices. However, this does not happen in practice because the decision-making process is quite complex. Customers are driven by other factors beyond ethics when deciding to buy, such as the firm with their favorite brand or product or offering the best price in the market. Others lack information about ethical business practices and do not consider it when making a buying decision. Furthermore, in ethical consumerism, the most significant burden to behave ethically lies with the firm instead of the consumer explaining the tendency to provide wrong or misleading information that makes them appear ethical. As a result, companies globally continue to violate ethical considerations when producing and marketing their products. Therefore, ethical consumerism occurs in theory, and it is practically impossible.