Marketing: it’s not child’s play

The Chartered Institute of Marketing is calling on businesses and marketers to be more socially minded and responsible in its latest paper on marketing to children, ‘Leave Those Kids Alone? – Responsible marketing to children’. Following industry and government debate – from the Bailey Review to the Alcohol Marketing Bill – the paper examines the current moral and regulatory framework surrounding the commercialisation of children, and looks at how organisations can employ best practice — balancing what is ‘right’ both legally and morally.

Earlier this year, The Chartered Institute of Marketing welcomed the Bailey Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Children and its call for responsibility from industry. Further to the review, the Institute argues that rather than an out-right ban on talking about or promoting certain issues or products to children, marketing practice can be enlisted to help inform public opinion and provide public education.

The paper discusses the need for marketers to strike a balance: while a cotton wool approach might not create adults able to make educated decisions, action does need to be taken. The paper considers how social marketing tactics can help provide support to parents and people working with young people who are looking for guidance about exposing young people to commercial messaging. An example of this is the government’s Change4Life campaign which has helped thousands of families change their attitudes and behaviour towards health and fitness.

This responsible approach is also at the heart of the Alcohol Marketing Bill, which is being debated in the House of Commons to reduce the exposure of children to the marketing of alcohol products.

David Thorp, director of research and professional development, “The issue of marketing to children is one of morals, rather than one bound by regulation; meaning that the whole supply chain – from product development, to marketing to shelf stocking – needs to apply reasonable objectivity to ensure that products and services are appropriate. As such, the recommendations and parameters set by the Bailey Review earlier this year are encouraging.

“We recommend that businesses and individuals apply a rational, sensible and ethical approach to their marketing practices. In particular, if we listen to parents, and comply with their wishes, this will be good for consumers and good for business.”

The Institute is calling on the marketing profession to consider an increased industry-parental dialogue to understand further what parents deem acceptable levels of commercial messaging and approaches; giving parents a positive increase in control and, in turn, the industry an invaluable insight to listen and respond in a measured way. This is a responsible approach which is increasingly important on the back of whistleblowing website, ParentPort, launched by David Cameron this month.

Key recommendations from the Leave Those Kids Alone? – Responsible marketing to children paper:

Marketers should be responsible and not promote a product that is, or is widely believed to be, bad for a minor’s physical or mental health.

A campaign should be mindful of the audience and not sexualise, or be perceived to sexualise, minors.

It is important not to bombard children or parents with repeated messages.

Where there is any doubt, marketers should promote the product or service to the adult and not the minor.

The full report is available at http://www.cim.co.uk/resources/ethics/mktingtochildren.aspx (authored by Mark Blayney Stuart, Head of Market Research at the CIM – Chartered Institute of Marketing and pictured here).

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