The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Marketing to children by children – discuss
Categories: blogging
The Bailey Review, published in June, has set out to challenge the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.  This paper is by no means on the Mary Whitehouse scale of 70s prudity, but it’s a game changer none the less and it may yet have an effect the way we engage with brands through our blogs and even the comments we write about our children, which may be construed as some form of ambassadorship if free review products are proffered by brands.

(Reg Bailey – Author of The Bailey Report)

I welcome the thought leadership the report brings and think it’s important not just for the government and industry to debate but also for parents to gen up on what kids are consuming and make some reasoned judgments based on fact.  I don’t agree with all of it though and I’ll explain why later.

What should you know about what’s happening?  Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, has carried out an independent review looking at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.  The AA Childrens’ Panel has been set up as a group which will respond to the issues of marketing.

Reg Bailey calls on businesses and broadcasters to play their part and protect children from the increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds them.  The AA is working with a variety of organisations including the IAB to formulate a response which will be presented at a round table with David Cameron in October.

This isn’t just about the scandals published recently in the tabloids of girls under 10 saving up for surgery or having botox, it’s much more ubiquitous.  As a parent I do find some things a bit much – especially finding my daughter looking at ‘pretty bunny accessories’ the other day – she was looking at Playboy merchandise featuring the Play Bunny logo.  The penny dropped quite quickly that if boys her age knew what the logo stood for, the would expect girls wearing it to behave ‘on brand’, need I say more?

So in brief, the recommendations include the following points.  I agree with all except the last which is quite woolly and is also at risk of preventing good works if it is not discussed adequately;

  • putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos, and to guide broadcasters over when to show them
  • covering up sexualised images on the front pages of magazines and newspapers so they are not in easy sight of children
  • making every customer make a decision at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones, rather than receiving it automatically
  • retailers to offer more age-appropriate clothes for children and sign up to a code of practice which checks and challenges the design, buying, display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children
  • restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them, for example near schools, nurseries and playgrounds
  • giving greater weight to the views of parents above the general public in regulating pre-watershed TV
  • providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service
  • banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing, and improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children.

So why do I disagree with this final point?  I’ve been doing a lot of research around marketing to children over the last two years and believe it’s all about best practice and parental consent when it comes to enaging children in the commercial world.  Charities, education, sports and CSR initiatives all rely heavily on the support of children – think of the great work done by organisation such as the NSPCC and ChildLine.  Children also have the right to take on employment from the age of 13 and have many protective laws in place to support them, and they can also exercise their own Human Rights.

When I first read this report and had a long hard think about what it might mean, I thought of the high profile bloggers who are under 16 who write about brands and how it would affect them, and then wondered about how far reaching ambassador behaviour and p-2-p bans would stretch; no RT-ing on twitter?  Comments and likes on Facebook?  But I doubt it will go this far and I also think there is still space for children to be able to produce editorial material (which is defined by not being controlled by a brand).

However, it is worth looking at some bloggers, campaigns and media properties which involve children in a really positive way, please feel free to add any further examples in the comments section:

Guardian Children’s Book Club – kids can sign up to be reviewers and receive free books

Life Live it Now, British Red Cross - first aid education aimed at 10-16 year olds and working with teen bloggers

Teen Today - a blog for teens written by teens and lots of peer to peer discussion

Style Rookie – the teen fashion blogger who has made waves over the last few years and is much feted by the industry

And to conclude;  the Government has welcomed Mr Bailey’s analysis and the general approach of his recommendations which at this stage are still very top line and hypothetical. The Written Ministerial Statement which sets out the Government’s response is available in the News section of this website.  The Prime Minister’s letter to Mr Bailey can be read on the Number Ten website and a round table will take place in mid October, so check back on the links for updates. Alternatively, if you have a strong opinion or case study, do drop me a comment and I will pass it on to the IAB Social Media Council committee which is compiling proof points.

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1 Comment to “Marketing to children by children – discuss”

  1. http://www./ says:

    I’m so glad that the internet allows free info like this!

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