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January 27, 2005


A) Who are the children you are trying to protect (what age range)?

I'd say ages 3 to 12, very roughly. Over 12 is a wildly different set of problems.

B) How do you know when children are the targets?

Actually, I think "you just do" is a good answer (I mean, you do). When it's a product that would reasonably be bought for or by children only. Happy Meals at McDonalds, for heaven's sake. Or Barbie. Or ultra-sweet breakfast cereal. Yes, there probably are adults who buy Happy Meals, and I know there are adult collectors who buy Barbies and Barbie stuff, and very likely there are adults who like having cookies and milk for breakfast and kidding themselves it's a bowl of cereal - but the audience for these items is wholly or mainly children.

C) Is regulating 'deceptive' advertising enough? Advertising Honey-Soaked Sugar Puffs as "tasty and sweet" isn't deceptive, but it probably the kind of stuff you are trying to control.

No, it's not. The point about regulating advertising targeted at children is not so much that it's deceptive (though Honey-Soaked Sugar Puffs are not tasty, just sweet) but that it's attempting to sell to a market that has no money and not much learned discrimination of its own. It's setting up a want in the full knowledge that the child will get it, if it does, by pestering its parents for it.

D) Is this last paragraph I quote a fair statement? Perhaps we need to have enough parents who are willing to actively change the culture of peers.

Well, yes. But then, the adverts targetted at children are a deliberate, massively-funded attempt to prevent parents from changing the culture of peers. If what we want (and I think this is an actively good thing) is for parents to actively change the culture of peers, why not make it just that bit easier for them by forbidding corporations to kick their efforts down?

Here in Norway they do not allow advertising targeted toward children. Cartoons and children's programming must be commercial free, be it on the State channels or Nickelodeon.

I never would have said I agreed with limiting advertising (speech) until I got kids. And while I do see it as limiting speech in a theoretical way, pragmatically I can't see who is harmed by limited advertising toward children.

Young childres cannot distinguish between true statements and advertisements. If an attractionpark says that they have the place 'where dreams come true' my children (2, 4 and 6) think that there dreams *will* come true and it is very hard to tell them that that is not true. With my 6y old we had a hard time explaining the difference between jokes and lying for instance - and it is still not completely clear.

I think that they *should* learn to weapon themselves against commercials when they are a bit older. They will live in an add-dominated world, so they must know how to handle them. So as from ca. 10 adds would be less of a problem.

My kids don't watch a lot of Dutch tv because they show commercials there(not much, but more than I want). I prefer either the neigbours or our DVD collection.

I don't mind television for kids, there are some nice programs on. I don't mind computers for kids either. I *do* believe it is important that a kid does a lot of different things. So a bit of tv, a bit of computer, a bit of reading, a bit of playing outside, a bit of playing with other kids, a bit of creative fantasygames, a bit of sports...

Most times you know the ad is aimed at kids when it adresses kids (*you* instead of *they*) or when the emphasis is mostly on things kids appreciate (sweet taste instead of lots of vitamines).

If you really think they are cut of from peers by not discussing it, you might compensate by giving them something else worthwile to talk about (popular concert, nice film), or you can buy the dvd, or you can tape and cut the ads (or download the stripped version, if that is not illegal in your country), or you can sit next to your children and teach them the (on)truth in advertising.

All of that requires effort and time, but that is kids for you ;-)

*ads*. darn abbreviations...
And "neighbours" = neigbouring countries (on rereading that might not be clear)

Tivo for Tots.

Basically what dutchmarbel said, learned the hard way with my first kid. Before she started preschool, we'd let her watch cartoons on tv. Pretty soon, every time a toy commercial would come on she'd say "I wan dat!" It's a good thing her preschool had a no-tv on schooldays policy, because it showed us that she is a diferent kid without tv stimulation -- more patient, better concentration, mellower. So we limit tv.
When she got a bit older we started talking about commercials, as they came on, and explained that they try to make things seem so wonderful so you'll buy them. "Why?", she asked. "Because they want our money, sweetie." We compare ads of toys with toys she's actually played, and pointed out how they're not as exciting in real life. She's in elementary now, and she's started to internalize that skpetical view of advertising.
Of course now it's the smaller one that's now at the "I wan dat!" stage.

Norway sounds awesome. Except for the weather.

Here in Norway they do not allow advertising targeted toward children.

I recall that Norway also has a number of other advertising restrictions. From this link

An interdisciplinary part-time curriculum has been developed in teaching education about "Needs and Cravings: New Perspectives on Consumer Knowledge", based on distant learning, as for example, placing emphasis on the counter effect of unhealthy ideals promoted through advertising. A module of this programme includes way of life, gender roles, and conceptions about the ideal body. The study programme is built on the "Plan for Continuing Education in Consumer Knowledge" from 2000.

The Marketing Act
The Marketing Act, §1, second clause, regulates gender-discriminating advertising. The Consumer Ombudsman is enforcing the law. The paragraph is aimed at advertisements that utilise the bodies of persons of one gender that tend to give an offensive or derogatory evaluation of a woman or a man, or that in another manner is in conflict with the principle of equal value between genders.

It will be illegal utilisation in the sense of the Act when the body is made central in the advertisement, for example because it is posed in an unnatural manner in relation to the natural use of the product. The paragraph is aimed at advertisements where the body is used to draw attention to the marketing attempt in a way serves to weaken the general value of the human being.

In addition to this, advertisements that attribute unfortunate qualities to one gender will be targeted; for example, the assertion that women are impracticable or men are unscrupulous. In particular, representations that are targeted are those that explicitly say something about the relationship between woman and man, and go on to ascribe to one gender invidious qualities. Examples of such advertisements are presentations in which the man is superior, responsible for the family's economy, etc., with the woman put into dependent, subordinate roles.


The Consumer Ombudsman's Office received 38 complaints about gender discriminatory advertising in 2001, 37 in 2000, 64 in 1999, 81 in 1998, and 95 in 1997.

I remember that this was greeted with a lot of scepticism, so I wonder of platosearwax could give some impressions of it.

I'm not sure what the answer is, as I worry that any effort to have parents determine what their children may be exposed to will be hijacked by creationists or ID types. But it is truly ironic that anything sexual can be the focus of massive amounts of wailing and gnashing of teeth (wardrobe malfunctions anyone?), but it is difficult to imagine a commission tackling a problem like this.

lj -
out of curiosity, am I correct in thinking that japanese kids are maximally saturated with tv, media and advertising? Is there a significant city/country divide? etc.? Thanks.

am I correct in thinking that japanese kids are maximally saturated with tv, media and advertising?

That's really hard to say. It is saturated, but there are much more stringent limits that are enforced strictly, so you can't get the sort of one upsmanship that you get with American TV. NHK can't show any advertising and this is very strictly adhered to (there have been cases where fines were given for allowing logos to appear in controlled scenes) Commercial broadcasters can, but stay well within the guidelines (link below) This is biased towards advertisers who can portray happy families (lots of fast food adverts with families merrily sharing their fries) and against hard hitting 'you gotta get this' ads (though there are those, but they are generally targeted at boys, which suggests that perceived gender roles mitigate this for the girls and since I have two daughters, the boys commercials don't have much of an impact.)

Within these strict limits, though, advertising is everywhere (the last time I was on a train in Tokyo, when it went through a tunnel, there was an advertisement that was projected on the wall of the tunnel from the train) In one way, this is great, because in some ways, people become so inured to it that they ignore it. On the other hand, Japanese are trained to become consumers, and it is really shocking to see how much they do consume. My daughter is 5, but we are trying to keep the home environment in English as much as possible, so she doesn't see so much of the advertising, so I'm not sure if other kids are demanding that their parents buy them this or that.

Here is the English version of the NAB code (National Association of Broadcasters) 87 to 113 deal with advertising, and 89 says "Care is to be taken in advertising so that it will not overly stimulate children's desire to obtain advertised article or object." How that is handled is not very clear, but broadcasters self regulate and the effect is to not try and push the envelope. This also has led many critics to complain that the japanese media does not question the status quo and avoids political problems. I'm not sure if the tradeoff is for the best (I sometimes have a hard time undestanding why Japanese people don't express more frustration with the government), but as far as for children, while not as good as Norway, it is preferable to the US.

Related to that is an interesting development concerning nationalist groups and NHK. A documentary concerning the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery was scheduled to be aired in 2001 on NHK. When it was aired, most of the documentary material was dropped. The documentary producer filed a suit against NHK alleging political pressure. It is now being reported that at least two LDP politicians met with NHK to pressure them. this link is to the H-Japan mail list, a series of posts make for interesting reading. Hope that comes a bit towards addressing your question.

"Japan's Military Sexual Slavery"

Comfort women, they were called in the Philippines.

LJ, off-topic question for you -- do you happen to know any alternate history (fictional what-if) scenarios for world war 2 with Germany losing but Japan losing?

do you happen to know any alternate history (fictional what-if) scenarios for world war 2 with Germany losing but Japan losing...

What a strange and unnatural universe! I wonder what it was have been like?

Sorry!!!! I meant Japan winning!
Guh! :)

I'm a little concerned about how we know targetting. My problem is this--if we draw the rules broadly enough to capture most of what we would recognize as targetting children we have to ban a lot of stuff that isn't. If we draw them too tightly, the whole exercise ends up being useless. How would we write a law that would make sense and not ban way too much?

liberal japonicus: You know, I didn't know that there was a law like that. And what is strange is that I never noticed that the commercials here, while very similar to the US, are different in that they don't have gratuitous use of women as sex objects to sell products. And now that I think about it, there are a lot of commercials with the traditional gender roles reversed, i.e. lots of women dressed for the office and in a hurry for work and lots of men taking care of kids and cleaning the house (note, I don't agree with traditional roles, as evidenced by the fact that I am currently between projects and am a stay at home dad).

On the other hand, some shower product commercials show so close to nudity as to be basically naked. And ads for up-coming shows and movies can often have profanity (in english usually) and sometimes even nudity. Then again, everything is shown here uncut or edited, albeit after the kids should be in bed.

One other banned ad would be politics. No political ads in election years. Which, again, I can see how this is technically limiting speech, but growing up as I did in the States, it is wonderful to be political ad free. (as an aside: The Prime Minister gets routinely grilled on live TV, by reporters and heads of the other parties. I find this so refreshing when compared to the fake, screened, fawning that passes for a "press conference" these days in the States).

Sorry for taking up so much space here, but this was interesting to think about.

How would we write a law that would make sense and not ban way too much?

Aye, there's the rub. I don't know either. This is one of those areas where there is a fuzzy gray line and it is difficult to codify into a law. Obviously, an ad for a 1 foot tall play kitchen is targeted at kids. But Frosted Flakes? Or a Frisbee?

the commercials here, while very similar to the US, are different in that they don't have gratuitous use of women as sex objects to sell products.

That's interesting. While I live in the states and have no first hand knowledge but for TV watched while traveling, my wife is a producer with a well-known ad agency here in SF and from what I see (from reels in portfolios and for award shows), that's not the case, at least for continental Europe.

Norway sounds awesome

OT, but yeah, there's an oil based economy that works!

I agree with a lot of what's been said here and in Kleiman's piece, but have one quibble: I think it's a lot easier than Kleiman suggests to just cut out commercial television completely. We've had no broadcast or cable TV for almost seven years now. We have DVDs and tapes, but no cable, no antenna, no nothing. My son is eight now and has been mostly TV-free (he sees a some at his cousins' and friends' houses) for as long as he can remember. It's really not an issue, and we've certainly never felt like we were cutting him off from the culture of his peers. We've bought a fair number of DVDs and videos (Yu-Gi-Oh, etc.), so he sees some of the programs, but not much of the advertising. It's just not that hard.

I'm a little concerned about how we know targetting.

I think the best way to know that is not from the ad itself, but from its timeslot (i.e. what show is on, what time of day). Isn't there already some legal language connected with what is or isn't considered children's programming?

Sebastian, you're worrying that being overinclusive is worse than doing nothing, and that being underinclusive has no effect and not worth doing. I would question both parts of that argument, most importantly the underinclusive argument. Start conservatively with younger children and the necessarily subjective assessment of whether advertising is aimed at them. We make subjective assessments all the time, and whether an ad is aimed at 6 year-olds would not be the hardest one to make. I think this would have substantial benefits. If I'm wrong, I see a very limited downside. If I'm right, we then start venturing out towards making the ban more inclusive.

I am with KenB. If the ad is played with 'Dora' or 'Sesamestreet' you can savely assume it is not intended for the parents. If it is with the bold and the beautifull the target audience is different ;-)

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember the TV commerical for Mouse Trap. The ad made it out to be a pretty cool game. Because of the ad, kids were talking about it. But one kid, who had been stupid enough to get it, quickly informed everyone that all the pieces would break, the traps hardly ever worked, and you'd constantly lose things. This prevented the ad from causing any further trouble for us kids, and we learned a valuable lesson.

Meanwhile, I can still sing the "Crispy Critters" song to this day and yet I never asked for the cereal nor have I ever tried it.

What I'm trying to say is that this notion of innocent children being prey for these commercials is a bit off the mark. And I'm not sympathetic to the parents here who seem to want restrictions on freedom of speech so that their kids will be less annoying. Turn off the TV already, or give them up for adoption.

What I'm trying to say is that this notion of innocent children being prey for these commercials is a bit off the mark. And I'm not sympathetic to the parents here who seem to want restrictions on freedom of speech so that their kids will be less annoying. Turn off the TV already, or give them up for adoption.

Walk a mile in our shoes first. I recall, before having kids, being quite certain I knew what parents were doing wrong. It's quite a common affliction.

One of my philosophical quirks (so named because whenever I discuss it everyone looks at me like I'm insane) is the belief that advertising in its current form is fundamentally anti-capitalistic and should be discouraged in a free society as much as possible.

Trying to keep it brief:
One of the main principles of capitalism is the idea that private ownership allows everyone to spend their capital in whatever way they see fit, requiring that producers legitimately satisfy the needs of consumers in order to survive. We do not (exceptions like taxation and seizure aside) permit any agency to appropriate someone's capital without their consent and spend it for them, regardless of whether they think they'll do a better job or not. The primacy here is in the will of the individual property owner. The problem with advertising is that it is an intentional, calculated attempt to subvert the will of the property owner by manipulating them into spending it in a particular way.

To me, the difference between physical coercion and psychological manipulation isn't that substantial and the idea that we rightly see physical coercion as anathema and yet celebrate psychological coercion as if it were the lubrication of free markets strikes me as bizarre.

If I had my way, advertising would be limited to factual statements (for the proper function of getting the word out about your product) presented in a unified format (no using goldenrod and other magical colors to get attention) in a directory, and people would be free to make their own choices about what kinds of products they wanted.

Yes, I know it's quirky.

LJ, off-topic question for you -- do you happen to know any alternate history (fictional what-if) scenarios for world war 2 with Germany losing but Japan [winning]?

There are a number of manga treatments of Japan winning portions of the war or postulating alternate histories, but I"m not familiar with them to know how they treat the other Axis powers. I don't think that there is a manga where Japan unambiguously 'wins', though. The most controversial manga is by Yasunori Kobayashi. (for you lawyers, here is a Japanese Supreme Court decision on a suit that Kobayashi filed against a writer who wrote a critical book about Kobayashi. It helps to understand why it took the Japanese courts eight years to try the head of AUM). However, Kobayashi defends the war rather than creating an alternate series of events.

These are counterbalanced by a number of manga from the other side, the most famous is Tezuka Osamu's _Adorufu ni Tsugu_ (Message to Adolf). The plot is fantastically convoluted, as are most manga plots.

There is also _The Rising Sun Victorious_, which I've flipped through at a bookstore. Very much in the Turtledove idea, so more along the lines of what you were asking.

My own favorite alternate history is Phillip K. Dick's _Man in the High Castle_, which postulates a Japanese-German victory and the Rocky Mountains is the dividing line. It won the Hugo award and has a better insight into Japanese culture than a whole raft of "on Japan" type books.

Oh, also. . less quirky and maybe more on topic. We've had a TiVo for years and our son watches either commercial-free stuff (Sesame Street, anything on CBC Kids. . God bless you, Canada) or we shoot through the commercials. One side effect of this is that he's not inured at all to commercials and is totally captivated by them when he catches one, demanding after each one that we must go get that incredible, life-changing product. We have to calmly explain that the product actually crappy and boring and they make it seem exciting intentionally so he'll buy it. I hope we're not crippling him.

Sidereal, we've been through some of the same thing and the kid seems to have survived it. Now we're working on "just because you have money in your pocket doesn't mean you absolutely have to find something to buy."

LOL, lots of recognition here and that includes votermums comment to Jonas.

To be honest, I think freedom of speech is too important as a concept to use it for advertisements. In fact, I think that is a rather weird take, but that might be due to cultural difference. For me freedom of speech is freedom to talk about (and critizise) society and politics, not about products you want to sell. I'd be more inclined to protest the use of 'free speech zones' if we had anything like that than protest the fact that our explicit porn ads cannot be shown on tv before a certain time in the evening (10 or 11 I think).

Do people that see restrictions on ads as restricting free speech also feel that any ad can be shown as long as the subject is not illegal? In the Netherlands we have an Advertisement Code Committee were you can complain if an does not meet the codes. The general ones (there are more specific ones about tobacco and loans and such) are:

2. Advertising shall conform to the law, the truth and the requirements of good taste and decency.

3. Advertising shall not contravene the public interest, public order or morality.

4. Advertising shall not be gratuitously offensive or constitute a threat to mental and/or physical public health

5. The form and content of advertising shall not undermine confidence in the advertising.

6. Without justifiable cause, advertising shall not arouse feelings of fear or superstition.

7. Advertising shall not be misleading, in particular about the price, contents, origin, composition, properties or effectiveness of the products concerned. Advertising shall be as clear and complete as possible in terms of such factors as its nature and form and the public at which it is aimed. The party selling the products shall also be indicated clearly.

8. Testimonials, commendations or statements by experts that are used in advertising shall be based on the truth and tally with the latest accepted scientific views.

9. Scientific terms, statistical data and quotations shall be used with the utmost care in advertising intended for the general public, in order to obviate confusion of ideas. If use is made of statistics which are valid only within certain limits, such limits shall be stated clearly. No technical terms, descriptions, illustrations or pictures that are manifestly intended to suggest in a quasi?scientific or misleading manner the presence of non?existent properties of goods or services shall be used.

10. Advertising shall be recognizable as such by virtue of its lay?out, presentation, content and so forth, taking account of the public for which it is intended. The word 'advertisement' shall be printed in 12 point letters over every advertisement (including the so-called 'advertorial') in (children's) magazines with a reach exceeding 25% of children 11 years old and under. The use of subliminal techniques in audiovisual advertising is also prohibited. The use is likewise prohibited of elements from a broadcast programme in advertising on radio and television if it can be reasonably assumed that the viewers or listeners would be misled or confused by it. The appearance in advertising on radio and television of people who may be deemed, by virtue of their participation in broadcast programmes, to carry authority with, or instil confidence in certain sections of the public is prohibited.

Note on Article 10
Subliminal techniques employ inserted images and/or sounds of very brief duration in an attempt to influence viewers or listeners ? possibly without their knowledge or ability to perceive them.

11. If a 'guarantee' is mentioned in advertising, the scope, content and duration of the guarantee shall be clear, in accordance with the relevant medium.

12. The imitation in any way of all or part of the advertising of another, as a result of which the public may be misled or confused about the product and/or identity of the advertiser, is prohibited.

13.1. Advertising which is manifestly aimed wholly or partly at minors - that is, children up to the age of 12 - shall contain no speech, sound or image which in any way could mislead them about the capacity and qualities of the product concerned.

Note on Article 13.1
When advertising is aimed at children - that is, minors under the age of 12 - account should be taken of their intellectual grasp and expectations, especially with respect to playing pleasure and the performance of the product.

13.2. Advertising on television shall cause no mental or physical harm to minors and for their protection, shall therefore satisfy the following criteria:
a. it shall not encourage minors to buy a particular product by taking advantage of their inexperience or credulity;
b. it shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to buy advertised products;
c. it shall not take advantage of the special confidence which minors have in parents, teachers or others;
d. it shall not, without reason, depict minors in dangerous situations.

13.3. Tele-shopping shall meet the requirements stipulated in 13.2 and shall moreover not encourage minors to conclude agreements for purchasing or renting products.

14. Comparative advertising is defined as any form of advertising in which a competitor, or goods or services provided by a competitor, are mentioned explicitly or implicitly.

Comparative advertising is permitted provided it:
a. is not misleading;
b. compares products or services that meet the same demands or are intended for the same purpose;
c. compares objectively one or more essential, relevant, checkable and representative characteristics of these goods or services, such as price;
d. does not lead to the advertiser being confused with a competitor, or the brands, trademarks, other distinguishing characteristics, goods or services of the advertiser being confused with those of a competitor;
e. does not harm the good name or make disparaging remarks about the brands, trademarks, other distinguishing characteristics, goods or services, activities or circumstances of a competitor;
f. concerns in the case of products with a designation of origin, products with the same designation;
g. leads to no unfair advantage resulting from the familiarity of a brand, trade name or other distinguishing characteristics of a competitor or the origin designation of competitive products; and
h. does not present goods or services as an imitation or copy of goods or services with a protected trademark or protected trade name.
Any comparison that refers to a special offer shall indicate clearly and unambiguously the end and, should the special offer not yet apply, the beginning of the period during which the special price or other specific conditions apply, or state that the special offer continues as long as stocks last or services can be provided.

15. At the request of the Advertising Code Committee or the Board of Appeal the advertiser shall demonstrate the correctness of the advertising, should this be disputed for good reasons.

I like the note on 13.1. Maybe I *should* complain about the 'where all your dreams come true' ad ;-)

Oops, sorry, that was longer than I thought...

LJ, thanks. The Rising Sun Victorious sounds interesting, as well as PKD's novel.

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