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Truth About TV Advertising - Yahoo Voices

Commercials come and go; some are funny, others stupid, but they all entertain. The content has never mattered before, but lately, there have been a slew of TV commercials that push the limits. Imagine... It is the middle of Eclectic Motion the day. You are quietly enjoying your favorite daytime program when a commercial comes on. It starts with the sounds of a woman and a shower. She is moaning and groaning, taking the best shower ever. You do not know why, but wonder as to how. Your kids look puzzled, as you sit glued to the screen, curiosity peaked, unable to switch channels. You wonder has television (TV) evolved this far. The kids are looking more perplexed as the seconds pass. Suddenly, you are informed and finally, understand. She is using a new invigorating herbal shampoo! Again you wonder how far has TV evolved... Commercials like this, shown throughout the day, on any given channel, are not suitable for all ages. How can the media show such a lack in judgment? The media should be involved in monitoring all aspects of programming, including commercials, due to the social impact commercials have on minors.

Today, parent roles have been complicated by television. Parents used to feel safe about the programming their children watched, but not now. The 2006 U.S. Census reports there are 73.7 million children in the U.S. Of those children, 26% are being raised in single parent households and a meager 5.8 million parents work within the home environment (Bergman, 2007). Now, more than ever TV is relied upon as a babysitter of sorts, occupying children and providing entertainment when parents are unavailable. True, there are TV timers and program blockers, but there currently are not any technical devices targeted specifically at TV commercials, which have free range to corrupt the minds, bodies and ideals of today's children.

From a very young age, children are able to use shapes and objects as learning tools. They are able to link words and sounds with pictures. A recent anti-tobacco ad by targeted the tobacco industry for using a big, purple monster, similar to Barney, in ad campaigns. The message was children, not adults were more inclined to relate to that particular type of marketing. Companies state they are marketing to adults, but use images and sounds engaging to children and teenagers. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), research shows that "children under the age of eight are unable to critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages as truthful, accurate and unbiased" (Willenz, 2). Basically, children believe everything they see. The media plays a significant role in the development of children. Psychologist Brian Wilcox, Ph.D., Professor of the APA Task Force declared

Because younger children do not understand persuasive intent in advertising, they are easy targets for commercial persuasion. This is a critical

concern because the most common products marketed to children are sugared cereals, candies, sweets, sodas and snack foods. Such advertising

of unhealthy food products to young children contributes to poor nutritional habits that may last a lifetime and be a variable in the current epidemic of

obesity among kids. (Willenz, 4)

Advertisers have to be held accountable for the content of their commercials. Commercials that are seen today have impacts well into the future. How else are they to expand their brand?

In direct correlation, in 2003, one of the leading fast food giants, McDonalds was sued by the parents of two teenage girls. Up to that point, the restaurants advertising campaign included a friendly, fun-loving, hamburger eating clown, named Ronald, and his friends. Marketed specifically, and targeted exclusively to kids. The lawsuit was filed with complaints that the restaurants "failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose the ingredients and effects of its food, including high levels of fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol" (Wald, 3). After years of consistent consumption, the teenagers suffered complications. The highly unhealthy food left the children obese with failing health and expensive medical bills. The lawsuit was later dismissed because the judge did not believe the parents thought of McDonald's as healthy food. No one could believe that, except the children. It is because of advertisers, like McDonald's that obesity in children, and adults, are reaching epidemic proportions. Though the lawsuit was dismissed, the message it carried was not. It alerted the fast food industry, which sprang into action, revamping menus and marketing campaigns, promoting healthier, child-friendly alternatives. No longer do we see Ronald and his French fries and cheeseburger eating friends, they have been replaced with apples and real chicken nuggets.

Violence is also a concern with TV advertisements. There are concerns regarding certain commercial campaigns primarily targeting adults that pose risks for children. Psychologist Dale Kunkel, Ph.D., of the APA states

For example, beer ads are commonly shown during sports events and seen by millions of children, creating both brand familiarity and more positive

attitudes toward drinking in children as young as 9-10 years of age. Another area of sensitive advertising content involves commercials for violent

media products such as motion pictures and video games. Such ads contribute to a violent media culture which increases the likelihood of

youngsters' aggressive behavior and desensitizes children to real-world violence. (Josephson, 1987, p. 885)

Studies show children that watch violent TV are more likely to display violent behavior. According to Josephson (1987), televised violence contributes to a child's aggression. Josephson references the research of renowned psychologist, Albert Bandura, who "[noted] that violent acts by heroic characters on television are frequently portrayed as justified, successful, and unpunished" (Josephson, p. 881). These television programs, like Batman or Superman, are advertised on cartoon networks daily. The characters representing good use violence to defeat the villains. Children often try to emulate the fighting scenes and "copy the violent actions they have witnessed" (Josephson, p. 882). Most children want to be a superhero, but out of context their behavior can be violent and irresponsible. Early on, they discover violence as an approach to conflict displayed through the media.

The media refuses to take responsibility. They emphasize the parent's responsibility. The media believes the parents are liable, and should stop blaming the media for their children's actions and behaviors. According to USA Today writer, Joe Saltzman "we live in an age where it has become commonplace to refuse to take responsibility for one's actions. People are no longer accustomed to self-responsibility. No matter what happens it is always someone else's fault" (Saltzman, 1). The media wants to fend off blame. They believe the parent's are teaching children to blame others for mistakes. They use "the same kind of reasoning, finding the media the best kind of scapegoat" (Saltzman, 4). The media believes parents want selective accountability. Parents assume responsibility when their children watch too much TV, but conveniently, they are not responsible for their children's actions after watching certain programming. They believes that "children, like everyone else, should be held responsible for their actions" (Saltzman, 12). Ultimately, we all areresponsible for our own actions, even children. But the media should still be accountable for the content they air.

The children are at stake. Their lives and futures are at risk. As TV evolves, programming and products become more corrupt. The obscene becomes seen. Minds and bodies become warped. Is that anyway to live? Things will not change without action, and the time is now! Parents do not control what is displayed on the TV screen, but the media does. The media is in control of what is seen, but the parents are in control of what is bought. Parents need to use their wallets to demand change. Once their bottom-line is compromised, the media has no choice but to listen and change. The media must bring about a reform to commercials, today, to ensure us all, hope for the future.


Saltzman, J. (1995, July). Who's responsible? blame the media. Society for the Advancement of Education. USA Today Press. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from

Bergman, M. (2007, March 27). Single-parent households showed little variation since 1994, census bureau reports. U.S. Census Bureau News. Retrieved June 2, 2007, from

Truth. (2007). Puppet tv. Video. Retrieved June 2, 2007 from

Willenz, P.(2004, February 27). Television advertising leads to unhealthy habits in children; says apa task force. American Psychological Association Press Release. Retrieved May 28, 2007, from

Josephson, W. (1987, November). Television violence and children's aggression: Testing the priming, social script, and disinhibition predictions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(5), 882-890. Retrieved May 28, 2007, from PsycARTICLES database.

Cohen, D. (1974, Vol 38). The Concept of Unfairness as it Relates to Advertising Legislation. Journal of Marketing , 8-13. Retrieved May 25, 2007 EBSCOHost Database

Wald, J. (2003, February 21). Lawyers revise obesity lawsuit against McDonald's. Cable News Network (CNN). Retrieved June 2, 2007, from


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