Product placement in print media and its effect on children and their responses

Deepa Sharma Acharya

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] Children have become an important consumer segment for marketers because of their potential in purchasing and the influence they have on family purchasing decisions. Marketers may not only want to influence children's spending today, but they are also grooming them for long term loyalty. Children are surrounded by sophisticated promotional techniques such as product placements which are presumed to be capable of influencing their purchase and request decisions. It has been argued that the processing of product placements works differently to traditional advertising. Placements are thought to form an impression in the mind of consumers without them being aware of this happening. These impressions may influence their purchase decisions. The consumer's inability to remember incidental exposure to a brand, or to know that these prior exposures are influencing their judgment, is an important factor that defines the effectiveness and potential deceptiveness of product placement. Young children, with more limited cognitive abilities than adults, could perhaps face more difficulty in grasping the difference between promotional and editorial content in the form of a children's magazine placement. Their inability to distinguish commercial from non-commercial content, and the intent of the promotion message, would appear to make young children vulnerable to the effects of the placement message. Children's processing of persuasion knowledge, or their ability to differentiate commercial from non-commercial and the knowledge of commercial intent, are suggested to be less vulnerable to the message. Three different studies (Study I, Study II and the main study on children) using the samples of children's magazines and children themselves were conducted. ... This stored information may have been used in a favourable way at the time of decision-making which may have influenced young children to like the placed brand. A possible explanation of such behaviour could be that as the child becomes deeply bonded with the magazine material, that child could have social interaction with friends who share a similar bond. This could result in a child having a greater influence on their friends. One of the implications of this study for a marketing organisation is the potential usefulness of material connectedness to a magazine when purchasing advertising space in children's magazines. It may also suggest a construct that may form criteria to use across media. Connectedness may be a surrogate for a measure of media 'engagement.' Product placement normally does not identify a sponsor. Placements have been criticised as an unethical practice because this technique attempts to trick vulnerable child consumers. If a majority of children in the sample knew the commercial nature and intent of a product placement, then it is difficult to rationalise this form of execution as misleading because it was placed. This study offers insights and information on the ways children make decision after exposure to a product placement, a technique which has been criticised as a deceptive 'masked' method of communication. Perhaps, product placement may not be as deceptive as many critics claim. This study found that public policy makers should revisit the policy on children's media, especially on masked techniques like product placement.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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