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Advertisements and kids

This is first in a series of 5 blog posts about the financial literacy and value of money for kids. 

According to one study, kids are exposed to a 450+ advertisements / promotions daily. This could be through TV, radio, movies, news-papers, magazines, bill-boards, internet, mobile phone, shop windows ... you name it. There are 2 reasons for kids centric strategy of most advertisers.


  • Kids are the most gullible of the consumer segments and yet one of the most influential as well. Our kids exert tremendous say in the purchases made by a modern household, weather its a small ticket daily consumable like a pack of noodles or a carton of milk or a high expense durable item like air-conditioner and computer. And advertisers know it.
  • Catch them young and you can shape their buying habits for the life time. Make them conscious of the brand now and they will buy it when they have money in the future. Its difficult to change the taste and buying habits of an adult who has tried and seen things. But its easier to shape it for the kids and create demand
Before we discuss on how to stop the negative / undue influence of advertising on our kids, it is important to first understand how do the advertisers target kids. All brands highlight the core product attributes and appeal to the rational senses e.g. use ABC soap to keep your hands clean and soft. However, good brands and marketeers will, in addition, appeal to your sub-conscious desires. The desires to be liked, to be perceived smart, to be powerful, to be popular. A good brand will be able to establish this association early on. For example
  • Its cool: Shahrukh Khan drinks Pepsi and he is popular and can do super-human tasks. There is no cause - effect relationship shown in the ad but it is very cleverly implied that all popular celebs drink Pepsi and you should too, if you want to be in that club. This appeals to us all and not just kids and thats why we drink the sugary water. Companies know that it is important to develop that 'taste' early on and then the person will stay loyal to the brand for the life. 
  • It is a smart choice: Kids who choose ABC brand of toothpaste are smart because they know that this toothpaste fights germs better. If you are smart, you will make this choice. We all want to be called smart, dont we 
  • You will enjoy this: Shrek really enjoyed eating my brand of cornflakes or Baloo the bear loves playing with the kids who use this brand of soap. These ads may appear lame and harmless to adults but to an impressionable mind of a kid, this association is very strong
Now the question is, how do you best prepare your kids against advertisers. The first thing is, you can not shut him/her off TV, radio, films and other means. That is doing more harm than good. So clearly that is out of question. However, you could educate your kids to find the truth themselves and this will happen in every day life itself. Its a process that involves 3 questions from you and helping the kids figure out the answers for themselves.]
  • Do you think this is real or does this make sense: Next time you see Shahrukh Khan doing impossible things like jumping over a few buildings for a Pepsi, ask your kid if he/she thinks Shahrukh Khan might really do this? Help them to reason out that it is unlikely that a super-star and a super rich person like him might do all this for a cold drink bottle that costs 10 Rs in the market and is available everywhere. 
  • If its not real, why are they showing this: Ask them if they know why Shahrukh may be doing this, if its not real? And then bring out the point about advertisers paying him to do this and this helps to sell their product to consumers all over the world. 
  • What is the smart thing to do: Finally, its your chance to turn the tables on advertisers. Ask your child, what as per him/her is the smart thing to do?. Let them come up with the answer that this is gimmic and one must not fall for these messages. It is good to have this once in a while but we should not have this just because someone popular comes on TV and tells us to have it. We should use our brains. Thats the smart thing to do. Also, tell them that they can share this knowledge with their friends too.
Tell us how you tackle the menace of advertising with your kids.


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