Marketing to children, let's be honest, it's a bit of a minefield. Hot topic at the moment is the Littlewoods TV and radio ad. Was is a bad decision? Not only does it mark Father Christmas down as surplus to requirements in the festive season, but it also implies that kids only think their mothers are lovely because they buy them lots of material things. While that may be true for some kids, we should at least try to keep the magic of Christmas alive, and teach the true meaning of Christmas; giving rather than receiving.*
The Advertising Standards Authority received hundreds of complaints about the ad, on the grounds that the man himself was exposed as make believe. In this case the ad was allowed as the ASA felt that as the ad did not make direct reference to the man, nor suggest that he did not exist, it was unlikely to cause much distress to children. Consequently it is still running.
The ASA website does make for interesting reading. All complaints are listed on there, and which have been upheld and which have been allowed. Last year the ASA received 25,214 complaints about 13,074 ads (across print, television, radio and the web) and as a result, 2,226 ads were withdrawn. It's not just the fly-by-night companies that get in to trouble. Many of the big brands have misjudged their advertising and had rulings against them.
Advertising to kids is a tricky one which is quite rightly surrounded by rules and regulations. Obviously there are rules surrounding the advertisement of alcohol, gambling and inappropriate products to ensure children are protected. But one company that was reprimanded for selling inappropriate products for kids was Zazzle Inc. In August this year, Zazzle lost a ruling for selling a t-shirt with a slogan quite inappropriate for kids. Zazzle allows users to upload their own t-shirt designs and one in particular, meant for kids, read, 'Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels'. The complaint to the ASA said that the t-shirt implied that being underweight was healthy and this may cause children to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. In its defence, Zazzle did not design the t-shirt itself and did swiftly remove it from the children's clothing section of the website. But the complaints were upheld by the ASA and Zazzle must now in future make sure no inappropriate content is uploaded again.
Contrary to the oft quoted saying, (most often used by controversial figures) not all PR is good PR. Mud sticks, which is why Coca Cola will struggle to ever create a credible brand of water again, and why Ratners could never have competed with Tiffany. So make sure your PR and marketing is appropriate, and accurate. And sign up to the ASA updates to keep abreast of the industry.
*This blog post in no way implies that Father Christmas does not exist