What are Children Worth?

Posted on: Friday 02 July 2010 6:02am

Marketing to children in the digital age: the ethical boundaries around online marketing to kids.


Jesse Cleverly, Creative Director, Connective Media


Miles Bullough, Head of Broadcast, Aardman Animation

Michael Carrington, Chief Content Officer, EMEA, Turner Broadcasting

Ian Douthwaite, MD, Dubit

Jacqueline Harding, Director, Tomorrow’s Child and parentchannel.tv

Rae Burdon, Consultant -formerly the Advertising Association

The panel discussed the pitfalls and opportunities of online marketing and the ethical guidelines for producers. Asked to describe the likely landscape of online marketing in 5 years time, Michael Carrington of Turner Broadcasting said he thinks we are already there. He reckons marketing was and continues to be storytelling. Children have all the devices and we need to there with our products.

The future is an on-demand world. Miles Bullough of Aardman Animation said his company’s strategy is about seeking out brand extensions in all possible ways; live-events, books, toys, shows etc

Media adviser Ian Douthwaite of Dubit Limited believes marketing has become part of a producer’s job and it is no longer the broadcasters who do the marketing. Social networks market a product and drive traffic. In the US, it is common to prove how popular a product is through social networks. Douthwaite said the instant messenger networks are likely to become vital in targeting young people in future. Ideally, you create passageways between different virtual worlds. And it will be a key responsibility of those in marketing to clearly draw the line between selling content and real content.

Is there a need for more regulation of online marketing? Rae Burdon, recently of the Advertising Association, is convinced that much of the online space is already regulated. Regulating television and online is similar, it is not a voluntary system. You can’t mislead or offend. But he observes a gap – the “sensitive territory“ of social networks, where the freedom of editorial and commercial space sometimes collides with consumer rights.

There was general agreement that most companies act responsibly and there is rarely a commercial intent to exploit children. Rae Burdon thinks the problem is most people don’t know what the codes are. He pointed delegates towards a new website that the Advertising Association is preparing right now to promote best practice in ethical issues: CHECK (Children’s Ethical Communicating Kit).

The panel suggested that when the under 12’s go online – it can be tough as they don’t necessarily see where the line is drawn between commercial and content. Jacqueline Harding is optimistic that building media literacy will be a good way to address this.

Although it might be argued that some TV broadcasts can resemble one big advert, as far as Miles Bullough is concerned, it’s still the story that counts. TV revenues don’t always cover the costs of series such as Aardman’s Timmy Time, so there is a need to find other ways to create revenues. But he added, there isn’t an instinct to sell at Aardman, there is an instinct to tell. In Michael Carrington’s view, there is no need for more regulation. His final thought was that we need be very clear what we can and can’t do and we need to know our audience and what they want of us. But we are not in a crisis.

regular 2010 thursday2010