A Framework for Ascertaining Deception in Children's Advertising Author(s): Thomas E. Barry Source: Journal of Advertising, Vol. 9, No.

1 (Winter, 1980), pp. 11-18 Published by: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4188288 Accessed: 14/12/2009 03:14
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Using this conceptual framework. Beta Gamma Sigma. and make a final decision regarding continuation of the campaign or a cease and desist order with or without corrective advertising. both the marketers developing strategies to persuade children and the regulatory agencies developing policies to protect children may better understand what deception is in their attempts to detect and avoid it. His primary teaching and research interests are in marketing and advertising management and he has received teaching and research awards at SMU. among others. This advertising need not be deceptive. Worth Regional Airport. By its very nature it is unfair and. Texas. wu - E. sample selection to obtain relevant and representative children. His present research interest is children's television advertising. Also. especially when directed toward children. Both issues are complex. and the lack of evidence indicating injury to children due to advertising aimed directly at them.BARRY THOMAS Thomas E. He has consulted for the Dallas-Ft. from North Texas State Univeristy in 1971. including the following steps: pre-examination of questioned advertisements. There are two issues apparent in Needelman's statement unfairness to children and deception of children. Says Needelman. Sigma Iota Epsilon and the American Academy of Advertising. the Dr Pepper Company and other Dallas area organizations. parental responsibilities.D. According to FTC Presiding Officer Morton Needelman. Dallas. In February. have within the last several years. INTRODUCTION Deception in advertisinghas been studied and written about extensivelyin the last several years. Neiman-Marcus.FOR A FRMEWORK ASCERTAINING DEPTION IN ADVERTI CHILDREN'S focused on children as a special audience of advertising messages. 1978. Too little has been written which may offer suggestions to advertisers and public policy makers interested in managing the issues surrounding deception. Journal of Advertising Research. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Advertising. critics and researchers DECEPTION CRITERIA One of the most complex aspects of deception in advertising is determining what is deceptive. Barry is a member of the American Marketing Association. Cox School of Business. California Management Review and Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences. potentially harmful to children. with the second round scheduled as soon as disputed issues within the FTC can be settled (23). Critics have attacked advertisingboth as being unfair and as being moredeceptivethan informativein many instances. Alpha Kappa Psi. Long Lines Division of AT&T. The first round of hearings was held in February. therefore. The critics argue that advertising to children is inherently unfair because of the vulnerability of children to adult manipulation through persuasive messages. determine understanding level of children. The purpose of this paper is to connect the literature in deception and children's advertising and to offer a conceptual framework for ascertaining deception of children. 1979. the FTC proposed a children's television advertising rule including in its alternatives a ban on all advertising to young children. one of the disputed issues which must be given fuller attention in the second round of hearings is the issue of the vulnerability of children to television advertising. This problem 11 . however. A model is presented for ascertaining deception in children's advertising. ABSTRACT Criteria are explained for judging deceptive or unfair advertising. Barry is a Professor of Marketing in the Edwin L. European Journal of Marketing. measure appropriate responses. Many of the arguments of the critics of advertising to children center around the issue of unfairness. He received his Ph. and Michael Levy at SMU and Professor Keith Hunt and four anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism of various drafts of this article. determine deception's impact. Southern Methodist University. Proponents of advertising to children base their case on First Amendment freedoms. conceive of any rule emerging from this proceeding unless it is proven that essentially all television advertising directed to children is aimed at an audience which has been unfairly and deceptively treated because of the very nature of that audience (23). determine if deception exists. University Computing Company. I cannot. The author wishes to thank Professors Mike Harvey.

6. brevityof commercials insufficientcomprehension. This is particularlytrue for qhildrenbetween the ages of 7 and 9 who are confronted with the most intense conflict and are most vulnerable to advertising manipulation. havelooked at: 1) unfairness. It makes sense that the deceptiveadvertisingissue must be treated differently when the audience is comprised of children. premiumdistracting 2. 1. stereotyping. in Piagetian terms.24. DECEPTION IN KID'S ADVERTISING Eighmey may have been the first to explore deception among childrenand advance the thesis that restraintsin advertisingoriented to childrenshould be different than those focused on adults (17). to some extent. excessiveuse of emotions. 9. studyprovidedexperimental Regarding for evidencethat standarddisclaimers children'stoy prodwere not understoodby children. Ther 12 . (3. 5) detrimental consumerbehavior. They do not have the formal operational skills. althoughcomplex. one disclaimers. al. the findings were supported in that the replicatedresults illustratedthat more simplified language to young children resulted in more (4).37.4) perceptualbias.18. interviewed tising and concluded that advertisingconfronts children with a conflict between figurativeand operationalskills.71). 8. the authcomprehension ors called for advertisersto use pre-broadcastresearch to better determinethe impact of disclaimerson young children(45). Children are simply more susceptibleto deceptive messages from all sources. comparative may leavedeceptiveimpressadvertising ions. Problemareascited by Eighmeyincluded: attentionfromthe product. deceptivejuxtapositionof productswith contexts or persons.6) causal factors of deception.25. ASCERTAINING DECEPTION IN CHILDREN'S ADVERTISING Althoughmodels for detectingdeceptionhave been advanced. unfamiliartermsand phrases. relianceon nonsensewithoutproductinformation. In a third disclaimerstudy.10. Haefner. 3. most studies refer to the works of Piaget. by the time children reach the age and evaluateall adverof 10 they tend to overgeneralize tising as being misleading(7). How can managersdesigning campaigns and various agenciesmakedecisionsabout deceptiveand/or regulatory unfairadvertising orderto avoid it or detectit? in Several previous studies have addressed this question (2. global uniqueness Examples of deception and unfairness in children's advertisingare providedby Cohen who suggestedthat ads showing children engaging in dangerous activities like watching a hot pot cool off or watching a spokesman pick and eat wild edibles can be deemedunfair. advertisements tionships with hero characterslike vitamins and Spiderand man blur the distinctionbetweenprogramming adverdeceptive(12). 15.2) reasonable 3) implied uniqueness. none have specifically focused on children. 21.there has been a paucity of consumerevidence used by managersand regulatorsin detecting actual or potentiallydeceptiveadvertising. adveryoung childrenregarding Bever. 10. 31. Only a minimalamount of empiricalresearchis available which pertainsto deceptionin children'sadvertising.13. It should be noted at this point that Chestnut has recentlyreviewedseveral criticismsof the Piagetian concept of stage development which have impliand cationsfor children'sconsumerresearch publicpolicy. 7. Traditionally. tisingcontentand could be considered Childrenare viewedas a specialmarketsegmentbecause of their lack of experienceand developmentof cognitive abilities. can be detectedand empiricallytested. Among other issues. 5. these priorstudies man concepts.and claims(17).et. Althoughthereare differenttheorieswith respect 4. developmentof childand intellectual to the psychological ren. 20. similiestakentoo literally.35.16. The authors of these studies have suggestedand illustratedthat deceptiveadvertising. An attempt to summarizethese variousdeceptioncriteriaappearsin Exhibit1. settingof environmental fromthe 'naturalorder'of development"(9). In a partial replicationof this study. Furtherwhich exploit children'strust relamore. 48).and 7) deception definitions. Thesecriticisms tend to view "The child in a morecomplex learningand free. However. Leckenbyand Goldman found that younger children are more likely than older childto be persuadedby deceptiveadvertising ren. The words "Some ucts assembly required" (the standarddisclaimer)were substituted with "You have to put it together" and analySisrevealedhighlysignificantstatisticaldifferencesin chilthe dren'sabilitiesto understand simplermessage(36). to logically test principles (26). He called for a "reasonable basis" standard to be developed in second form for children.44). And one cannot even look at "children"in toto.has been addressedby many previous authors (1.29. Gellhornmentionedchildrenin discussingthe importance of determiningthe level of intelligenceof the audience when deceptive advertisingwas at issue (22).

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In order to obtain a representative sample the relevant populationmust be known. The frameworkadvancedin Exhibit 2 presentsa series of seven sequentialsteps. the approachcould very well lead to a better understanding of how deceptiontakesplaceamongchildconsumers. It should be noted that the procedure presented is a simplification of a very complex sequenceof events for managers and regulatorswho have the task of determining whether or not deception may or did take place. socio-economicbackgrounds and the like of the population.are subsegmentsthat must be measureddifferently.marketers. educationallevels. The upshot for the advertiserpretestinga campaignin Step One is that if the panel concludesthereis an obvious deception.those who are the targetof the messagemust provide the evidence of that deception. It seems obvious that.their behaviors includingmoney use.Select Sample: DEVELOPING A FRAMEWORK An attemptto providethesetwo decision-making groups with a frameworkis illustratedin Exhibit 2. if implementedobjectively. the panel may be acting for some regulatoryagencysuch as the FTC. What is being and suggested. spending. Each of these steps is briefly discussed. not only must we look at cognitivedevelopmentbut also the family context of that development. this first step.it is a is cue to continue the investigatoryprocess. are the steps involved for advertisersand public policy makers in objectively determining whetherchildrencan be or have been deceivedby advertisingand whetheror not that deception can or has had a deleterious impacton them? ad. What. ethnic backgrounds. In addition.whichsurelyimpactsthe information processingskills of children. Step One -.Pre-examination: If there is no obvious deception conclusion from Step One then either advertisersor regulatorsmust set about developinga more scientific approachto ascertainingdeception. It should be clearherethat we are not suggestingthat the samepanelbe used by the advertiserand the regulator. The conclusionone draws from the work of Ward and his colleagues is that deception in advertisingwill most likely vary among children by factors such as age. the campaigncan be initiated. In the case of an on-going campaign. if deception is likely. However. ultimately. a cease and desist orderwould be issuedand the appropriate punitiveactions taken. saving and purchase requests(46. Again. Their work is steeped in the Piagetianmodel of developmentand informationprocessing and their sampleof 615 mother-child pairs is the most extensiveto date (46).psychologists.and. the educational level of the child. With children this is a formidable task. Thus.mothers.in general.consumerists and so forth who can put aside their vested interestsin the issue of advertisingto childrenand objectivelyjudge the advertisingin question. Wackman and Wartella. The criticalaspect of Step One is that there is truly an interdisciplinary panelof expertssuchas lawyers. What childrenwill be or were likely to see the campaign? Childrenin the sample must represent all of the relevant age groups. the extentof parentalinteractionin the home.could be veryvaluableto managers of and regulatorsconcernedabout the misrepresentation productsto childrenvis-a-visadvertising. in the case of an obvious falsehood or lie the process needgo no further. Childrenfrom householdswhere advertising is explained to them by their parents may be less susceptibleto deceptionthan those who are not. Nevertheless. If there is obviously no deception.rather. Should the panel contend that there is a reasonable potential for deceptionthis does not constitutea decision that an advertisement deceptive. It is a preliminarystep to a detailed survey and a procedurewhich might possibly avoid all of the time and costs that would be involvedin conductinga detailedsurvey. then. the informationprocessingand consumerbehavior skills of children. In delineatingthe real impact of a deceptive advertisementon children. if it is obvious that there is deception. fathers. If it is concluded that there is no chance of deception. Of course. Adults can be more expressive about the behavior that deceptive advertisements them to. Panels are difficult to initiate and maintain. Step Two -. The first step is to select a relevantsampleof the target audience. They can be expensive and attrition rates are often high. This notion is treated in depth in the recent work of Ward. This is a difficult but The objectiveof the pre-examination to have an interis disciplinarypanel of judges view the advertisingin quesif tion to determine thereis a likelihoodof deceptionin the 14 .the advertiser simplyscrapsthe ad or deletesthe deceptive content before running it.is that the same interdisciplinary objectiveapproachbe usedby both groups.however. the extent to which the child has developeda "cognitive filter" and the like . one would have to view it within the total consumer socialization context as presentedby these authors. the FTC would inform the advertiserand the campaign would be allowed to continue.29). it may be more difficult to ascertainwhat the impact on childrenis comparedto the impact on adults.educators. children will have problems led expressing resultant behaviors due to limited abstraction and verbalization skills.

Beliefs) Determine if Deception Exists (Expectations vs. Demographics) C Measure Appropriate Responses (Attention. Recall. Cognitive Ability.Psychological. Allow Cniuto iCease and DesistOrder _Corrective AdvertisingofCr Assess DamageofCmag * Actions by Advertising/Marketing Managers _________ Actions by Regulators 15 .AttitudeChange) Make Decision (Objective Interpretation of Data) -~ Yes Nl___ . Attitudes.EXHIBIT 2 Ascertaining Deception in Children's Advertising Obviously ] ~Questioned Pre-Examination of Advertisement Obiul o Panel) ~~~~~(Interdisciplinary DeceptionNot Obvious 4 l Sample Selection (Relevant and Representative Children) Dicntinue Ca4paign Co_n_inul 4 Determine Understanding Level of Children (Intelligence. Reality) Determine Deception's Impact (Economics.

Historicallywe have used the reasonablebasis argument for measuringloss. the lock-step Piagetian stage developmentapproachmay no longersuffice (9). What proportion of the sample had expectations which clearly were not met by the product? Were their expectationsclearlydevelopedfrom the commercial messagewhichthey saw? Althoughwe haverecommended a very scientific approachto the study of deception. Again. the advertisement and/or campaign may continue. their parents and society. we must rely on the responsesof the children to ascertainsome of these impacts. what are the consequencesof this deception? What impact could or did the ad have on childrenmakingrequests.awarenessof and understanding abilities to verbalizethese undertelevision commercials. of levels of intelligence. Although this approach would necessitate child to specificmodifications. Assumefor examplethat 10 percent of the children were deceived by the advertisement.cognitivecapabilities.With childrenthis problemis significantlycompounded. given the objectively obtained evidence. If a no-deception decision results. It may well be that Gardnerhas providedus with the conthroughthe normativebelief technique ceptualframework (20). Step Five -. we have measuredthe 16 . However. These responsesprovideus with a norm. Literature in discussedearlierand summarized Exhibit1 suggeststhat the impact can be psychological.economical. expectations. 47). In this case only pre-schoolers need be sampledbecauseit is unlikelythat many children of school age will have been home to view the commercials. 35-45. the children must of be measuredin terms of their level of understanding in the commercial. we enter into judgment.Make Deception Decision: Determine.sufferingeconomic loss. We measure the attitudes.logical approach to take.As of understanding suggested earlier. Chapter9) that socializationvariablesare vital to a child's understandingand interpretationof persuasive communication. Step Four -. standings. then the campaign should be discontinued and/or DeceptionExists: In orderto determineif deceptiondid take place.Determine Deception's Impact: Levels: Understanding Once the sample has been selected. Those readersexperienced in psychological measurementcertainly understand the problems of elicitingvalid data from respondents. Is that an unacceptablenumberto stop the campaignand levy punitivemeasures?Is twenty percentmore realistic? Fifty percentwould logicallybe intolerable. beliefs. Those readers familiar with sampling know all too well the problemsof obtaining adequatesample sizes and representation. etc? We are not at all sure what constitutes a "reasonabledeleteriousimpact" on the childrenwho saw the commercials.the foundationfor measurement ascertaindeceptionexistsin that technique. If deception is ruled to be the case. actual or intended must behaviorsand expectationsof the childrenif we are to begin to answer the questions surroundingdeception. attitudes. developing incorrector inappropriate beliefs.Determine responsesof the childrenwith respect to their attitudes. To this point. beliefs and expectations. whether enough of the sample was deceived and whether the impact of that deception is or could be grave enough to rule against the campaign or respondent.? It has been argued by many (3. we have no norms for what constitutes an unacceptable amountof deception.Measure Responses: This step is very difficult. Let us say that a campaignis to be run only duringthe weekday mornings in the Fall.Determine If Assuming deception did exist among an unacceptable number of children. culturalor social. Theseare questions moreeasilypositedthananswered. Is it reasonablethat deceptioncould harmminoritychildrenfrom a culturalperspective? Is it reasonable for consumersto expect $31 million for redue funds. These norms have not been developed. The rigors but of scientificsamplingare cumbersome necessaryif this is procedure to achieveits objective. Economic loss can be measured more clearly than social harm can. punitivedamagesand counteradvertising to the harmful impact that deceptiveadvertisinghad on them? The answersto these questionsare judgmentaland will be made in the absence of norms until a framework as suggested here becomes systematic and commonplace amongadvertisers regulators. etc. concepts relevant to the message What are their family backgrounds. We are faced with adequatesample frames and systematictechniqueswhich allow us to draw inferences from the sample to the population. 40. Step Six -. and Step Seven -. It may be that the norm would be productand targetspecific. some authors have provided researcherswith suggestions on how to develop valid and reliableinstruments for generating responsesfrom youngchildren(43. We must test for variancesin levels basedon thesesocializationvariables. At times a more homogeneous group of childrenmay suffice for the sample. Step Three -.

what is the impact of that deception. an order of corrective or counter advertising and an assessmentof the level of damages which shouldbe paidand to whom. to the minority groups of szciety? What product is next? Salt.the securingof adequatesampling framesand the developmentof viable sample sizes. Deception in advertisingis no simple matter. (Spring. pp. 52). ascertainingfirst. advertisersmay well see their agencies liable for deceptive advertising. Aaker. This is indeed a trying task. Gary M." MSU Business Topics. Children's Television Advertising: Issues. pp. TIiW image erosion can become especially important if consumersbelieve that advertiserstake unfair advantageof childrenand othervulnerable groupsin society. that both advertisers and public policy makers would benefit from the use of some systematicframeworkfor. But if advertisersand public policy makers alike do not make this initial investment. The problemsof measurement may appearalmost insurmountable to the behavioralscientist who has studied validity and reliabilityquestions of measuringhuman response. nor is its detection. It seems.a model in which the child understandswhat he or she sees and hears in most commercials. And there is the question of harm. If one closely analyzes the steps involved in the framework presentedin this paper. what is deceptive to children and second. "Detecting Deception in Advertising. DISCUSSION Thereis little questionthat the approachsuggestedhere inadequately depictsthe difficultiesof actual implementation. 2. It is a complexissue.selects those prodducts that are interestingand attractive.and asks for them(42." in George S. The advertiser faces costs of restrictions freedomsto on persuasivelymarket goods and services to members of society. it becomes obvious that the task is cumbersome and expensive.A. This involvesmorethan to a philosophical debateon restrictions freedoms. beer? It is important that public policymakers develop policy utilizing sound data bases. New York: Free Press. Day (ed. How do we even begin to measure harm? And was that harm due to that advertising was deceptive? These are questionswhich presentmajor hurdlesto the implementationof an approach such as the one posited here.advertisers publicpolicy makersare at and a critical impasse in the marketplacetoday. most do not (42). This is a sensitiveissue today. for example. Says Rossiter. and F.Thereare questionsof correct statisticalsamplingwhich involvethe identificationof the correctpopulations. In addition. And what of the costs to society? Assume that advertising childrenwerebanned. one REFERENCES 1. Thereis some empiricalwork to supportthe advertiser's position. Thomas E. we are not likely to ever comprehendthe real impact of advertisingon children. "Deceptive Advertising. These actions could include. We must go back to the earlierwords of Commissioner Needelman and understand whether or not advertising aimed at childrenis unfair and deceptive(23). Rossiter recently reviewed the cognitive. The other side claims that it has the right to fairly advertise its goods and services to all target consumersand that most advertisingto childrenis not deceptive. What may be next? Advertising to the elderly. And in the last analysisif we have not systematically determined that impact we cannot justify either advertisingto childrenor its subsequent abolition! Thereis evidencein the world of advertisers regulaand tors that researchis being used to pretestcommercialsand to presentevidence in litigation proceedings. 137-156.appropriateactions against the advertisershould follow. 3. Findings and Needs. 1975). The researchcannot be done without the high costs of human and economic resources. 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