Advertising’s effect on kids: Children’s Christmas lists mirror TV advertisements


It’s only July 1st, but soon enough the back-to-school store promotions will turn into Christmas decorations. Yes, we’re about to enter the season of advertising. And research shows that the season of advertising affects children right through the Christmas holiday.

One of the most interesting studies I’ve seen about children and advertising was conducted by two brilliant researchers in The Netherlands—Monique Buijzen and Patti Valkenburg. They asked 250 children ages 7-12 to make a list of what they wanted for Christmas. Children also reported how much they watch 12 popular Saturday morning children’s programs on two children’s networks. Commercials during the shows were recorded over several weeks, and the content of the commercials was compiled and analyzed. Results showed that amount of time children spent watching one of the TV networks was related to the number of toys listed by children on their Christmas lists that were consistent with the brands on the television commercials. More than half of the children in the study included at least one brand that had been advertised on the networks on their Christmas wish list. In other words, the brands that children requested on their Christmas lists were consistent with the brands found in the advertising to which they were exposed.

The same researchers provided answers for parents on how to combat the influence of advertising in our children’s lives. Their second study found that the relationship between children’s exposure to advertising and both children’s materialism and purchase requests was weakest for kids whose parents frequently talk with them about television advertising. Said differently, talking to kids about advertising can help them become more critical consumers, thereby strengthening their resistance to persuasive techniques in advertising.

What do you think of these studies? Have you had similar experiences?

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