Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers

Cite this

Introduction

Ethics has been a significant field of study for centuries. Indeed, such philosophers as Socrates and Plato have addressed an age-old question, whether it is possible to identify universally applicable ethics (Kacerauskas, 2019). The overall subjectivity of ethical and moral issues implies that universal ethics is impossible. Moreover, in such a morally hindered sphere as business, ethical universality is unattainable since ethical dilemmas commonly arise where companies create ambiguity to attract customers’ attention.

On-Time Delivery!
Get your customized and 100% plagiarism-free paper done in as little as 3 hours
Let’s start
322 specialists online

Thus, ethical issues become an instrument of profit-making in the hands of marketers. A similar difficulty is generated by the intersection of personal and professional ethics of a business leader, which implies that if these domains do not coincide, it is unclear which moral system to use as a guideline. To obtain more profit, businesses must interfere with ethical principles to ensure profit-making.

Marketing Techniques for Targeting Markets

On a daily basis, people are exposed to numerous advertising messages through television, social media, websites, magazines, press, and other means of communication, which ultimately influence their purchasing decision-making and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, children are disproportionately targeted by advertising which has negative outcomes. Companies use specifically designed targeting methods to identify their prospective customers through segmentation. Firstly, the psychological method of targeting (Matz et al., 2017). Secondly, the behavioral method of targeting involves the usage of particularities of children’s and teenagers’ behavior such as playing, eating snacks, or others to persuade their need for advertised products or services. Finally, contextual targeting involves the purposeful placement of specifically designed advertising messages in media that the children are most likely to consume.

The Ethical Issue at Hand (Consumer Perspective)

The ethical dilemma behind advertising to children is a debatable two-fold issue that has two sides, namely the one that perceives it as ethically wrong and the other one perceiving it as ethically right. The first perspective is the consumer one where children’s exposure to targeted advertising is thought harmful and ethically inappropriate. Indeed, when influenced by the marketing messages at an irresponsible age, children’s right to autonomy is breached since the marketers intrude in their lives. For the same reason, targeted advertising hinders minors’ right to privacy. Moreover, when participating in the communication environment and obtaining information from the medical, the teenagers’ and children’s right to transparency is involved. Ultimately, the outcomes of minors’ exposure to targeted advertising include physical and mental health issues, as well as socioeconomic difficulties both long- and short-term.

The Ethical Problem Behind Advertising for Minors (Business Perspective)

From the opposing side of the debate, where advertising for children is viewed as an ethical phenomenon, the main validation is the profit that results from such marketing efforts. Indeed, since the target market’s vulnerability and susceptibility are obvious, they are used as an instrument for more successful sales (Lamkadem, 2020). Furthermore, the opponents claim that there is nothing unethical about advertising for children because the ultimate buyers are adult parents who are capable of critical thinking and informed decision-making. Ultimately, brands create value in children’s perception of their products to persuade them to consume them (Nithya et al., 2021).

Justifying Unethical Nature of Targeted Advertising for Minors

Scholarly literature on ethics in the context of business repeatedly refers to the contradiction “between business and the public good” (Kacerauskas, 2019, p. 73). Indeed, “on the one hand, business increases the public good by suggesting that commodities and services are for everybody” however, “on the other hand, business is narrowly focused on those engaged in the business” (Kacerauskas, 2019, p. 73). Thus, business enhances their focus on consumers by manipulating their decisions through segmentation, targeting, and other marketing techniques. At the same time, businesses are not held accountable for the consequences of their deeds due to being driven only by economic growth and profit-making.

Justifying Point #1: Socioeconomic Implications

Without children’s exposure to the advertising that promotes goods for minors, parents would be able to avoid such purchases because they are most commonly unnecessary. Multiple studies have shown that when persuading their parents to buy them the advertised items, children engage in “reverse intergenerational transfer,” thus manipulating the parents’ buying decisions (Nithya et al., 2021, p. 246). Moreover, children’s response to parents purchasing behavior is characterized by the identification of patterns in the perception of advertisement material and consequent proneness to buying (Nithya et al., 2021). As a result, children’s buying behavior patterns emerge, which ultimately impact their financial decision-making in the future.

Yes, we can!
Our experts can deliver a custom Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers paper for only $13.00 $11/page
Learn More
322 specialists online

Justifying Point #2: Physical Health Impairments

Food advertising is the leading marketing sector that strives to promote unhealthy eating habits in the underage population. One vivid example of advertising’s negative impact on children’s physical health is the growing rate of child obesity globally due to fast food and confectionery marketing for minors. Such companies as McDonald’s and others specifically target children to promote unhealthy food purchases (Esmaeil Pour & Shabani Nashtaee, 2021). Advertisers use celebrities and visual effects to alter reality and sell their products, which leads to false promises of the public good while causing harm to children’s long-term health outcomes.

Justifying Point #3: Psychological Problems

Marketing targeting children causes psychological problems which derive from the uncontrolled exposure to advertising content and frequency, as well as children’s non-critical thinking, and automatic emotional reaction. Indeed, according to research, “since children’s advertising literacy is less than that of grownups, and their incentives and capacity to deal with advertisements are lower, progenies mainly deal with advertising information through automatic emotional reactions” (Lamkadem, 2020, p. 38). On a long-term level of implications, the exposure to targeted advertising from a young age might result in an irresponsible personality and the likelihood of being easily persuaded (Matz et al., 2017).

Justifying Point #4: Relationships in the Family

Another significant negative implication of unethical advertising for children and teenagers is its impact on relationships in the family. Since minors do not have money to buy the advertised goods, they ask their parents, which, unlike the marketing messages, say ‘no’ to the children’s requests. Such a disruption of the minor’s expectations and reality creates tension and confrontation, which ultimately hinders their family relationships. As a result, the family lives in an unhealthy climate with children feeling as if their needs are unmet.

Justifying Point #5: Upbringing of Consumerist Generation

The promotion policies used by companies for children are aimed at achieving desired sales (Nithya et al., 2021). The profitability of such business strategies is validated by parents’ purchasing capability since on a psychological level they want to satisfy their children’s requests. Moreover, since younger customers are inexperienced and are not critically thinking, their loyalty is high, which ensures long-term profit. Finally, this market segment is easily accessible and susceptive.

Supporting Side of Advertising Targeting Minors

The promotion policies used by companies for children are aimed at achieving desired sales (Nithya et al., 2021). The profitability of such business strategies is validated by parents’ purchasing capability since on a psychological level they want to satisfy their children’s requests. Moreover, since younger customers are inexperienced and are not critically thinking, their loyalty is high, which ensures long-term profit. Finally, this market segment is easily accessible and susceptive.

Another point that is used by the supporters of the ethicality of child marketing is that through such measures, minors’ needs are addressed. Overall, without advertising children’s products, kids’ purchasing needs are unmet. That is why targeted advertising is a way of promoting child interests in the business. Moreover, it is considered a facilitator of parents’ awareness of kids’ desires.

According to Watkins and Aitken (2020), the early exposure of the underage population to targeted advertising will ensure raising informed consumers who “are the future citizens, consumers, workers and innovators” (p. 170). On the business side, this tactic is the contribution to future consumption rate when this generation grows into independent buyers. On the sustainability promotion side, the advertising of proper information to children at such an age might have positive results in terms of promoting sustainable consumption in the future. Moreover, through children’s exposure to ads, companies create a culture of advertising-driven lifestyles where the choice of goods does not require complex decision-making because businesses make decisions for their target audience.

Cut 15% OFF your first order
We’ll deliver a custom Business Ethics paper tailored to your requirements with a good discount
Use discount
322 specialists online

Child Target Marketing as an Unethical Business Strategy

Although the claims of the side that considers targeted advertising for children ethical provide some validation for the businesses’ decision-making, their arguments are weaker in comparison with those provided by the side supporting unethicality of the issue. Indeed, despite explaining why companies target minors, there is a lack of ethical justification. Research demonstrates that even the addressing of kid advertising at a legislative level does not necessitate businesses to conduct ethically (León-Flández et al., 2017). Moreover, since a vast body of research has illustrated the abundance of negative impacts that unethically designed and distributed marketing messages for children have in both the long- and short-term, one should be convinced that the issue is unethical. The factors of rights breach, harm to health, socioeconomic status, and relationships play an important role in making a decision to reduce the amount of ads for children to ensure businesses’ ethical conduct in relation to minors.

Conclusion

In summation, the overview of the debatable ethical issue in the business context was concentrated on the problem of targeted marketing techniques aimed at children and teenagers. It was identified that business and ethics as incompatible phenomena because companies prioritize profit-making at all costs. The side of the debate that claims that targeted ads are ethical validates this opinion by satisfying minors’ needs, bringing up informed consumers, and obtaining a long-term source of profit. On the contrary, stronger support for the argument claiming that targeted ads are unethical is based on more evidence-derived research pertaining to ethical considerations specifically.

In particular, targeted marketing breaches autonomy, privacy, and transparency hinders mental and physical health, implies socio-economic disadvantages, and raises a consumerist generation. Thus, it is important to enforce the application of ethical principles to advertisements for children to eliminate the potential of harmful outcomes and ensure that children grow into informed and critically-thinking consumers.

References

Esmaeil Pour, F., & Shabani Nashtaee, M. (2021). Promotional techniques in advertisement of unhealthy food product in children magazines. Journal of Business Management, 13(1), 114-131.

Kacerauskas, T. (2019). Ethics in business and communication: common ground or incommensurable?. Business Administration and Management, 12(1), 72-81.

Lamkadem, S. A. (2020). Ethical issues about kids targeting. International Journal of Research and Scientific Innovation, 7(12), 37-42.

León-Flández, K., Rico-Gómez, A., Moya-Geromin, M. Á., Romero-Fernández, M., Bosqued-Estefania, M. J., Damian, J., López-Jurado L., & Royo-Bordonada, M. Á. (2017). Evaluation of compliance with the Spanish Code of self-regulation of food and drinks advertising directed at children under the age of 12 years in Spain, 2012. Public Health, 150, 121-129.

Get a custom-written paper
For only $13.00 $11/page you can get a custom-written academic paper according to your instructions
Let us help you
322 specialists online

Matz, S. C., Kosinski, M., Nave, G., & Stillwell, D. J. (2017). Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(48), 12714-12719.

Nithya, N., Anjani, P. K., & Saravanan, S. (2021). Influence of TV ads and child responsiveness on the buying behavior of parents – a study on consumer psychology of children. Stradresearch, 8(2), 244-257.

Watkins, L., & Aitken, R. (2020). The Role of Young Consumers in Moving to a Sustainable Consumption Future. Responsible Consumption and Production, 12, 169-185.

Cite this paper

Select style

Reference

BusinessEssay. (2022, September 16). Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers. Retrieved from https://business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/

Reference

BusinessEssay. (2022, September 16). Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers. https://business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/

Work Cited

"Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers." BusinessEssay, 16 Sept. 2022, business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/.

References

BusinessEssay. (2022) 'Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers'. 16 September.

References

BusinessEssay. 2022. "Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers." September 16, 2022. https://business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/.

1. BusinessEssay. "Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers." September 16, 2022. https://business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/.


Bibliography


BusinessEssay. "Ethical Analysis of Marketing Targeting Children and Teenagers." September 16, 2022. https://business-essay.com/ethical-analysis-of-marketing-targeting-children-and-teenagers/.