On completing 25 years, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) played host to a seminar on ‘Marketing Responsibly’ where one of the key discussions were that of Marketing Responsibly to Children. The panel for this topic of discussion included Geeta Dharmarajan, Bejon Misra and Ricardo Fort of Coke with Arvind Sharma of Leo Burnett playing the moderator for this session.
Dharmarajan opened the session by stating that India was home to 440 million children of which 80 per cent of the children go to language schools. Speaking further she said that many of these language schools which are for the poor children see a high drop out rate because of the pressure that is put on them mainly from their families. These children too have aspirations, to which they are exposed to, to a certain extent, through advertising. But for that they need a job.
“We are looking at the future of the next generation, the making of children. But these children, even though they have aspirations to become something are led to what they require today , not looking at the future,” she said, adding, “Advertising looks at a today and not what children would do. I am not saying ads are bad, but it has a good and a bad side to it. Advertisement that does not look at reality is not advertising.”
Misra started by speaking about how initially it was all about the product and not the consumer and how tables have now turned to be consumer centric. He believes that it is the right of the consumer to be informed rightly and to get full information for the product of his choice. What he urged ASCI to do was to be more pro-active and to conduct many more studies about consumers and what they seek and how they can be helped, which he thinks lacks in this country. He ended his presentation by saying, “Communication to a consumer should be prompt and informative and not misleading in anyway.”
Giving his side of the story was Fort in which he mentioned that Coke as an organisation do not advertise to children because of lack of understanding on their part. He started by saying, “Marketing irresponsibly to children or to anyone is not an option and it should not be done.” He further stated that volume of information is what advertising is all about and since we speak very loud, whatever we say is noticed.
On why his organisation did not market to children, he said, “One should respect the role that parents play as gatekeepers in all decisions affecting the lives of their children.” He explained the same by saying that parents don’t like advertisements to children because they lose control over their kids decisions which most of the time are not the right time since they don’t understand thinks like good or bad or finance.
Closing the session Sharma stated that kids marketing was something that was very delicate because although kids were smart enough to know what they wanted, their decision was not always right and advertising to them meant that they would want certain things that they might not have the means to get.