Advertising to kids in China

Anyone interested in this topic will want to see the review of a new book, Advertising to Children in China by Kara Chan and James U Mcneal, both academics on things Chinese. A sample:

One of the main points it has to make is that the child occupies a rather special position in the family in China. The reason for this, of course, is the one-child policy, first set in place in 1979. This one child, the authors argue, quickly grows to have far more power over family decisions, including decisions on what to buy, than its equivalent elsewhere. Does it answer to the classic definition of “spoiled brat,” they ask. In many cases the answer in China has to be “Yes.”

But the authors aren’t apparently unduly worried about this. If you’re only allowed to have the one child, then it’s hardly surprising that four adoring grandparents and two adoring parents are going to constitute a powerful pressure-group in the domestic domain. Besides, consumer protection, is a relatively recent development in the West, and a highly sophisticated form of human right in China, considering all the other human rights, acknowledged or denied, it has to compete with.

Nevertheless, there are quite elaborate controls in place governing advertising aimed at children in China. It shouldn’t show affluent kids displaying pride in possessing a product while an impoverished counterpart dressed in rags looks on in envy. It shouldn’t show children indulging in insulting behavior to the family (or, needless to say, the state). And it shouldn’t encourage children to ask their parents to buy the advertised product for them. This last prohibition is surely ambiguous at best. Isn’t what it seems to ban the whole point of such advertising?

The good news, however, is that the older generations in China still distrust advertising in general, and that many of the young are coming to take a similar view.

That doesn’t sound like it bodes too well for advertisers, but I doubt they’re worrying. Advertising in China is booming, probably more than anyplace else, and whether people are skeptical or not, advertising still works there.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

To add: I’ve noticed that in HOng Kong there are parents with more than one child, and both of the children, and sometimes three children act just as spoiled. I don’t think it is the one-child policy that breeds this feeling and behaviour.

July 11, 2004 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

True. I remember the parents giving up their seats on the MRT so the little kids could have them — even the elderly grandmothers stood so the brats could sit! (My parents taught us at a very young age to always give our seats to old people; I think that idea has yet to gain widespread traction in Asia.)

By the way, it isn’t only Asia. Back when I lived in Germany, I was amazed at how spoiled the young kids seemed.

July 11, 2004 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

It isn’t only Asia, Europe and America, either — the older we get, the more spoiled kids seem ๐Ÿ™‚

July 11, 2004 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

Asia by blog

Before I begin today’s edition a simple request: if you come across an entry (or you’ve got an entry on your blog) that you think should appear here, please send it to me. Also if you have any feedback on the current format or other likes and dislikes …

July 12, 2004 @ 1:55 am | Comment

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