Calls for further restrictions on toy advertising are wide of the mark,
according to new research from the Independent Television Commission.
Toy advertising is rarely misleading or confusing, and children are
generally more advertising-literate than their parents, the report
The ITC found that advertising is an accepted part of daily life for
children in the UK and older children in particular are unlikely to be
duped by advertising targeted at them.
However, mothers tended not to recognise their children’s sophistication
in terms of their awareness of ads and understanding messages.
The children were found to be quite skilled at discriminating between
the reality of a product and conventional forms of advertising fantasy.
They understood that smoke, lightning and other clearly theatrical
devices were just special effects to make the toy seem more appealing.
Older children accepted and easily understood a range of special effects
and devices used by the toy advertisers. However, there was a risk, the
report found, that younger children were less experienced at
interpreting commercials and this could lead to confusion and heightened
The qualitative study was conducted among ten groups of children aged
four to nine years old and four groups of mothers. They watched
children’s TV on a daily basis, were regular viewers of independent
terrestrial stations and at least half had access to satellite or cable
Frank Willis, director of advertising and sponsorship at the ITC, said
that the findings did not suggest any immediate changes were necessary.