Directly Targeting Children
Our discussion and reading of marketing toys directly to children made me consider advertisments that I was exposed to growing up. Almost all of these advertisements for toys, movies, and video games were directed at children and not at adults, a development that Gary Cross finds originated in the early twentieth century., citing a 1913 article in Toys and Novelties that advocated marketing to children “to cause their wonderment, their desire for ownership and their immediate pleas.” (52)
This marketing tenet seems to still hold true in advertising toward the very end of the 20th century, as exemplified by these advertisements between children’s programming on Nickelodeon in 1999, specifically the two Star Wars ads. I remember the first one specifically because it advertised the connection of two things very dear to my seven-year-old self: Star Wars and Legos. These advertisements were crafted specfically to run on a children’s network and are completely geared toward the imagination and playfulness of a child audience. There are no adults buying or giving toys to children, just children playing within the “Star Wars universe,” fulfilling their own desires to be a part of a galaxy far, far away.
Cross states that “toy companies recognized that in an era of growing permissiveness, children had influence of parent’s spending,” and cites this as a cause for marketing to shift towards children. Although this may be the origin of this idea, I believe that the increase in media consumption of American youth in the pass few decades has been the most significant factor in the use and success of advertisements geared directly toward children. The source of this clip shows this phenomenon, as the almost entirely youth-oriented Nickelodeon television network, a relatively new media development, enables advertisement blocks to directly target younger demographics. As mass media has spread throughout all facets of American life, advertisement has been able to capitalize on very precise niches that in ways that it couldn’t’ one hundred years ago.