• Advertising Media and Forms

    Brand and product advertising uses a wide variety of media, such as newspapers, radio, television or websites to create needs and trigger interest. Here one can describe a few essential similarities of the advertising forms, but also differences.

    Essential Objectives of Advertising in all Areas are the Same

    Advertising should convey a positive image, generate needs and desires, inspire people to buy, increase turnover and awareness and arouse interest in a brand, product or service. Advertising messages aim at a specific target group, which is generally very well known to advertisers. This knowledge about a target group, about their life situation, desires, values, attitudes or about their financial possibilities, is based on long-term and precise observations and surveys. In order to achieve the desired effect and satisfy the specific target groups, marketing often uses findings from semiotics, colour and design theory, communication science and psychology. This way, advertising concepts can be geared precisely to the respective goals and the desired target group, the brand and the product as well as the medium and the available space.

    Advertising on television, radio, the Internet and apps tries to intensify its messages by means of frequent repetitions and permanent presence. This high frequency is intended to help the target group better internalise the messages. This can, however, create a great deal of pressure, especially on younger children as it is difficult for them to escape the frequent and recurring advertising messages. In addition, this can be very frustrating for children since the children's awakened consumer wishes usually remain unfulfilled.

    Keeping children completely away from advertising is not a solution. It is more important to pre-select appropriate media content for the children, to accompany them when they use media and to start strengthening their media literacy at an early stage in the domain of advertising as well.

    In order to reduce the advertising pressure, it can help to talk with children about their experiences with advertising. Emotional aspects such as desires, frustration or feelings of being disturbed can be addressed in order to support the processing of advertising impressions. As an introduction to conversation it is a good idea to playfully document with the children how often they are disturbed by advertising during certain media use. The group can, for example, listen to the radio together and place a sticker on a timeline at each advertising interruption. With the help of the timeline, the duration of use and all advertising interruptions are visualised and it stimulates the discussion of the topic of advertising

    Number of advertisement interruptions:

    Timeline of advertisements during a radio programme

    Print and Poster Advertising

    Advertising messages in print media are usually conveyed using impressive combinations of images and text, exciting image sections and graphic incentives. Advertising differs from editorial content by using different fonts or eye-catching colours. It is also marked with the word "advertising" or "ad". The visible placement of the company or product logo is also important, as the advertisement should also be noticed when leafing through a print medium. The product images and logos can be noticed by young children as a distinguishing feature for advertising. Since magazines and periodicals often contain entire pages of advertising or very large advertisements, which hardly differ from the editorial content, it is especially difficult for younger children to associate the ad pages with advertising. Even young children are familiar with viewing visual content because they observe their parents using print media and even using children's magazines and books. Even though children between the ages of three and six usually cannot (correctly) read, picture messages do reach them here.

    Radio Advertising

    Adults often use the radio as an accompanying medium, e.g. at breakfast or in the car, which is consumed incidentally and unconsciously. Radio advertising must therefore be identified by a clearly audible signal. In addition, the commercials themselves are also clearly highlighted in order to be heard by the listener. Therefore, advertising on the radio often uses distinct features such as catchy jingles, haunting voices, repetitions or funny puns. These design elements allow children to easily recognise advertising on the radio. Radio advertising has a high recognition effect and children are animated to speak and sing along due to the constant repetitions. Radio commercial spots are usually quite short and thus help to attract the attention of children. Therefore, the auditory advertising messages can also very quickly become firmly established in the memory of children (but also of adults). Consumer buying decisions and choice of brand can thus be strongly influenced.

    Television Advertising

    Television advertising attracts the attention of young children with colourful pictures, funny or captivating music and short stories. In addition, it often uses language that is characterised by rhymes, short sentences and other linguistic embellishments. This makes advertising messages for children more interesting and easier to understand according to their language development. Private television stations use advertising for children specifically in the context of their children's programme. The advertising clips are placed in the appropriate place in the programme and summarised according to topic, as is the case with the adult target group. For example, before and after an animal show product advertisements are faded in to specifically appeal to children's spirit of research. Advertising for dolls is more likely to be played in the programme environment of "Programmes for Girls". On television, however, children can also see commercials targeting adults. In some cases, these clips can impair the development of children, which is why they may not be broadcast in the daytime programming. Studies relating to television show that children between the ages of three and six cannot distinguish between advertising and programme content.

    Only children aged seven and over know that advertising wants to sell something. From the age of eleven, children begin to consider advertising to be increasingly untrustworthy. For television advertising to be reliably distinguishable from actual programmes, one needs comprehensive understanding of advertising, which preschool children do not normally have.

    However, by means of a few simple formal features, children can also easily identify advertising on television. Helpful signs of identification for children can be, for example:

    • the audiovisual bumpers at the beginning and end of the advertising segment,
    • names of products and brands
    • and the missing channel logo, which is not displayed during the commercial break.

    Online Advertising

    Online media always offer new forms of advertising that make use of a wide variety of technical possibilities. On websites, for example, one will find advertising banners that, in addition to the familiar features of print advertising, also use colour effects, sounds or changing content. On social networks, advertising is usually displayed in a personalised form between the postings or at the edge of the page, while audiovisual advertising clips are inserted upstream and downstream in videos. Since certain forms of advertising are deliberately designed so that they are not immediately recognised as advertisements, it is sometimes difficult for adults to distinguish clearly between content and advertising. Therefore, it is difficult to identify clear and unambiguous characteristics of online advertising. There are only a few characteristics that children can look for. These include, for example:

    • price indications,
    • illustrations of products and brands,
    • purchase requests and labels with the terms "advertisement" or "advertising".

    Online advertising is often perceived by children as annoying and overwhelming. For example, they find it difficult to click away large advertising windows covering the actual webpage without help. In addition, there is an increased risk online that children will come across advertisements with inappropriate content. One should always ensure that children only visit recognised websites for children, even if they are accompanied by adults. In the case of online programmes for children, it is therefore a special quality feature if these offers are advertising-free. In this way children can be protected from possible excessive demands.

    Quiz - Different Forms of Online-Advertisement

    Further reading: The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the State Media Authority for North Rhine-Westphalia have published a brochure with numerous other tips on online advertising.

    Advertising in Apps

    In free apps one can often find advertisements in the form of faded-in pictures, as recorded videos or as small advertising banners. The full paid versions are usually without advertising. A separate form of advertising in apps are the so-called "in-app purchases" or "in-app items". This means that, for example, in a free game app, additional materials can be purchased to help the player reach the goal of the game faster. While big advertisements in apps such as banners, videos or pop-ups can usually be identified by differences in appearance and content, corresponding purchase recommendations for in-app items can usually only be identified by careful reading of the message and are therefore often not clearly perceived as advertising by children. When selecting apps for children, care should also be taken to ensure that they are free of advertising. Children usually find the interruption caused by advertising windows annoying, e.g. during a game. More serious, however, are the risks associated with app advertising. On the one hand, children could acquire and pay for digital offers without realising and without their parents' consent. On the other hand, there is the danger that advertising may present unsuitable topics.

    Comprehension Questions

    1. Can you name some common essential objectives of different advertising forms?

    2. What features does television advertising use to attract the attention of young children?

    3. Is it a solution to completely keep children away from media advertising? Why? / Why not?

    4. At ECEC how can you reduce advertising pressure on children?