JOURNAL OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS 6 37–52 (2000)
Hong Kong children’s understanding of
Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
This study exam ines Chinese children’s understanding and comprehension of television advertising. A quota sam ple of 448 children made up of 32 girls and 32 boys from kindergartens and grades 1–6, were personally interviewed in May 1998. The results indicated that children in grade 2 (aged 7–8 years) were beginning to understand what advertising was and were aware of the persuasive intention of television advertising. Over one-third of older children from grade 4 understood that television stations carried advertising for m oney. Like children in the West, the main reason for liking and disliking comm ercials depended on their entertainm ent element. An understanding of television advertising, recall of brands from slogans and com prehension of advertising content were consistently related to the cognitive developm ent of children. Brand recognition from liked and disliked com m ercials was strong. Com prehension of the key m essages of advertising content varied greatly by children’s cognitive development and the style of presentation. Ethical issues and public opinions of Hong Kong consum ers regarding advertising to children were discussed.
KEYWOR DS: Children; television advertising; cognitive development INTRODUCTION
Today advertising penetrates into the life of every person, including children. The children’s market is important to advertisers because of the enormous purchasing power of the children and their parents. A survey of 2400 children aged 7–12 years in six countries, including China, Japan, France, the UK, Germany and the USA, indicated that their estimated annual spending power ranged from US$1.7 billion in Germany to US$11.3 billion in the USA. The survey results also indicated active participation of children in making family purchase decisions in a number of product categories (Carey et al., 1997). The newly emerging middle classes, high populations and one-child policies in some Asian countries mean that these ‘little emperors’ are obtaining more and more in uence over where the family money is spent. R esearch has suggested that children in China have been quick to make demands and exercise pester power. They are often the rst to learn of new products from the mass media, retail outlets and parents. Chinese children considered television to be the most important information sources for new products (McNeal and Ji, 1999).
Children in Hong Kong are exposed to a large amount of advertising, particularly through Journal of Marketing Communications
ISSN 1352-7266 print/ ISSN 1466-4445 online # 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd
television advertising. According to a weekly AC Nielsen television rating report, the average rating of TVB-Jade, the dominant Chinese channel, from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. on a school day in March 1998 for children of 4–14 years was 12 rating points (equivalent to an audience size of 103 000). Children watched a lot more television during school holidays. The average rating of TVB-Jade on an Easter holiday was 17 rating points (a 40% larger audience than a typical school day). A child spending 4 h per day watching television may be exposed to 15 000 commercials every year. What do children in Hong Kong know about television advertising and what do they learn from it? This study attempts to examine children’s response to television advertising for aspects relating to the communication process. The study adopts Piaget’s (1970) theory of cognitive development. The theory identi es distinct stages of cognitive development and postulates that children will manifest differences in the ways they select, evaluate and use information. Children’s responses to television advertising will therefore be analysed by school year.
The study is of major interest to both...
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