A New Scale To Assess Children's Attitude Toward TV Advertising

Christian Derbaix and Claude Pecheux
Catholic University of Mons, Belgium

From the age of 8 onward, children develop some knowledge about advertising, some skepti­cism ('as they realize that ads are not only enter­taining and informative but are sometimes untruth' [Roedder-John, 1999]). The temptation is high to conclude that once they have acquired this knowl­edge, children will be more critical and therefore less easily influenced by persuasive messages. How­ever, evidence regarding the extent to which chil­dren's attitudes and beliefs about advertising function as cognitive defenses against advertising is mixed. On one hand, some authors observed a negative correlation between children's knowl­edge of advertising persuasive intent and their desire/request for the advertised products (MacNeal, 1964; Robertson and Rossiter, 1974). On the other hand, Christenson (1982) and Fisher (1985), among others, obtained different results. Fisher (1985) showed that children's cognitive defenses do not prevent them from forming positive atti­tudes toward the objects (products) advertised. According to Roedder (1981), there are two ways to explain this. First, given the predominance of affect in children's reactions, children knowledge or general attitude toward advertising is not suf­ficient to inhibit the reaction toward a particular advertisement. As it is the case for adults, a par­ticular advertisement can be highly seductive. The second explanation is that children will use their opinion or attitude toward advertising, only to the extent that this information is accessible ('prompted') while watching advertisements. Ac­cording to the classification of 8 to 12 year olds as 'cued processors,' they need to be 'cued' (that is, their knowledge about advertising needs to be activated to have an impact in a specific viewing situation) to bring to the fore their cognitive defenses.