According to a survey by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing, British adults are less concerned about advertising to children than they were two years ago – despite increasing pressure from within the European Union to regulate such advertising.

The CIM reports that the number of adult consumers who think that advertising aimed at children should be restricted has dropped by just over 11%, compared to survey results two years ago. The number of adult consumers who think it should be banned entirely remains the same.

Even though a substantial majority (75%) of those taking part in the survey feel that children see too much advertising, this figure has fallen by five per cent compared to a CIM study posing identical questions two years ago.

Comments the CIM’s Linda Bishop: “The research seems to indicate a disconnect. If parents are indifferent to the influence of advertising on their children the question is: ‘Is that OK?’ Or, should the marketing profession take the lead in being more informative to society, parents and consumers about the influence of advertising and by way of a code of practice for marketing,"

However, parents are clearly not indifferent. When asked if laws governing advertising and targeting children should be strengthened, the majority of the sample (73%) agree that they should. This is, nonetheless, a reduction of 2% compared to survey results two years ago. Only 18% of adult consumers now think that laws should not be strengthened (20% previously).

But some things don’t change. The influence of friends and advertising still count for more than parents when it comes to children’s purchasing aspirations. Thirty-four per cent of adult consumers believe that friends are the biggest influence on children and 39% believe advertising to be the most influential factor.

Just 14% of respondents think parents have the strongest influence, while a mere 8% believe school to be the most effectual factor. There is no change in the majority who believe that a five year old is old enough to be influenced by advertising – although only 29% believe advertising influences the way children think [about what?].

In the light of this latest research, says Mike Johnston, international CIM chairman, “a CIM Policy Unit will be launched in the spring 2003 and will look to evolve our policy in this area further”.

Data sourced from: CIM (UK); additional content by WARC staff