How do children digest ads in this digital age, what resonates with them and do parents believe ads should target kids or not? Youth research agency Dubit asks a focus group of seven parents.

What do parents and kids think of toy advertisements?

Most parents aren’t concerned about advertising aimed at children, they just wish there was less of it.

That’s according to a recent online focus group conducted using our Clickroom virtual focus group tool.

Our group of seven parents, with children aged from one to 13 years old, all regard them as moderate TV viewers, enjoying staples like Mike the Knight and Bob the Builder. Most of their viewing is focused on children’s stations like Cbeebies and Nickelodeon, while older kids are inclined to watch the likes of You’ve Been Framed and Charmed.

All the parents consider their children to be light internet users, with most spending their time in walled gardens like CBeebies or brand-owned sites like Nickleodeon or Moshi Monsters. Of course, YouTube was very popular, with kids drawn to the short-form content.

Although TV is their primary source of entertainment, the majority of the children’s TV viewing is done using digital video recorders, like Sky Plus, which allows users to fast-forward through advert breaks.

Helen, one of the parents, comments: “We have loads of stuff on Sky Plus that they watch repeatedly. They could watch the same thing four times in a row and not get bored.”

While this is a positive for parents, it’s obviously bad news for advertisers.

That’s not to say the ads aren’t having some success with kids – even if they’re not aimed at them specifically.

Sharon states: “My three year old even wanted a car once. I had to tell him it wasn’t a toy one, it was a real one.”

When asked which ads they remembered, catchy jingles really helped them recall, regardless of whether the ad was for a toy shop or an insurance company. “For Smyths Toys Superstore, Samuel can sing the jingle,” says Helen. 

Hannah adds: “Arun saw an ad for a push along bike for babies and recited it for me, so I knew what to get.”

Sharon’s comment that her children were “all running around doing meerkat impressions” was echoed by many in the group. In a couple of cases, the ads were more enjoyable than the show they interrupted.

Not one member of the group were concerned about adverts on the internet, either because they see few of them or their child is instructed to avoid clicking the banners. The parents thought their children were more likely to notice ads in apps, but were relaxed about this, preferring ‘ad-supported’ free apps to ‘paid-for’ apps.

Although all the parents have an opinion on children’s advertising, they agree it is one of the lowest concerns overall, placing their child’s wellbeing, school time and health much higher.

However, many think that this could change as their children grow up, when ads can start to affect their perceptions of body image, and when the parent has less control over what media they consume.

Overall, there is little concern about the content of advertising, unless they are disturbing (such as emotionally-driven charity adverts). As a whole, the group just wished there were fewer adverts.

While all involved agree that ads fuel pester-power, they all believe their own parenting meant their child knew what they could and couldn’t have, with rules such as waiting for their birthday, or in Jax’s case, “asking for toys from adverts means they don’t get the toys”.

Simple and effective.

Mums know best

Dubit’s pick of the parents’ quotes: 

Kylie: “I’d rather she didn’t watch adverts as I don’t want her to want things I can’t afford/don’t want her to have. I think my concern is that as she gets older she will be exposed to more [advertising] and I’m not sure how much control I will have over that.”

Hannah: “My son knows that if a banner ad comes up on the phone, he’s not allowed to click on it because it costs money and I won’t pay for it.”

Sharon: “They notice adverts on buses a lot. I think that’s because [my] kids love looking at buses.”

Helen: “I tell them they have to wait until they have saved up their pocket money or it’s their birthday.”

About Dubit

Dubit is a youth research agency and digital development studio. By utilising a deep understanding of young people’s motivations and behaviours, Dubit works with brand owners to create digital experiences that children love.

Phone: 0113 394 7920


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