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The effects of targeting ads at children were debated for years before something was done about it as it is an ethical issue affecting young kids, who don’t understand the purpose of a commercial and are therefore being exploited to a degree by having ads aimed at them While in the US, in the year


The effects of targeting ads at children were debated for years before something was done about it as it is an ethical issue affecting young kids, who don’t understand the purpose of a commercial and are therefore being exploited to a degree by having ads aimed at them While in the US, in the year 1990 congress brought into effect, the children’s television act which limited what kids below the age of 16 could be shown on tv, as the kids imitate what they watch in the television, it not only means that they are imitating it but it affects their brain functioning as they think that what they are watching now is their reality, while this issue was also discussed in 2020 against the YouTube, who was damned by the federal trade commission (FTC) for failing to prevent children from being exposed to targeted ads and track which resulted in the company restricting its data collection on those under 13. They stated that “in order to help you comply with the law we’re now required to ask you to mark all of your videos as made for kids or not you know your videos and audience best so we’ve launched a new audience setting that lets you tell us if your videos are made for kids or not” meanwhile countries like Norway and the Canadian province of Quebec have completely prohibited commercial advertising to kids.


While in India, there is no law prohibiting the targeting of ads to children, whose ages are between 5-12 and who can easily get influenced by these ads but on the 10th June 2022, while discussing the misleading advertisement it was stated that “ The new guideline issued  by the central prohibits, any celebrities from the fields of sports, music, or the movies cannot appear in advertising for products that are either prohibited to be sold to a child or require a health warning under any relevant laws, this is to ensure that product or service in any manner does not cause kids to have irrational expectations of it and makes any nutritional or health claims without having them sufficiently and scientifically supported by an established institution, who are given powers by the relevant law.’

In addition to this Children-targeted commercials shouldn’t make claims that using the promoted product will improve intelligence or physical ability or bring about extraordinary recognition without any reliable support or sufficient scientific data, any commercial that gives away free stuff to get kids to buy things they don’t need or encourages irrational consumption should be avoided, this also means that, any advertisement that focuses specifically on kids’ sensitivity to social appeals should detail how much their involvement will contribute to any promotions that are tied to charities. Advertising will be deemed deceptive if it uses promotions that need payment in order to participate and includes a clear call to action directed at or directed at youngsters.

The new regulations also provide clarification on bait ads, surrogate ads, and free claims ads in addition to ads directed at children, additionally, the government has outlawed surrogate advertising and established guidelines that must be followed when publishing bait ads and free-claims promotions.

Also in a recent survey, it was found that 56% of Indian parents blame junk foods as the reason fuelling kid’s cravings, the survey was conducted on 14th November 2022, which is celebrated as children’s day in India, the survey question was, “whether the packaged food advertisements that target children, if not were shown to your children or grandchildren (under the age of 16), would they request and eat less unhealthy packaged food?” in response to this it was found that “only 12% of parents responded “no, they would consume the same,” while 56% said “yes, without a doubt,” and almost 18% said, “maybe.”

While the 2013 self-regulatory standards for food and beverages from the ‘Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’ are not particularly clear about using the kid as bait for attracting young people (those under the age of 12). It solely deals with “misleading or deceptive” advertising that misleads people into thinking that using a product can instantly improve their intelligence, physical prowess, or social standing, so such advertisements are only allowed if they are supported by data, have a solid scientific foundation, and adhere to the requirements established by the ‘Food Safety Standards Act[1] and Rules[2]’. The rules also state that the commercials must not criticise healthy eating or the available options.

The HUL (Hindustan Unilever limited), in consideration of increased attention on the targeting ads on children and the government-issued guidelines to restrict the effect of advertisements on young adults and children, will stop marketing and advertising its full line of foods and beverages to youngsters under the age of 16 as of next year. This includes Horlicks health drink, Kissan jams, squash, and ketchup, as well as its food brands Kwality Walls and Magnum ice cream, Knorr soups, quick noodles, and ready-to-cook mixes and stated that the “Unilever will stop advertising and marketing its products to minors under the age of 16 worldwide. This comprises our ice cream and cuisine brands in India”.[3]


The effects of advertising to children or kids have the largest influence on food entertainment, vacations and even vehicles, according to a study, in Canada, advertisers in 1983 companies spent 100 million dollars which by 2007 was raised to 17 billion dollars spent on child-targeted advertising, the reason being that:

  • The kids are vulnerable and susceptible to advertisements;
  • Companies want to build brand loyalty from a young age;
  • Kids play a large role in family purchases.

Advertiser put kids into three different categories depending on what they’re trying to sell, the primary market being, which a kid can consume with their own money, the second is influence market, which is kids affecting parents purchases and the third is future market which is kids purchases once they’re grown and the influence market, marketing companies exploit children for something they’re really good at pestering their parents, advertisers actually refer to this as pester power from a marketing standpoint this is a child’s ability to nag their parents or pester their parents into buying something being advertised, this pestering or pester power comes in two different forms persistent nagging which is the child playing over and over until their parents give in and importance nagging which is guilting the parents into buying what’s best for their kid based on the marketing company’s definition of best, the kids influence more purchases than expected which is why, they are constantly invested in advertising for children, also every auto manufacturer has a strategy to target children advertisers, who knows how much your kids influence the vehicle, they use that to their advantage and continue directly from the influence market into the future market.

Brand loyalty on the other hand starts at a young age, advertisers don’t even wait until the children are old enough to play with their first barbie doll or toy, they start by forming a mental image of logos they’ve seen, which actually leads to subconscious brand loyalty and the marketers know this and use this for their benefit, in a survey between 1944 and 1964 it was found that 23 of adults are still using products they used when they were kids and these are mostly things used on a daily and habitual basis, so when a company gives away free products at your school and sponsors something and their logo is branded all over the thing they’re sponsoring, they’re not just doing that because they want to help out, the food companies like craft pizza hut and subway use this as a  way to enter into the kids’ lunchrooms with the idea of buying their brand loyalty, they make branding highly visible for a reason.


Hence the Indian government has the authority to encourage the food business to choose self-regulation. Public service ads can also be distributed by the government to inform parents and kids that processed foods should only be taken in moderation, promoting healthful foods like fruits and vegetables can employ the same themes and attractions that are so effective at getting kids to buy the marketed (processed) items. To safeguard children’s health and well-being, parents must simultaneously keep an eye on their children’s television consumption and eating habits.

Author(s) Name: Shivansh Singh Thakur (Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur)


[1] Food Safety Standards Act, 2006

[2] Food Safety Standards Rules, 2011