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Everything Under Control: A Child's Eye View of Advertising

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Research on children's response to advertising is dominated by positivistic and quantitative approaches and often addresses children's failure to understand advertising in an adult manner. This paper suggests that reliance on Piaget's theory of child development has restricted research on children and advertising, and calls for more attention to be given to theorists such as Erikson who offer broader accounts incorporating social and cultural issues. The paper builds a case for viewing children as active, socially and culturally situated consumers of advertising by reviewing meaning-based, reader-response and literacy approaches to advertising. It reports on a qualitative study (using photo diaries, individual interviews and small friendship group discussions) which sought a child's eye view of advertising experiences among 10-12 year-olds. The children shared a drive to obtain and demonstrate power in their everyday lives, and this led them to seek mastery, control and critical distance in their dealings with advertising. The study's implications are considered for advertising practitioners, researchers and public policy makers.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-04-01

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