Campaign enlightens tweens about ads


Stacey Vanek-Smith: It seems ads are popping up in ever more exotic places -- airplane tray tables, bathroom stalls, even school buses. That one got the Federal Trade Commission's attention. It's worried about the effect those ads will have on kids. So it's launching a campaign today to teach kids how to deal with the ad-a-palooza. Alisa Roth reports.

Alisa Roth: The campaign is called Admongo, and it's aimed at so-called tweens. There's an online game that's supposed to help kids recognize ads and understand what goes into making them.

Janet Evans is an attorney in the FTC's advertising division. She says the campaign also includes extensive materials for teachers and parents. It's all about opening kids' eyes:

Janet Evans: So they would come into it with a much better understanding of what the purpose of advertising is, how it works and to teach them to be savvier consumers, to be critical, to have a critical eye when they look at advertising.

It's not that earlier generations haven't been exposed to advertising. But there are suddenly so many more ways for marketers to target kids.

Susan Linn directs the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, it's a national advocacy group, and she says the FTC is wasting its time:

Susan Linn: The fundamental mission of advertising is to make us, you know, believe that we need these products. And that doesn't have to do with cognition, it has to do with our feelings and emotions.

She says the U.S. lags far behind other industrialized countries in regulating ads to kids.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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Sure there's a link between cognition and emotion. You can't emote about something if you can't cogitate about it. But they aren't the same things and emotions can be manipulated and appealed to. I live in one of the most prosperous nations in history. To suggest that i NEED these things is laughable. But I might want them. It is the advertisers job to try to make me dissatisfied with life so that I buy their products. Since they are 'selling the benefits' they are only telling half the truth. That's what the snake did in the garden. To suggest there is a upside doesn't erase any downside. But adverts ignore that.

Is Susan Linn suggesting that there's no link between cognition and emotion? Can we not learn to recognize and analyze our feelings, and think critically about how we are going to act on them? If we can't, millions of therapists will be very disappointed.

(Full disclosure: I was a consultant on development of Admongo.)

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