The Mothers’ Union, following a request from the coalition government, conducted research into a matter of public concern. It would seem that 88% of parents believe children are being forced to grow up too quickly.
It found that four points were of particular concern to parents, the ones relevant to those in email marketing are:
- Sexualised images as wallpaper of children’s lives
- Inappropriate clothing, products and services for children, and
- Children as consumers.
Wallpaper was mainly seen as the on-street advertising in public places and various media sources. This would be of concern to any company with an integrated campaign. Email marketing is able to differentiate between age groups in the main via details of those on email lists, but having to change images and content dramatically for locations over and above what is already done has a cost implication.
The Review suggested that retailers should be aware of the concern of parents with regards to the selling and marketing of inappropriate clothing, products and services for children. Here it suggested a voluntary code of practice and the British Retail Consortium published their own good practice for stores on the same day.
The Review rejected voluntary restriction with regards to the third theme. It recommended a comprehensive and effective regulatory action protecting children from excessive commercial pressures. In a rather pious comment it suggested that marketers should not exploit gaps in advertising regulations. This concern might be better directed at the regulators.
The targeting of children as consumers and the use of sexualised images of them were the main concerns of parents. The research saved a special mention for suggestive slogans on girls’ T-shirts. Children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing was highlighted as of concern.
These issues are unlikely to go away. The Prime Minister has written an open letter to the Mothers’ Union in which he expressed his full agreement with the Review’s conclusions and suggested that the coalition should “look to put the brakes on an unthinking drift towards ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation” of children.
For email marketing the recommendations can be summarised under two main headings. The first is that the marketing of products and services aimed at children should not be ‘excessive’. The definition of this word will, not doubt, become clearer as time goes on but already there is some argument. Experience with the advertising of alcohol has highlighted some of the areas that might be in dispute.
The other main point is the product or service itself. Whilst clothing is mentioned specifically there is little doubt that other products will come within the area of concern. Historically, young children, especially girls, have imitated their parent’s dress and to ignore this in marketing children’s clothes could be seen a death wish.
Specifics for email marketing would include images, wording and those you are targeting. Emails go directly to the child so care has to be exercised if restrictive and commercially difficult legislation is to be avoided.
There is little argument against the Review that would not be seen as an attack on childhood. Take care out there.
The review can be seen here.
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