The concentration on action and violence draws larger audiences, yet is not effective in selling products Pechmann, Levine, Loughlin, Leslie, 2005).
Researchers have also found that the brains of pre-adolescents and adolescents have low levels of inhibitory control and therefore pursue reckless and risky activities due to their judgment not being fully developed (Cauffman, Steinberg, 2000). Adolescents who have seen reckless and risky behavior online or on television advertising are 80% more likely to engage in the behavior (Trimpop, Rudiger, Kerr, Kirkcaldy, 1999). The lack of inhibitory controls when combined with the an abundance of violent content leads quickly to replication of viewed acts of violence, especially in pre-adolescents, as verified through research completed (Trimpop, Rudiger, Kerr, Kirkcaldy, 1999).
Ethically this raises the question of whether the advertisers are more adept at the selling of violent acts than products, as the brains of the audience members they are selling products to are not developed enough to have inhibitory senses and judgment intact. While violent content as portrayed in both online and offline content does increase viewership and click-through rates in the case of online and digital content, it ultimately fails to sell more products as the act of violence is more memorable than the product shown (Kanti, Smith, 1994). For those marketing professionals that gain bonuses and increases in their salaries based purely on the activity, not the sales results of their advertising campaigns, the increase in violence with pre-adolescents and adolescents needs to be taken into account. Instead of creating advertising campaigns that appeal to this age group advertisers need to be targeting those demographic segments who have more fully developed inhibitory brain functions and can distinguish between what is dangerous or not. The many incidents of children, pre-adolescents and adolescents attempting stunts seen on television or online, sponsored by advertisers, need to be legislated against to protect children from making decisions they may see as perfectly logical and safe. The bottom line of all this is that marketers who are paid on click-through rates and views tend to rely on the most outrageous and controversial violence so their advertising campaigns are seen as successful when in fact there is often no increase in sales, only a great threat to children attempting to accomplish the same stunts and risking harm to themselves and their friends and family.
Tobacco and Alcohol Advertising Effects Are Lasting
Advertisers who concentrate on tobacco and alcohol advertising both offline and online often create lifelong customers from the ranks of children and teenagers seeing their advertisements. The fact the Joe Camel was specifically developed to attract children to Camel cigarettes is a case in point (Gilpin, White, Messer, Pierce, 2007). These researchers have created a maturity model that shows how over time children exposed to cigarette advertising, even as children, take just ten packs of purchases to become regular users of tobacco, and there is a 46% chance they will become lifelong smokers as a result. The use of promotional materials including the use billboards near elementary, middle schools, and high schools has also shown to be effective in stimulating trial use of cigarettes in school children attending these schools. The predominance of messaging around tobacco products continually fuels a sequence of trail leading to adoption and then heavy use on the part of pre-adolescents and adolescents (Gilpin, White, Messer, Pierce, 2007).
The ethics of advertisers concentrating on children as early adopters has been assailed by the U.S. Congress and lawmakers which have outlawed these advertising practices and relied on federal agencies to ensure that children are protected from both offline and online advertising by tobacco companies concentrating their messages on the youngest group of consumers they possibly can introduce to their products. it's blatantly unethical to advertise these products to children who, as was seen in the studies relating to violence, do not have a fully developed set of inhibitory functions in their brains to discern if smoking is good for them or not. The Truth campaign has been highly successful in getting children to give up smoking if they have already tried it and not trying it in the first place if they haven't yet (Farrelly, Davis, Haviland, Messeri, Healton, 2005). Conversely however those children exposed both online and offline to cigarette advertising stand a high probability of becoming lifetime smokers if there is no countervailing strategy to bring them back from smoking an initial ten packs. The tragedy of this is that many children are now beginning to develop lung disease before their bodies are fully grown. The lack of ethics tobacco advertisers have in recruiting children as customers is reprehensible and needs to be a marketing practice that if continued, needs to earn these advertisers heavy fines for taking advantage of children by making their products appear to be toys when in fact there are major health consequences of using them.
In the area of alcohol and liquor, the same unethical advertising strategies also pervade this area. Liquor advertising now stresses alcoholic drinks that are portrayed as fruity and like punch, while the intoxicating and addictive aspects of alcohol are never presented to the children advertisers seek to sell to. The retort of advertisers is that they have labeled their products as for those above 21 or legal drinking limits serves to only challenge underage children targeted by their advertising to seek ways of gaining the drinks for consumption (Cray, 2001). There's an even more addictive aspect to selling children liquor, and that is the fact that being drunk is often seen as a bade of honor in certain social circles, especially in middle and high school (Pechmann, Levine, Loughlin, Leslie, 2005). Clearly supporting self-destructive behavior, advertising alcohol and all forms of liquor with veiled references to pre-adolescents and adolescents can also lead to accidents and over the long-term, addiction. In addition, children in pre-adolescent age groups seek resolution of the turmoil and floating anxiety they have of moving from elementary to middle school, and the big jump from middle school to high school. Online advertising of liquor and the carefree attitude these advertisements show is for many children seen as a panacea to all that trouble them. In the turmoil and uncertainty of facing down some of life's biggest challenges, they revert to alcohol for a sense of control over their lives (Pechmann, Levine, Loughlin, Leslie, 2005). As their brains have limited inhibitory development and the quick fix of alcohol becomes a sought-after escape (Cauffman, Steinberg, 2000).
Advertisers strive to deliver messages over the rising voice levels of competing and substitute products in addition to the growing importance of all forms of consumer-generated media including blogs, viral videos and Wikis. The fact that many advertisers realize these forms of online communication can deliver exceptionally strong results from viewership while appealing to children is blatantly unethical and is tantamount to sacrificing these children's lives for high advertising ratings. For the sake of their financial bonuses that are calculated not on products sold, yet on views of their online advertisements, these advertisers sacrifice children for financial gain. Thankfully there are more and more safeguards on the advertising of sexually oriented content, violent content and the selling of cigarettes and alcohol. Just as advertisers can specifically target audiences online and increasingly offline through research, there is the moral and ethical responsibility to protect, not exploit children for financial gain.
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