What advertisements are doing to our children

Published: December 21, 2010

Both girls and boys are highly objectified in the modern advertisement business.

“Bubloo tumhara sabun slow hei kia?” chants an arrogant, animated girl character in a liquid soap ad, teasing the poor boy who has been silly enough to not know that soap bars are useless compared to liquid soap.

Such is the shallowness being imparted on  children during their formative years through advertising. They develop a narcissistic attitude towards what they see as  “me and my things.”

As ad filmmakers are formulating the most effective ways of enticing consumers to buy their products, they have found children are good targets. Younger minds are easy to manipulate and are seen as long-term potential buyers. The idea is to worm a brand’s way into a child’s life as early as possible. But while they may sell products, another question emerges: what values are being promoted for the future generation?

Spoiling our children

Children tend to misinterpret messages conveyed through advertisements. Glossy images in magazines, on billboards or on flashy advertisements on television only create the urge for impulse buying. Children view a certain lifestyle and lose the ability to live life without relying on materialistic joy. A child may prefer only a specific brand of jeans as compared to other clothing available in stores. The desire to live the TV lifestyle may lead to requests that parents are unable to fulfill.

If they don’t have an endless array of new products some children may become convinced that they are inferior to others.

Ads make false promises

In addition to inculcating materialistic values, commercials deceive and manipulate children on a massive scale. The false promises of popularity, success, and attractiveness that marketers routinely make for their products are such common lies that adults have become inured to their dishonesty.

Both girls and boys are highly objectified in the modern advertisement business. Boys are projected as “tough and strong” while girls are “sexy and pretty”. Thus, stereotypical roles are portrayed before them as the epitome of perfection, discouraging originality and creativity.

Given the unprecedented volume of commercials to which children are exposed today, along with their increasing sophistication, we need to consider the cumulative impact of ads.

I feel modern advertising  harms children emotionally. The present day wholesale commercialisation of childhood, calls for an urgent inquiry into the ethics of children’s marketing and its impact on the health and well-being of kids.


Nazish Zafar

Senior Associate Producer programming at Express News.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://awgilani.wordpress.com Syed Abdul Wahab Gilani

    Very right.
    Thumbs up!Recommend

  • http://www.ctl360.com Sarah

    I don’t think it’s right to blame ads as each ad is targeted to a certain type of consumer.

    maybe parent’s need to control what their children see/read?

    I think it’s important for the ad industry to do their job right. and they simply communicate what the CLIENT wants their audiences to perceive. and “children” who by the way generally do not have the decision making power / purchasing power in a household….are only target audiences for CHILD products… not household items

    anyway there is far worse stuff out there to harm children “emotionally” Recommend

  • G

    The ad was not an anime as the author suggests. Please correct the story.Recommend

  • http://www.sidrahmoizkhan.blogspot.com Sidrah Moiz Khan

    Er, I don’t think that babloo ad directed the children towards narcissism. As a matter of fact, it’s funny. And obviously, ads are made because the sellers want you to buy their product. You didn’t do justice, pardon me.Recommend

  • http://www.attockonians.com Usman Altaf

    To some extend I would agree. Particularly in case of Telecommunication Ads. These ads seem to change our NATURAL TRENDS. Advertising most of the time free / affoardable night packages. Believe me this thing is getting in to the roots of our young generation. I’ve seen persons waking up whole night and sleep during day… becoming lazy and lethargic. I would also blame parents of today for not teaching their children the right thing. Children always need to have a good time shared by parents. These days I see parents miss that part on their behalf. The basic education of child starts at their home with their parents as a teacher.Recommend

  • Hammad Siddiqui

    I fully agree with the writer. In fact sometime ago I wrote a blog “Will Cartoon Characters build our Next Generation!”


  • Talat

    There are many other things as well in the world which do more harm than good. If you can’t suggest solutions for such problems, there is no point in highlighting them.Recommend

  • Khan

    Ah.. the fruits of capitalism and consumer-culture!Recommend

  • Fatima Rabani

    Love your article. I think the advertising companies in particular and the media in general need to be a little more aware of the effects that these things have on children who are fragile when theyre younger. It’s bad enough that we have half our population exposed to ‘size 0 Kareena’ and ‘white-green-eyed Ashwariya’ as role models. These adverts need to have meaning rather than showing a woman using a certain prodcut to make amazing food and then being awarded with golden bangles, yes that is how it happens in real life. I think not. Recommend

  • talha

    The worst ads are made in telecommunications that attracts the young generation for the long and late night usage phones with cheap bills. I don’t know the producers of these ads have children or any other relation with young ones. They are killing our nation with awful ideas and in the long run we will be facing notorious parents who cannot teach their children. Recommend

  • Armughan

    Marketing is my favorite subject and i have keen interest in consumer behavior. I agree 200% with the article. Those who disregard it as non-sense either do not know at all or they know too well, probably marketers and promoters themselves.

    The above mentioned ad was both in real life as well as animated. The later showing that why waste a minute washing hands when you can force down a meal in that time, Thus not only promoting bullying but also encouraging unhealthy eating habits. If anyone wants to better understand how this happens, please search Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning and you will realize how it inspires today’s advertisers. Recommend

  • Ammar

    As a student of business, I wouldn’t agree with the author. Its just a fun langauge, it has nothing to do with the minds of Children. Well, evryone thinks in his own way.


  • Ali Hassan

    It was a good read, but I do not agree.Recommend

  • Sakina Kavi

    hands down agreed! the media, and the concerned authorities need to look into all these matters.. I don’t know why such ads do not get banned, yet channels like Disney Channel and BBC Lifestyles do? lol..Recommend

  • Sajjad Sajid

    Apart from commercialization of original lifestyle to a fake one, the most alarming aspect is the cultural invasion and redefining of the basic values of our society… As a legal professional and researcher on this subject in a university, I see it as driving our coming generation to a state of Identity Crisis… Because, commodities and innovations are visiting life each day, how come a young mind could resist against the wide spread impacts of those… Our media, judicial set up and social institutions seem sleeping over this issue… Institutional response is very poor, given my personal experience with law enforcement and judiciary… There are laws and code of ethics for regulating advertisements, but the concerned quarters are not willing to pay their attention… Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    I agree to some extent with the writer, messages communicated through broadcast advertising plays a role in shaping human values. Its not a recent thing, its somethong that began in the late 80s and early 90s, as a result of which our values have become
    Commoditised and we all see each other from the angle of consumer goods in a liberal
    Market economy where exists perfect competition.Recommend

  • Qasim

    Apparently we might take the Babloo ad to be funny, but that would be undermining the effect of slow poisoning ads are causing. This is exactly how slowly and unknowingly cultural norms are affected and results are borne decades, maybe centuries after. Nice write up! Recommend

  • Firdous

    @G there’s anime version of the ad as well, besides the one with real people. And animated ads for tetra packaging, soaps etc.. are other examples of advertising aiming at luring children more than adultsRecommend

  • Uzma Khan

    Loved reading the article and even loved the sagacity of Armughan’s comment here.Recommend

  • Ameer Hamza

    People have been misusing the media for decades now. Nothing says bad behaviour or manipulation like a poor upbringing and lack of mental activity. People made the same complaints about satellite dishes back in the 90s, when i was growing up and many from my generation turned out to be fine.

    It is too early to decide what effects a child and spoils him/her. Sometimes they grow up just fine and go berserk at a later age. Don’t worry about our ads. Be glad that hitherto we still show fully clothed women in our commercials.Recommend

  • parvez

    Interesting point of view but I think you have got a bit carried away with your thought process. Also don’t under estimate today’s kids, they are way smarter or rather wiser than what we would like to credit them with.Recommend

  • ayaz

    em totally agree with author but bear in mind that pakistani ad agencies are that harmful as indian…if parents are not taking responsibility then i dont think it would be wise to ban such kinda ads. Without advertisement no company could survive in today’s competitive market. Recommend

  • Alee Siddiqui

    It is not restricted to our children, but the affects of industrialisation and race of money, everybody is affected, our children needs something what they saw on child ad, our ladies needs what woman is wearing in morning show or in drama, Middle age need what hero is wearing or any celebrity is. We cannot stop this kind of advertisement but rather we tell our loved once that why this thing is wrong which seems to be right and what will be the after affects. To be ourselves within limits is the best way to spend life.Recommend

  • Nadeem Zafar

    ..and one soap brand is fast becoming a part of curriculum in the garb of cleanliness..the mission is to secure lifetime consumers. The administration in schools is either oblivious to the hazardous outcomes or compromising ethics over popularity/business rapport.
    SOLUTION: Govt should establish a regulatory body to check ads and media programs..at least issue a Best Practices document.
    SOLUTION: Parents should ensure that children are not exposed to televesion for more than 1/2 hours a day.Also, they can play a key role in mitigating the bad impacts of these ads through conversation and discussion, especially with teens.
    In the end a quote from TV actor Firdous Jamal, “Ab hamaray dramay aur deegar funoon e lateefa kay mayaar ka tayyun sabun bananay walay aur powder bananay walay kartay hain”Recommend