Young children are trusting of commercial advertisements in the media, and advertisers have sometimes been accused of taking advantage of this trusting outlook. The Independent Television Commission, regulator of television advertising in the United Kingdom, has criticized advertisers for “misleadingness”—creating a wrong impression either intentionally or unintentionally—in an effort to control advertisers’ use of techniques that make it difficult for children to judge the true size, action, performance, or construction of a toy.
General concern about misleading tactics that advertisers employ is centered on the use of exaggeration. Consumer protection groups and parents believe that children are largely ill-equipped to recognize such techniques and that often exaggeration is used at the expense of product information. Claims such as “the best” or “better than” can be subjective and misleading; even adults may be unsure as to their meaning. They represent the advertiser’s opinions about the qualities of their products or brand and, as a consequence, are difficult to verify. Advertisers sometimes offset or counterbalance an exaggerated claim with a disclaimer—a qualification or condition on the claim. For example, the claim that breakfast cereal has a health benefit may be accompanied by the disclaimer “when part of a nutritionally balanced breakfast.” However, research has shown that children often have difficulty understanding disclaimers: children may interpret the phrase “when part of a nutritionally balanced breakfast” to mean that the cereal is required as a necessary part of a balanced breakfast. The author George Comstock suggested that less than a quarter of children between the ages of six and eight years old understood standard disclaimers used in many toy advertisements and that disclaimers are more readily comprehended when presented in both audio and visual formats. Nevertheless, disclaimers are mainly presented in audio format only.
[■] Fantasy is one of the more common techniques in advertising that could possibly mislead a young audience. [■] Child-oriented advertisements are more likely to include magic and fantasy than advertisements aimed at adults. [■] In a content analysis of Canadian television, the author Stephen Kline observed that nearly all commercials for character toys featured fantasy play. [■] Children have strong imaginations and the use of fantasy brings their ideas to life, but children may not be adept enough to realize that what they are viewing is unreal. Fantasy situations and settings are frequently used to attract children’s attention, particularly in food advertising. Advertisements for breakfast cereals have, for many years, been found to be especially fond of fantasy techniques, with almost nine out of ten including such content. Generally, there is uncertainty as to whether very young children can distinguish between fantasy and reality in advertising. Certainly, rational appeals in advertising aimed at children are limited, as most advertisements use emotional and indirect appeals to psychological states or associations.
The use of celebrities such as singers and movie stars is common in advertising. The intention is for the positively perceived attributesof the celebrity to be transferred to the advertised product and for the two to become automatically linked in the audience’s mind. In children’s advertising, the “celebrities” are often animated figures from popular cartoons. In the recent past, the role of celebrities in advertising to children has often been conflated with the concept of host selling. Host selling involves blending advertisements with regular programming in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish one from the other. Host selling occurs, for example, when a children’s show about a cartoon lion contains an ad in which the same lion promotes a breakfast cereal. The psychologist Dale Kunkel showed that the practice of host selling reduced children’s ability to distinguish between advertising and program material. It was also found that older children responded more positively to products in host selling advertisements.
Regarding the appearance of celebrities in advertisements that do not involve host selling, the evidence is mixed. Researcher Charles Atkin found that children believe that the characters used to advertise breakfast cereals are knowledgeable about cereals, and children accept such characters as credible sources of nutritional information. This finding was even more marked for heavy viewers of television. In addition, children feel validated in their choice of a product when a celebrity endorses that product. A study of children in Hong Kong, however, found that the presence of celebrities in advertisements could negatively affect the children’s perceptions of a product if the children did not like the celebrity in question.
1. Which of the following is NOT mentioned in paragraph 1 as being a difficult judgment for children to make about advertised toys?
A. How big the toys are
B. How much the toys cost
C. What the toys can do
D. How the toys are made
2. The word “verify” in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. establish the truth of
B. approve of
3. In paragraph 2, what is one reason that claims such as “the best” or “better than” can be misleading?
A. They represent the opinions of adults, which are often different from those of children.
B. They generally involve comparisons among only a small group of products.
C. They reflect the attitudes of consumer protection groups rather than those of actual consumers.
D. They reflect the advertiser’s viewpoint about the product.
4. Cereal advertisements that include the statement “when part of a nutritionally balanced breakfast” are trying to suggest that
A. the cereal is a desirable part of a healthful, balanced breakfast
B. the cereal contains equal amounts of all nutrients
C. cereal is a healthier breakfast than other foods are
D. the cereal is the most nutritious part of the breakfast meal
5. According to paragraph 2, all of the following are true of disclaimers made in advertisements EXCEPT:
A. They are qualifications or conditions put on a claim.
B. They may be used to balance exaggerations
C. They are usually presented in both audio and visual formats.
D. They are often difficult for children to understand.
6. The word “adept” in the passage is closest in meaning to
7. Paragraph 3 indicates that there is uncertainty about which of the following issues involving children and fantasy in advertising?
A. Whether children can tell if what they are seeing in an advertisement is real or fantasy
B. Whether children can differentiate fantasy techniques from other techniques used in advertising
C. Whether children realize how commonly fantasy techniques are used in advertising aimed at them
D. Whether children are attracted to advertisements that lack fantasy
8. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
A. Rational appeals in advertising are certainly limited by children’s emotional immaturity and the indirect nature of their associations.
B. Indirect appeals to children’s psychological states or associations can limit the effectiveness of rational appeals in advertising.
C. Rational appeals play a much smaller role in advertisements for children than emotional appeals and psychological associations do.
D. Rational appeals in advertising aimed at children should certainly be limited until the children are emotionally and psychologically ready.
9. The word “attributes” in the passage is closest in meaning to
10. In paragraph 4, why does the author mention a show about a cartoon lion in which an advertisement appears featuring the same lion character?
A. To help explain what is meant by the term “host selling” and why it can be misleading to children
B. To explain why the role of celebrities in advertising aimed at children has often been confused with host selling
C. To compare the effectiveness of using animated figures with the effectiveness of using celebrities in advertisements aimed at children
D. To indicate how Kunkel first became interested in studying the effects of host selling on children
11. The word “credible” in the passage is closest in meaning to
12. According to paragraph 5, what did a study of children in Hong Kong show about the use of celebrities in advertisements aimed at children?
A. It is most effective with children who watch a lot of television.
B. It has little effect if the celebrities are not familiar to most children.
C. It is more effective in marketing cereals and food products than in marketing other kinds of products.
D. It can have a negative effect if the celebrities are not popular with children.
13. Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. Where would the sentence best fit?
Another aspect of advertising that may especially influence children is fantasy.
14. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
Advertisers sometimes use strategies that can mislead children.
A. Children may not be able to interpret exaggerated claims made by advertisers or understand the disclaimers used to offset claims.
B. Although the use of celebrities is not necessarily effective in advertisements aimed at children, there is evidence that host selling can positively affect their views of a product.
C. Studies show that misleading tactics are used most often in commercials for breakfast cereals, with toy commercials using such tactics only slightly less frequently.
D. The use of fantasy is especially common in advertisements for children, but children may not be able to distinguish fantasy from reality.
E. Very young children are particularly influenced by host selling, while slightly older children are more readily misled by seemingly rational claims such as “the best.”
F. Advertisements can be misleading to children when the advertisements use audio and visual formats that are especially appealing to children.
1.B, 2.A, 3.D, 4.A, 5.C, 6.B, 7.A, 8.C, 9.D, 10.A, 11.B, 12.D, 13.A, 14 ABD