Advertising and programming for kids without regulation

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Advertising and programming for kids without regulation

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A huge change in children's television occurred in the 1980s and this was during the time of the Reagan administration when there was massive deregulation of just about everything. And one of the things that was deregulated was children's television and what this meant was that for the first time, characters in children's television programs were allowed to sell things to the children. So there became no demarcation anymore between the marketing and the programming. What came about then was a sort of hour long program that was really a big commercial to sell things to the children, and all of this became legal because of the deregulation. And this opened the floodgates. Prior to this, children weren't really seen primarily as consumers. But with the advent of this deregulation and the opportunity for marketers to create these programs to sell something to kids, kids became sitting ducks and became massively targeted by advertisers and we've seen extraordinary increase in the amount of money that's being spent on marketing to children ever since. At the same time that there was massive deregulation, the federal commission really lost it's power. So there was very little oversight on children's television. The first big program that linked products and the programs was Masters of the Universe, and it was a huge hit for boys. And following that, then we saw lots of shows like My Little Pony and all kinds of shows which really were about getting kids to feel connected to characters who would then sell them stuff. And not only would the characters speak to the children and market to them directly, but when the children went into the stores, saw the serial isles or toy stores, they would see these same characters on the boxes and in the toys, and of course would demand them because they felt that they had a relationship with these characters. So it was very damaging to children in more ways than one. It wasn't just that it set them up to be marketed to in this way, but it really exploited their sense of relationship because they felt connected to these cartoon characters and these characters in the TV programs and then they were really exploited by them.

View Jean Kilbourne, EdD's video on Advertising and programming for kids without regulation...

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Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Author & Social Theorist

Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses.

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.

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