With the expansion of youth marketing programs has come a growing concern that marketers are taking things too far in pursuit of sales. Three of Juliet Schor’s biggest concerns are the “preponderance of unhealthy products being marketed,” especially junk food; that there’s a “serious question” of how capable kids are of understanding and resisting advertising; and that, as marketing programs are expanded, parents have less control over how much marketing their kids are exposed to.
Stock insists that marketing programs themselves are not at fault — it’s the type of products some people are pushing that are the real problems. “I think teens are a lot more sophisticated at taking in these messages and parsing them,” says Stock. “The problem isn’t the advertising; the problem is the products.”
Schor is also worried about the push to put marketing in formerly off-limits zones like schools and museums. “They’re trying to get kids everywhere they are,” says Schor. “Schools should be for learning, not for advertising.”
In a competitive marketing environment, schools offer up a place of “no clutter,” says White. “Our approach has been under the radar screen, and I can count on one hand the number of complaints in one year,” says White. He stresses that their in-school campaigns are “passive advertising,” such as posters and book covers.
But Howe also says that marketers should beware before they tread on school grounds or other formerly off-limits ad zones. “There’s already a backlash against companies buying their way into schools,” says Howe. “The more kid marketers abuse their privileges, the more they’ll get drummed out.”