Over the last fifteen years children's spending power has mushroomed to an estimated USD30 billion in direct purchases and another USD600 billion of influence over parental purchases. Advertising and marketing has exploded alongside expenditures and now totals more than USD12 billion a year. Ads targeted at children are virtually everywhere - in schools, museums and on the internet - and strategies for capturing the child wallet have become ever more sophisticated. Marketers are intruding into a child's most private space, organizing stealthy peer-to-peer viral marketing efforts, and using high tech scientific research methodologies. Together, these trends have led to a pervasive commercialisation of childhood in the West. By eighteen months babies can recognize logos, by two they ask for products by brand name. During their nursery school years children will request an average of twenty-five products a day, by the time they enter primary school the average child can identify 200 logos and children between the ages of six and twelve spend more time shopping than reading, attending youth groups, playing outdoors or spending time in household conversation. On the basis of first-hand research inside the advertising industry, BORN TO BUY lays bare the research, messages and marketing strategies being used to target children, and assesses the impact of those efforts.
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Parents will be tempted to read Born to Buy as a kind of contemporary horror story, with ever more sophisticated marketing wunderkinds as Dr. Frankensteins and their children as the relentless monsters they create. Indeed, it's difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the avariciousness, omnipotence, and ingenuity of the advertising industry Juliet B. Schor portrays when it comes to transforming preschool kids into voracious, 'tude-infused consumers. Intermixing research data with anecdotal illustrations, Schor chronicles the rapid development of a once-shackled industry that now markets R-rated movies to 9-year-olds. The mind boggles at the notion that Seventeen magazine's target readership is now pre-teens. While Schor unearths a surplus of information on the effectiveness of advertising, she's not nearly as adept at proposing effective responses. Reacting to the power and creativity of the consumer culture with politically unfeasible regulation and parental diligence is a little like attacking Frankenstein's creature with torches. Still, Born to Buy is an eye-opening account of an industry that is commercializing childhood with remarkable effectiveness and insouciance. --Steven StolderAbout the Author:
Juliet B. Schor is the award-winning author of The Overworked American and The Overspent American. A recognized expert on consumerism, economics, and family studies, she teaches at Boston College and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
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