Childhood and the mediatization of marketing, 1955-1965

Concern about marketing to children has significantly intensified in recent years. Yet there is a longer history here. In this essay, I focus on a particular period – between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s – when there appeared to be a step change in marketing to children. This was most obviously about the advent and dissemination of the new medium of television; yet this was accompanied by a broader shift in marketing strategies and appeals, and by the growth of market research. We can see the beginnings of a much more intensive ‘mediatization’ of marketing to children at this time; and while the technologies may be changing, many of the techniques and approaches that provoke particular concern today have their origins in this period. After briefly describing the broader context of marketing at this time, both in general and specifically in relation to children, I move on to look at the increasing significance of market research, across a somewhat broader time-scale. I then consider in more detail some of the strategies and appeals used in marketing and advertising to children, using specific examples: I consider the differences between girls and boys as consumer markets; and the advertising of two key areas, food products and toys. I draw on a range of archival and published sources, as well as specific advertisements, both in print media and on television.

You can download the whole essay (without illustrations) by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings to read the different sections:

  1. The children’s market in context
  2. Knowing consumers: the role of market research
  3. Modernising (and resisting) marketing
  4. Consuming ads: food marketing
  5. Selling toys
  6. Conclusion
  7. Sources and references