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By Phil Hall | May 17, 2009

Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp’s documentary attempts to get a handle on the depth and scope of marketing aimed at children in the U.S. The amount of dollars in this sector are staggering – U.S. kids spend $40 billion annually, while influencing their parents to shell out $700 billion a year.

The film blames a 1980 federal legislation that removed Federal Trade Commission regulatory powers over marketing aimed at children, coupled with subsequent Reagan Administration policies that deregulated advertising practices. Barbaro and Earp are is successful at presenting the variety of kiddie-related marketing, including TV commercials that successfully use children to pitch adult products (including Porsche, Toyota, and BP).

Less successful, however, are theirs efforts to dump much of the blame of rising physical and emotional health issues concerning children on this persistent advertising – this shucks responsibility off the parents, who have the ultimate power to set family priorities and determine juvenile spending habits. The film also seems to insist that the marketing of popular entertainment characters at kids is a relatively modern happening – this strategy can be traced back to the Felix the Cat merchandise in the 1920s, and the preponderance of Disney- and Snoopy-related items that have been a staple in U.S. retailing for decades.

Although the film breaks no new ground, it may be of some interest to students pursuing courses in marketing and social sciences.

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