Recently, the American Medical Association conducted a study in which their objective was to identify the characteristics associated with tobacco and alcohol use portrayed in G-rated animated films. All of the films released between 1937 and 1997 that were available on videotape were reviewed. The results were surprising to say the least. Of 50 films reviewed, 25 displayed at least one event of alcohol use. Alcohol was portrayed by 63 characters, for a total duration of 27 minutes. Their conclusion was that more than two thirds of animated children's films feature tobacco or alcohol use in the story plot without any clear messages of negative effects associated with use of the substances (The Journals of the American Medical Association, Vol. 281 No. 12, March 24/31, 1999).
The films that were studied by the AMA are seen by millions of children and adults, some, the most popular movies ever made. Many of the films are labeled masterpieces and are readily available to children in the theatres and on videocassette or DVD. While the content of the films is not necessarily used to influence children to drink alcohol, as opposed to Anheuser-Busch's advertising methods, it teaches children the wrong ideas about drinking, and causes them to make the wrong decisions. A child sees hundreds of animated films while growing up. When the characters in Pocahontas, or Mulan, for example, are portrayed as consuming large amounts of alcohol, it can give the child an early impression that alcohol is condoned in society. Because films are of so much significance to children, the messages put forth in films can often contradict the messages that have been reinforced by their parents.
The idea that children are influenced by alcohol in the media, and brewers youth targeted advertising campaigns can be examined in both objectivist and theories. Both have overlapping ideas, however, the majority of my arguments have seemed to stem from the objectivist, realist theories. Many of the anti-advertising campaigns and encourages of censorship in the media have obtained all their fact from behavior, cause and effect, experiments and surveys -- all of which fit into the theory of objectivism. On the other hand, the alcohol companies and film producers, etc., who believes that the presence of alcohol in the media cannot possibly influence a child to drink, would formulate their arguments as. Because surveys and facts have argued against their theory that children are not influenced by alcohol in the media, they would reinforce to the public, what their meanings, values, and intentions really are. They would argue that a child cannot possibly be influenced by anything he / she sees - it is the child that ultimately decides what is right or wrong.
Their arguments would be that multiple truths exist - some youth are more vulnerable to the media than others, for example. They would also examine what people really do in their lives. For example, do thirteen-year-old children watch a beer commercial and run out and buy a case of beer right away? Despite what arguments can be formulated by either side, I believe, in this case, the objectivist theories cannot lie. As Hacker proved, alcohol is the leading cause of death for young people, ages 15 to 24. The world cannot close their eyes to the fact children are dying because of the excessive use of alcohol.
The problem must be nipped in the bud if we are to end the 52% drinking rate in grade 12 classes across North America (Hacker). If the media does not influence the youth of our society to drink alcohol, then the question is -- what does? We know that peer pressure and parental influence can be partial factors, but as the evidence clearly supports, children are most affected by alcohol in the media, and will continue to be unless regulation and censorship is put forth by our governments. However, alcohol and tobacco advertisement are not the only types of advertisement that negatively influence young individual. Contemporary advertising industry exploits children by using the most efficacious techniques, among them psychology. Apparently children constitute the segment of market most liable to subconscious persuasion of commercials, which, in turn, translates into tremendous efforts of marketers to exploit children's gullibility.
And on the closer survey of western giant toy companies revenues, these efforts appear productive. The complexity and subtlety of mechanisms working in this branch of advertising business is particularly worth further analysis. Obviously, the aim each advertisement is first and foremost to make money and to draw as many clients as possible. Childrens vulnerabilities are cunningly manipulated by psychologists whose main aim is to trap the unconscious customers into the ambush of consumerism. Materialistic values rooted early in childhood shape the psyche of a future youngster, teenager and eventually a grown up. At all those stages the victim of this process is conned into fallacy that he cannot be happy without constantly buying top products.
The sooner the marketers achieve this goal the better for them, as their investment will yield a tremendous profit. Children as a target group of customers represent probably the most lucrative segment of advertising industry because they influence at least three different markets. First of all, the direct market which's sustained by the money spent by children themselves (direct market embrace: toys, sweets, gadgets); then parental market which is influenced by children (mainly: toys, clothes, food) and, last but not least, the future market, which is acknowledged to be also very important. As Sharon Bender, one of the speakers at the conference Caring for Children in the Media Age, remarked: advertisers recognise that brand loyalties and consumer habits formed when children are young and vulnerable will be carried through to adulthood.