Tory leader to continue his crusade into the use of children in advertising and as online social networking mini brand ambassadors.
Talking of his plans Cameron said: "You can't cut children off from the commercial world, of course you can't, but we should be able to help parents more in terms of trying to make sure that our children get a childhood and that they are not subject to unnecessary and inappropriate commercialisation and sexualisation too young." Last year the ASA received some 799 complaints about marketing to children, but it only upheld 28 of those. The Tories plan to make it easier for parents to complain if they feel that children are being sexualised.
Another area that Cameron aims to clear up is the use of young children to promote products through online social networking platforms such as Facebook and Bebo.
It has recently come to light that children as young as seven are being used to promote brands such as Fanta and Nintendo to their Facebook friends in a controversial form of stealth marketing. Children are being offered the chance to become 'mini-marketeers' to promote brands by casually dropping them into online conversations and postings on social networking sites in return for payments equivalent to up to £25.
Dubit, a Leeds-based agency, has been using these children brand ambassadors to promote drinks from the Coca-Cola Company, Cheestrings and the Barbie MP3 player.
Dubit's website, through which it recruits these mini marketers, says children should promote “key campaign messages to friends, both on and offline” by posting comments on message boards, through instant messaging, such as MSN, and by hosting parties where product samples are distributed.
They should prepare their product pitch by “thinking deeply about how you would describe it to your best friend ... Write down the key points in your own words and make sure it doesn’t sound too rehearsed. Be natural; be you” The website adds: “Don’t start a chat about the project — it’s best to look for natural opportunities to drop it into the conversation.”
Speaking about his mini-marketers Robin Hilton, Dubit’s marketing director, defends this new approach: “They must make people aware they are involved in a project if talking about a product or brand. Anyone under the age of 16 must have explicit verbal parental consent to take part.”