The subconscious nature of ads has a cumulative effect

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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You realise the influence of advertising when you have the following conversation with your three-year-old…

‘What did you dream of?’

‘Peppa Pig World.’

‘Where have you put your slippers?’

‘Peppa Pig World.’

‘What are you drawing?’

‘Peppa Pig World.’

She only watches CBeebies and can’t read the Paultons Park ad at the Church Street roundabout, so the sell has been made by account handlers under three-foot tall (her pre-school chums).

I’ve got off lightly, however. In a Radio 4 You and Yours feature, mothers of five-year-olds admitted being badgered to buy a new B&Q kitchen and some upper lip hair removal cream.

Leave Our Kids Alone has launched a campaign to ban direct advertising to under-11s. As the law stands, children’s adverts can only be stopped if it is proven they cause harm.

But the subconscious nature of commercial messages has a cumulative effect which is hard to trace to source, unless the sight of a 20ft tall Daddy Pig makes you walk into a lamppost.

And while we are on Daddy Pig and his presence above Pompey’s most congested roundabout, could it be that media sellers have realised parents are most likely to capitulate to ‘pester power’ when they sit in a fog of exhaust fumes for 15 minutes?

Sweden and Norway, bastions of enlightened governance, have banned advertising ‘designed to attract the attention of children less than 12’.

This further directive perhaps recognises that the impact of ads on tots is not confined to a shed full of pink plastic tat. Who knows what their developing brains are concluding as they goggle scantily-clad waifs cavorting in Beamers?

Signatories to the British campaign include the Green Party leader, a director of an NHS trust and a Daily Mail columnist, plus educational psychologists.

Conservatives opposed to the nanny state will doubtless say a trend towards pre-school consumerism can be prevented by responsible parenting. But didn’t Conservative MP Claire Perry recently condemn ‘helicopter parents’ for hovering over their kids’ every choice? If there’s no escaping these ads, what else can we do?