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Children, Advertising, and Product Experiences: A Multimethod Inquiry Author(s): Elizabeth S. Moore and Richard J.

Lutz Source: The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jun., 2000), pp. 31-48 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: Accessed: 16/04/2010 06:50
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Advertising, and


Experiences: A

Multimethod Inquiry

Although the prepurchase effects of advertising on children are well documented, little is known about advertising's impact in conjunction with children's product usage experiences. Two studies, one using experimentation and the other using depth interviews, were undertaken to examine this issue. Inaddition to informational effects, special emphasis was placed on the role affective constructs play in shaping children's impressions. Experimental results indicated that both product trial and advertising have influences, but also that the interplay of these influences differs between older children (10-1 1-year-olds) and younger children (seven- to eight-year-olds). Depth interviews offered furtherinsights into these age differences such that our overall understanding of how older and younger children relate to advertisements and product consumption has been advanced.

Children belong to a world of thinking and feeling that is properly their own. (GEORGE

The Interaction of Advertisingand Consumption

Beyond advertisements,childrengain marketplaceinformation from the products they encounter, advice from friends and relatives, and their own consumption experiences. Throughconsumption,children learn what products are good and bad, whether advertisingclaims are truthful, what brandsthey prefer,and even that productsconvey social meanings apartfrom their functionalproperties. To a child, these experiences take on a heightened importance because many commercial sources that an adult might consult for additional informationare simply inaccessible. For example, until they are functionally literate, children do not access the written information available through print advertising, packaging, and labels. Children also often lack informationabout price, a primaryconsideration in adult decisions. Further,children's productuses are oriented less toward the weighing of options and more towardthe enjoymenteach new snack, toy, or cereal offers. Over time, a child encountersadvertisements in a fashion that is interwovenwith productexperience.Thus, the actual impact of advertisingis difficult to study. The researchliteraturehas not yet explored the relationshipbetween advertising and children's usage experience. In reality, however, children's ads are being interpreted within an ongoing streamof experience. This fact has been recognized as an importantissue by commentators on children' s advertising.For example,critics have expressed concern that if ads presentinformationdifferentfrom a child's actualexperience,confusionmay result and trust in advertising may be undermined.Conversely, othershave suggestedthatuntil childrenactuallyexperience discrepancies between products as advertised and as con31
3 2000 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. * Vol. 27 * June 2000 All rights reserved. 0093-5301/2001/2701-0003$03.00

elevision advertising is a pervasive presence in the lives of most American children. Recent estimates suggest that children between the ages of 6 and 14 watch about 25 hours of television per week and are exposed to as many as 20,000 commercials in a single year (Leonhardt and Kerwin 1997). Concern about children's ability to comprehend and evaluate these messages has stimulated substantial research and heated debate since the early 1970s (see McNeal [1987]; Young [1990] for reviews). Hundreds of studies have been conducted in the children's advertising area (Meringoff 1980). However, while there is compelling evidence that a well-crafted advertisement can persuade children that a product is desirable (e.g., Goldberg, Gorn, and Gibson 1978; Roedder, Sternthal, and Calder 1983), we know little about how these perceptions may be altered once the product leaves the retailer's shelf.

*Elizabeth S. Moore is assistant professor of marketing,University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556; e-mail: RichardJ. Lutz is professorof marketing,Universityof Florida.This article is based on the first author's doctoral dissertation, conducted under the supervision of the second author.The authors thank David Mick, Rich Romano, and Alan Sawyer for their guidance and comments as members of the first author's thesis committee, as well as other influentialfaculty members at the University of Florida. They also thank BarbaraBickart, Susan Cohen, S. Ratneshwar,Carole Macklin, Pamela Richards, Tom O'Guinn, as well as the editor, associate editor, and reviewers for their helpful comments.

32 sumed, they are unable fully to comprehendadvertising's persuasive intent (e.g., Robertsonand Rossiter 1974). Concern about advertising's capacity to foster unrealistic expectations has long been an issue for advertiserscharged with self-regulation: industry guidelines include specific provisions discouragingthe use of portrayalsthat might exexpectations(Chilplicitly or implicitly foster unreasonable dren's Advertising Review Unit 1999). Without question, this code is based on the assumption that children have difficulty recognizing and discounting exaggerationin the context of persuasive messages. Thus, marketingmanagers chilhave displayed a keen interest in betterunderstanding dren's abilities and limitations, so as to communicatein an mannerwith this special audience. appropriate

RESEARCH OF CONSUMER JOURNAL viewed as a developmental milestone by both researchers and policy makers.Although not establishedwith certainty, there is substantial evidence that by approximatelyeight years of age, most children have at least a preliminaryunderstandingof this intent (e.g., Donohue, Henke, and Donohue 1980; Macklin 1987). Traditionally,it has been asthe persuasivepurpose sumed that once childrenunderstand of advertising they become more skeptical and are then capable of resisting its appeal (Federal TradeCommission 1978; Rossiter and Robertson 1974). Advertising is thus implicitly accorded substantialpower to shape children's thinking until they acquire sufficient "cognitive and attitudinal defenses."However,as noted earlier,the potentialrole played by actual productexperience in interactingwith advertising has simply not been studied with children. This articlereportsthe findings of a multimethodinquiry into this topic. In an effort to gain complementaryinsights, both experimental and interpretive approaches were employed. Data-gatheringefforts extended over eight months and involved 395 sessions with individual children.2

Children'sReceptivityto Advertising
Researchinvestigatingchildren'sreceptivityto television advertising has studied what children understand,under what circumstancesthey are persuaded,and how their responses evolve as they mature(e.g., Macklin 1987; Roedder and 1981). Drawing extensively on information-processing stage models, researchershave gained substantialinsight into the developmentof children's cognitive skills and their deployment during ad processing. Among the most basic tenets of this research is that younger and older children differ in their understandingof advertising's essential purpose, as well as how they draw upon this knowledge in respondingto specific advertisements. As children mature,they graduallydevelop more sophisticated information-processing skills, as well as the ability to direct or control their learning (Roedder 1981). Three prototypicalprocessingtypes have been identifiedalong this developmental dimension. "Limited processors" (younger thaneight years) have not yet acquiredefficientinformationprocessing strategies, a fact that may be reflected in their inability to distinguishbetween central and peripheralcontent in message learning. At the other extreme, "strategic processors" (over 12 years old) spontaneouslyemploy efficient informationstorageandretrievalstrategies.The more difficult issues arise with the "cuedprocessors"(8-12-yearolds), for whom organized retrieval and use of available informationis possible when processing a stimulus,but who tend to invoke this only when triggeredby appropriate cues. Unless theirknowledge of advertisingis expressly activated by such a cue, these children tend not to think critically or generate counterargumentsspontaneously.They may also neglect to differentiatebetween central and peripheralcontent when learning new information.When there is an appropriatecue in their environment,however,they are likely to retrieveand use relevantinformation(Brucks,Armstrong, and Goldberg 1988; Roedder 1981).' A child's recognitionof advertising'spersuasiveintentis
'However,it should be noted thatthe sufficiency of experientialevidence in cueing this response in children has not been empirically assessed. Clearly, the literaturedemonstratesthat the capacity for defenses is not equivalent to their use (Brucks et al. 1988).


Ourexperimentwas designed to examinehow advertising and producttrial interrelateto form brandperceptionsand attitudes,and whetherthis may vary for childrenof different ages (second and fifth graders).A mixed experimentaldesign was employed, in which children were successively exposed to variouscombinationsof advertisingandtrialuse. Ourstudybegins by exploringthe separatereactionsto product trial versus advertising.

Children'sReactionsto ProductTrialversus Advertising

Althoughthis questionhas not been studiedwith children, some researchhas been conductedamong adultpopulations that shows that consumers do respond to advertising and producttrial in distinctive ways. One useful concept in this regard is the "integrated information response" model (Smith and Swinyard 1982). This model suggests that, because consumersknow that advertiserswish to presenttheir brands in a favorable light, they react to ads by partially discounting claims and forming tentatively held ("lowerorder")brandbeliefs and attitudes.In contrast,when consumers have direct usage experience, they form stronger,
2Given the lack of previous research on the intersection of children, product usage, and advertising, it was importantto gain an appreciation for this topic. Thus, we initially conductedan interpretiveinvestigationto develop preliminaryunderstanding of how children conceive of relationships between ads and products. Furthermore,it was of methodological interest to assess the utility of interpretiveresearch in this setting. Depth interviews were conducted with 22 children between the ages of seven and 11. This studyunderscored two key issues to be exploredin this project: (1) developmental differences as representedby children's ages and (2) "enjoymentof advertising"as a factor in the persuasionof children.

AND PRODUCTEXPERIENCES CHILDREN, ADVERTISING, more confidently held ("higher-order") brand beliefs and attitudes.This phenomenonhas been observed in a number of studies with adults (e.g., Marksand Kamins 1988; Smith 1993; Smith and Swinyard 1983) and is consistent with similar work in psychology (Fazio 1986). With respect to children, the same expectations should hold, to the extent that credibility of advertisingwill come to their minds while watching an ad. As reported above, age differencescan be expected here. Youngerchildrenhave been found to hold more positive attitudesaboutadvertising, to be more likely to believe its claims, and to be less likely to understandits essential purpose.3Thus, among younger children advertising's credibility is not likely to arise as a concern, and they are likely to perceive both advertisingand a product trial experience as believable sources of

33 1980; Olson andDover 1979). Third,the "hypothesis-testing paradigm" proposesthatconsumersat times treatadvertising claims as hypotheses aboutproductperformance,with consumption then providing an opportunityto test these hypotheses (Hoch and Ha 1986). Thus, the linkages between advertising and consumption experiences have been well recognized within consumer research,but exclusively with adult populations.For children,however, these effects may not occur in the same way.

Children'sCapacityto Integrate Information from Advertisingand ProductTrial

Because advertising and product trial are distinctly different, the child's capacity to integratemultiple sources of informationsurfaces as a significant consideration.Developmental researchershave shown that, while very young children engage in unidimensionalthinking, by age seven they tend to rely on multiple dimensions for a given task (Siegler 1996b). Further,information integrationresearch has shown that six-year-olds have been found to combine dimensions according to averaging and adding rules in a varietyof perceptualdomains(Anderson1980). Withinconsumerbehavior,Peracchio(1992) found thatthe use of stimuli and response formatscongruentwith younger children's (ages five and seven) encoding and retrievalabilitiesreveals enhanced learning capacity, as do increased exposures. However, whether young children are able and willing to integrate disparate media (i.e., advertising and direct experience) is less clear, and it is an issue we examine using naturalstimuli in the present study. Petty and Cacioppo's(1981) elaboration likelihoodmodel (ELM) also provides useful insights into the integrationissue. Here, elaborationlikelihood is seen to be a function of ability and motivation.The greatercognitive ability of older children should enhance elaborationlikelihood relative to younger children. In addition, it may be the case that younger children are less motivated than older children to process ads in an elaborativemanner:they possess less skepticism aboutadvertising,andthey have less freedomto make independentpurchasedecisions. This expectationis consistent with Anand and Sternthal's(1989) resource-matching hypothesis.Essentially,the resourcedemandsfor processing two distinct forms of informationare greaterrelative to the cognitive resourcesof younger childrenthan for older children or adults. An advertisingframingeffect would require the integrationof two sources of information(from ad and from producttrial). Thus, we hypothesize: H2: Among older children, those exposed only to product trial differ in their brandbeliefs and attitudes from those exposed to advertisingpriorto product trial; younger children exhibit no such differences.

Olderchildren(10-12-year-olds), on the otherhand,readily acknowledge that advertising does not always tell the truthand are more likely to express skepticalviews toward the institutionof advertising(e.g., Boush, Friestad,andRose 1994; Rossiter 1979; Ward,Wackman,and Wartella1977). They are expected to be able to discount ad claims and to see these as different from objective, highly credible, and salient trial experience (Tybout and Scott 1983). For older children,then, an ad may produceweak expectationsabout more a brand,whereasproductuse should result in stronger, confidently held beliefs and attitudes (Fazio 1986; Smith and Swinyard 1983). Thus, we hypothesize: Hi: Among older children, those exposed to product trial form more confidentlyheld brandbeliefs and attitudesthan those exposed only to advertising; younger children exhibit no such differences.

Advertisingas a "Frame" for ProductTrial

Beyond the separatereactionsto advertisingand product trial, we are also interestedin how they operate in combination. Here we adopt the general term "ad framing"to reflect that advertising's effects may be felt not only at the time of exposure but also later, in the context of product trial or use. This topic has also never been addressed for children, but several significantrelated concepts have been advancedfor adult consumers.One is "transformational advertising,"in which consumers are seen to draw upon prior advertisingexposures to help them both interpretand evaluate their subsequentproduct experiences (Puto and Wells 1984). Another, the "expectancy/discrepancy" set of consumer satisfaction models, sees a consumer's expectation levels (which may have been influenced by advertising's claims) as being compared to the later product trial experience to determine whether a discrepancy exists (Oliver
3Althoughnot a focus of the present study, this was assessed with our sample, using Rossiter's (1977) attitudetowardadvertisingscale (modified to include a midpoint). Our results mirroredprior findings: older children reportedless favorable attitudestoward advertisingthan did younger children (My = 22.9, Mo = 18.5, p < .001).


RESEARCH OF CONSUMER JOURNAL liking on brand attitude (e.g., Brown and Stayman 1992). This approachhas recently been extended to children by Derbaix and Bree (1997), who likewise found a significant impactof AADon brandattitudefor childrenages 7-10 years old. As our most basic hypothesis, therefore,we anticipate finding a similar patternof baseline results. Hence, we hypothesize: H3: Regardless of age, when advertising is the sole informationsource,children' s attitudestowardthe ad have a direct effect on their brand attitudes.

Ad Info.






Alternative Forms of Ad Impact:When AdvertisingIs the Sole Stimulus

AB There are multiple ways that affective reactions to advertising can operate.These have been capturedwithin the "dual mediation" model (MacKenzie, Lutz, and Belch 1986), which has accumulatedstrongsupportacross a range of studies with adults (Brown and Stayman 1992). Figure 1 presents a modified version of this model that was developed to examinechildren'sresponsesin the presentstudy. The boxed portionof Figure 1 highlightsthe three structural relationshipsof primaryinterestfor our study and for which results will be reported (AAD- AB; AAD CogB; and CogB -- AB), where AB representsbrand attitude and CogB is perceptions of the brand.4As was just reflected in Hypothesis 3, the AAD to AB path represents a direct impact that liking of an ad might have on liking for the branditself. This is akin to Petty and Cacioppo's (1981) peripheral route to persuasion.The combinationof the other two paths representsan indirectroute,in which liking for the ad influences the beliefs about the brand(AAD -_ CogB), and these beliefs, in turn, influence the brand attitude (CogB -- AB): this is somewhat analogous to centralroute persuasion. The dual mediation model's indirectroute to persuasion (AAD -_ CogB; CogB -- AB) is actually more complex than the direct route. The first step (AAD CogB) is presumedto occur because consumers' liking for an ad is apt to foster message acceptance, thus the creation or modification of positive beliefs about the brand.The second step (CogB AB) then representsthe impacts of these beliefs on the con-+

Ad Info. = perceptions of the ad's informnativeness Ad Ent. = perceptions of the ad's entertainmentvalue = perceptions of the brand Cog, = attitude toward the ad AAI) = prior brandattitude PAII AB = brandattitude ~,indicates relations of primary interest for the experiment

Children'sAffective Reactionsto Advertising

Discussions of children's advertisinghave generally positioned advertisingas a communicatorof claims as well as a persuasive source. Up to this point our treatmentof the issues has also implicitly focused on informational views of ad influence(in relationto producttrial).However,one striking result of our initial interpretivework was the extent to which childrenreportedattendingto and enjoying advertising as a form of entertainment.To what extent does this also operateto influence childrenin theirbrandperceptions and use experiences? In the remainderof this study, we explicitly add measuresof affective reactionsto ads in order to examine any persuasive roles they may also be playing underthree distinct conditions:when advertisingis the only stimulus (Hypotheses 3 and 4), when advertisingprecedes a producttrial (Hypothesis5), and when advertisingfollows producttrial (Hypothesis 6). The "attitudetoward the ad" (AAD) concept provides a useful approachfor assessing how enjoyment of an ad affects persuasion (Lutz 1985; Mitchell and Olson 1981; Shimp 1981). Results of numerousstudies with adultsshow strong and consistent supportfor the direct influence of ad

4Theexogenous variables in Figure 1 representother cognitive and affective constructsthat contextualize the relationshipsof primaryconcern in this research.Ad informationand Ad entertainment are a bifurcationof the Ad cognitions construct(Lutz 1985; MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). Perceptions of an ad's informativenessaffect both AADand the acceptanceof intendedbrandbenefit claims, while perceptionsof an ad's entertainment value influence only AAD (Burke and Edell 1986) as well as postexposure brand attitude. Including these variables in the overall model estimation provides a more complete specification.All constructsshown in Figure 1 were measuredand employed in the path analyses. These constructswere not involved in our hypotheses. For ease of interpretation only the results for the boxed portion of Figure 1 are reported.In brief, AdEnt (ratingsof the entertainment value of the ad) showed consistently strong impacts on AADacross all conditions and for both age groups. Adlnfo (the information value of the ad), on the otherhand, showed few significanteffects on either AAD or CogB. In addition, PAB showed little impact on AAD and moderate relationshipswith AB (depending on informationalcondition).

CHILDREN, AND PRODUCTEXPERIENCES ADVERTISING, sumer's overall attitudetowardthe brand.Thus, the indirect route requiresthe child to elaborateon the advertisement's claims to the extent that cognitive structure is meaningfully altered. MacKenzie and Spreng (1992) provide a useful analysis of the possible effects of motivation on processing along the direct and indirect routes. For example, they point out that one of the ways that motivation may exert its impact is throughshiftingthe nature of processing,such as focusing a person's attentioneither toward or away from peripheral cues, or by changing the natureof cognitive responses that are evoked in response to an ad (MacKenzie and Spreng 1992, pp. 520, 526). They obtainedpartialempiricalsupport for the propositionthat increasing motivation will increase the impact of the indirect-route processing and decreasethe impactof peripheral cues directlyon brandattitudes(p. 527). This logic can be directly applied to ability as well as to motivation. If pursued,this logic would suggest that higher levels of either motivationand/orability should increasethe likelihood of using the indirect route for processing of the brand message, while lower levels of ability/motivation should yield relatively more reliance on peripheralprocessing (the direct route for AAD's influence on brand attitude).5 As argued previously, older children, relative to younger children, are likely to possess greater ability and motivationto process message claims. Viewed in this light, younger children's ad processing would tend to be more peripherallyinfluencedrelative to older children.Hence we hypothesize: H4: When advertisingis the only source of information, age differences exist for the indirecteffects of AAD. Older children are more likely than younger children to be influenced by liking for the ad through the "indirect"route (i.e., AAD
Cog,; Cog, -- AB).

35 rally occur in children's everyday lives, but advertising's influence should differ in each case.

Advertising,Then Trial. Moving from Hypothesis 4, which dealt with an advertising-only condition, this case presentsa greatlyenhancedinformationenvironmentfor the child. Here the ad is processed first, then the producttrial adds more information,and of a differenttype. In essence, the child is faced with the formidabletask of integratingthe playful and idealized images of advertising with the concrete, sensory-laden data of the producttrial. For younger children the requisite motivation and ability for such integrationmay simply not be present.Further, in this condition the child will not be aware that a trial is forthcomingand that the ad itself should be processed much as in the adonly condition. For both of these reasons, if any influence of liking for the ad is seen, it should appear as a direct influence on the attitude toward'the brand (direct route), without invoking the more cognitively demandingindirect path. In contrast,older children'sgreatermotivationand ability to process the ad should militate in favor of the indirect route to persuasion, in addition to the direct route (MacKenzie and Spreng 1992). Further,although affective reactions to the ad may help to form initial brandperceptions, older childrenshould be preparedto revise these initial perceptions when the more credible sensory data are available from producttrial, much as adults do. However, since AAD is formed prior to product trial in this situation, it should exert its influence on older children's acceptance of brand claims; these perceptions may then be reinforced through producttrial. Thus, we hypothesize:
H5: When ad exposure precedes product trial, older and younger children differ in the ways AAD influencesAB. Youngerchildrenexhibitonly a direct effect (AAD-- AB), while older childrenare likely to exhibit both a direct(AAD-- AB) and an indirect effect (AAD COgB, CogB -- AB).

Impactsof Ad Affect in the Presenceof Product Trial

Traditionally,researchershave assumed that AADhas its greatestimpact within the immediateexposure setting (Lutz 1985). With the exception of Smith (1993) and Wrightand Lutz (1993), little empirical researchhas assessed whether AAD retains its mediating role in a consumption context. Neither of these studies found a substantialimpact of AAD when a producttrial was also present. However, they were conductedwith adults,who should rely heavily on the usage evidence, and both studies used relatively pallid experimenter-created printads ratherthanthe colorful,entertaining commercials that children see. In our study, therefore, we consider how AAD' s impactmay change when a producttrial is also introduced.Two cases are examined: one when ad exposure precedes product trial, and another when advertising follows a trial experience. Both circumstancesnatu5Wethank a reviewer for suggesting this point.

Trial, ThenAdvertising. It may sometimes occur that a child is exposed to a trial experience with a brand(e.g., at a friend's home, during school lunches) prior to having seen an ad for it. In this situation,the trialexperienceshould have significant impacts on the nature of the child's later processing of an ad for that product.Although no previous work on this topic has been undertaken with children,useful studies with adults are available that addressthis situation. First, consumers should be expected to have formed confidently held higher-order beliefs (Smith and Swinyard 1983) and attitudes (Fazio 1986) on the basis of their experience with the brand. Second, because of these already existing higher-orderpredispositions, reactions to the ad should have less capacity for impact (consistent with this expectation,both Smith [1993] and Wrightand Lutz [1993] observed the weakest effects of AAD in this same trial/ad exposure sequence). Third, consumers' motivation to process and integratethe advertisingis diminishedaftera prod-

36 uct trial because the direct experience is seen to be more trustworthyand more vivid than the advertisement(Tybout and Scott 1983). In the present study with children, this set of considerations leads to anticipatedweakened impacts for AADwhen product trial precedes advertising. As indicated earlier, younger children are not likely to possess the levels of motivation and/orcapacityto undertake the indirectpathin any of our conditions. Thus, we anticipatea weakenedeffect on the direct path (AAD -- AB) relative to what is found for the ad only (Hypothesis 4) and ad before trial (Hypothesis 5) conditions, and no evidence of AAD' s indirect impact (AAD-- CogB) here. For older children, we likewise anticipate weakened impacts of AAD' but now along both linkages for AAD (i.e., A AD a A Overall then, for CogB)both youngerand older childrenwe expect the lowest effects of AAD in any of our conditions, consistent with what Smith (1993) observed for adults. Thus, we hypothesize: H6: When producttrialprecedes ad exposure,AAD has a weaker impact relative to the ad-only and ad/
trial conditions. In particular, the AAD-- AB link AB and AAD

JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH ulus materials were presented, dependent measures were collected. On average, the proceduretook 20-25 minutes per session. In addition, during the first session, rapportbuilding "games"were played in which priorbrandattitudes were collected for both experimentaland filler brands.At the conclusionof the final session, childrenwere askedabout their shoppinginvolvement,brandpreferences,TV viewing, and generalattitudesaboutadvertising.Childrenwere given a prize as a small token of appreciation. Demand effects are, of course, a concern in any study. We took care to try to minimize such threatshere. First,the one-week lag between each of the fourexperimental sessions helped to make proceduraldifferences across cells less salient. Further,the children were directly questioned about their perceptions of the study's purpose at its conclusion. No suspicion was evident.

Test Advertisements and ProductSelection

One of the limitations of prior research on interactions between advertising and trial is that the effects typically have been examined for only a single product category, potentially confounding constructssuch as ambiguity with productclass. To enhance the externalvalidity of our findings (Lynch 1982), four stimulus pairs (commercials and product samples) were used in this study in a Latin square design. To select the four ad and product sets, a large pool of food commercialsthathad airedon children'sprogramswas created. Ads were then eliminated from the pool if they contained premium offers (e.g., contests, prizes), program charactersacting as endorsers (e.g., Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny) or if the brand requiredadditionalpreparation for use (e.g., Kids' Cuisinefrozen entrees,Eggo frozenwaffles), leaving some 40 candidatecommercials. Four judges with advertisingresearchor agency experience were then asked to eliminate unrepresentative ads with respect to execution, product,or quantityof information.Fifteen ads were eliminated at this stage. The remaining ads were shown to 18 fourthgraderswho ratedboth the commercialand the brand on familiarity,liking, comprehensibility,and prior experience. The four test ads were selected based on the following criteria: (1) multiple product categories were represented within the set, (2) variation existed in children's attitudes toward the specific ads and brands promoted, and (3) the set of ads reflected the quantity of informationtypical in children's ads. The final ads selected for inclusion were (1) Keebler Pizzaria Chips, (2) Sodalicious Fruit Snacks, (3) SmartiesChocolate Candy (importedfrom Canada),and (4) Double Dip CrunchCereal.

is weaker for younger children, while the AAD -_ Cogs links are weaker for older children.

METHOD Design and Subjects

A 2 x 4 mixed experimentaldesign was used. Two age groups, second graders(seven to eight years old) and fifth graders(10-11 years old), participatedin the study. A total of 72 children (51 percent female, 85 percent white) were recruited from public elementary schools. The content of brand-related informationwas manipulated on a within-subjects basis. By manipulatingthe informationsource and the sequence of exposure, four experimentalconditions were created:(1) ad only, (2) producttrial only, (3) ad followed by producttrial, and (4) producttrial followed by ad.

A total of 288 experimentalsessions were conductedover a five-week period. Each subject participatedin four sessions, at roughly one-week intervals (one for each experimental condition) using a different ad and productin each session. The orderof the experimentalconditionswas counterbalanced in the design. All sessions were held at the schools and carried out on an individual basis. In the adonly condition, each child was shown a videotape with two filler ads followed by the target commercial (shown twice) with 10 seconds of black as a buffer. In the product trial condition, the child was provided with the targetbrand(in its original packaging) and given four minutes to consume a sample of it. Subjects in the two ad-plus-trialconditions received both inputs, in the order indicated. After all stim-

Measurementtook on special importance in our study because, with the exception of scales to assess children's brandattitudesand general attitudesabout advertising,few established measures exist to examine children's responses to marketingstimuli (e.g., Macklinand Machleit 1989; Ros-

CHILDREN, ADVERTISING, AND PRODUCT EXPERIENCES TABLE1 ANDATTITUDES: TRIAL (MEANS) ADVERTISING VERSUS PRODUCT IN BRANDPERCEPTIONS IMPACTS ON CONFIDENCE Exposed to ad only Youngerchildren: Confidencein brandbeliefs Confidencein brandattitude Olderchildren: Confidencein brandbeliefs Confidencein brandattitude
n = 36


Exposed to trialonly
n = 36

F 7.37 31.88 40.97 51.63

p-value .01 .0001 .0001 .0001

2.76 2.50
n = 36

3.21 3.69
n = 36

.08 .30 .33 .41

2.60 2.47

3.49 3.83

siter 1977). Three sets of new measureswere developed for this study (assessments of AID brandbeliefs, and belief and attitude confidence). Given the difficulties inherent in developing valid and reliable measures for use with young children, a series of steps was taken to ensure that the new measures were meaningful. Two industry researchersexperienced in designing questionnairesfor childrensupplied sample questionnairesand critiquedour items. Methods for psychometricscales for chilconstructingand administering dren were also gleaned from the educationand psychology literatures on children's attitudes about reading, self-perbeliefs ceptions, attitudesaboutsmoking, and school-related and attitudes.This searchproveduseful in guidingthe design of our measures,which were then pretestedwith second and fifth graders. All scaled items were verbally administered to preclude problems with variationin literacy levels. Brand Beliefs. For each of the four products,a list of six or seven attributeswas generatedthroughpretestswith small groups of children. Each attributereflected a product characteristicthat could be discerned from both the advertisement and the trial experience (includingthe packaging). We then createda variationof the "sentencestrip"technique (familiarto these studentsfrom theirreadingcomprehension lessons) as our measurementvehicle. Sentence stems, such as "it tastes like soda"(for the Sodaliciousfruitsnack),were createdusing the attribute lists.6Fourbelief options ranging from "I really believe" to "I don't believe at all" were laid out on a table in the form of sentence strips. The child was handed the sentence stem for each attributeone at a time and asked to make the best match for it. Belief scores were averaged across attributes.These measures were also combined multiplicatively with confidence scores to create the Cog, measure reportedin several of our analyses. This additional step builds upon the approach of Smith (1993), which is intended to account explicitly for the impacts of beliefs. producttrial in forming higher-order Brand Attitudes. Children'sattitudestowardthe brands
(ABvariable)were measuredinitially with five-point"smiley

Roedder et al. (1983). For the second administration of the brand attitude measure, a five-point star scale commonly used in industryresearchwas used in combinationwith two bipolar scales (like/dislike and good/bad). Coefficientalpha was used to assess the internal consistency of these items
(ao= .94).7

Belief and Attitude Confidence. Measures of confidence for adultsare far too complex for childrento interpret successfully (e.g., seven-point scales ranging from "extremely uncertain"to "extremelycertain").For this study, therefore, we modified the Ginosar and Trope (1980) approach,using sentence stripswith a four-pointscale ranging from "I really, really think so" to "I really just guessed." An overall belief confidencescore was createdby averaging across individual attributes. Attitude toward the Ad. Reactionsto the ad itself were measuredby four five-pointpictorialscale items tappingthe following dimensions: liking, excitement, feelings while difviewing, and good/bad (i.e., five drawingsrepresenting fering levels of each dimension, togetherwith verballabels, were mountedon cardboardstrips).For each strip,the children were asked to point to the picture that best matched theirreaction.Responses were averagedto obtainthe overall attitudetoward the ad score. The reliability of the measure is quite acceptable and did not differ by age (ce= .88).

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS Effects of Advertisingand ProductTrialon Brand Perceptionsand Attitudes

versusProductTrial. Thefirst Advertising hypothesis
suggested that older children's brand beliefs and attitudes would be more confidently held when formed on the basis of producttrial than on the basis of ad exposure, while no differences were expected among the younger group. Table 1 reportsthe results. Here we note that producttrial led to greaterbelief and attitudeconfidence among both the older and younger children, when compared to advertising ex7Reliabilityestimates were remarkablyconsistent across age groups for the measures used in this study and are reported for the entire sample except where differences were apparent.

face" scales as suggested by Wells (1965) and modified by

6Additionalexamples from the attributelists for the other productcategories include "it has nuts in it" (for Double Dip CrunchCereal), "they come in differentcolors" (for Smartiescandy), and "they taste like pizza" (for the Pizzaria chips).

38 posure (belief confidence-second graders:F = 7.37, p < .01, fifth graders: F = 40.97, p < .0001; attitude confidence-second graders:F = 31.88, p < .0001, fifth graders: F = 5 1.63,p < .00 1). Thus, ourhypothesisfor olderchildren was supported, but for youngerchildrenit was not. However, a test for an interactionbetween age and source was highly significant for belief confidence (F = 4.30, p < .001), indicating that the effects of product trial versus advertising exposure were much greateramong the older childrenthan among the younger age group, as expected. Overall, then, the first tests were supportiveof our expectationsregarding age differences, althoughyounger childrendid differentiate more than expected. Advertising and Product Trial versus Product Trial Alone. The second hypothesis suggested thatwhile ad exposure prior to producttrial might be expected to influence older children's subsequentbrandperceptionsand attitudes, younger children would be less likely to integratethe two disparate information sources. As shown in Table 2, this hypothesis was generally supported.No reliabledifferences were observed for the younger age group from an ad/trial sequence relative to trial alone. A more complex patternwas observed among the older children, one that suggests an advertisingframingeffect on subsequentproductuse. Specifically,a significantinteraction between stimulusset andexperimental conditionwas present for the older children (this interactionwas not significant for the younger children), indicating that the direction of the ad's influence was dependenton the specific advertisement under consideration(see Table 2). Exposure to either the cereal or snack chip ad prior to product trial had a positive influence on brandperceptions and attitudes(e.g., favorable brand attitudesbased on trial only [3.9 out of 5] were raised to very favorable attitudes[4.6/5] when the ad preceded the trial). Conversely, a prior exposure to either the candy or fruit snack ad before trying the productled to a negative influence on brandratingsfollowing usage (e.g., favorable brand attitudesbased on trial alone [4.4/5] were lowered to neutralbrandattitudes [3.2/5] when the ads for these brands preceded the product trial). So, while the direction of the ad's influence was a function of the specific stimulus shown, evidence of its influence was apparent across all ads. One explanationfor this differentialdirectionin ad framing might be that the expectations generatedby the ads for the candy and fruit snack were somehow not met duringthe actual product usage experience, thus yielding less enthusiasm for the productitself, while the reverseeffect occurred for the cereal and snack chip. Another possibility could be that affective reactions to each ad were operating.Ourpost hoc analyses in the ad/trialcondition did show that the two ads with positive framingeffects had higher"attitude toward the ad" scores (4.2), relative to the two ads whose influence was negative (3.2). The former two ads were also found to be more familiar(X2= 24.90, df = 1, p < .0001), on the basis of ratings of all children to whom these ads were presented. Researchsuggesting that"familiarity leads to liking"

JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH thus might also partially account for this type of outcome (Hawkins and Hoch 1992). Collectively, these findings do constitute evidence that advertisements can influence or frame the interpretations of a subsequentbrandexperience on the part of older children.

Relationships among Ad Affect, Brand Perceptions,and Attitudes

Hypotheses 3-6 examine the relationships among children's affective responsesto advertising,brandperceptions, and attitudes.Ordinaryleast squaresregressionwas used to obtain the path coefficients, an appropriate estimationprocedure when the specified causal model is recursive(Asher 1983). For each of the three conditions incorporatingad exposure and for each age group, the following series of regression equations (representingthe relationshipsin the modified "dual mediation" model) was estimated. It was necessary to estimate these equations for the age groups separatelybecause we believed that there was a difference in the variance of the errorterms for the two groups.8 + 31Adlnfo+ 32AdEnt+ + 34Adlnfo +
f5AAD +



f3PAB + El,


COgB = c2

+ 83,

AB = U3 + f6AAD

+ f7CogB

+ f8PAB


where AAD = attitudetoward the ad; CogB = perceptionsof the brand;AB = brand attitude;PAB= prior brandattitude; Adlnfo = perceptionsof ad's informativeness; AdEnt= perceptions of ad's entertainmentvalue; and 8 = error term. For each condition, differencesbetween the two age groups were then tested by directly comparingthe regression coefficients for independentsamples. Results of these analyses aredepictedin Table3, which lists unstandardized parameter estimates. T-tests for within-groupdifferences between adonly and ad-plus-trialcells were also conducted by incorporating appropriate covariance estimates in the errorterm (Hogg and Tanis 1997).

Ad Affect and AdvertisingAlone. Hypotheses 3 and

4 examine the direct and indirectimpacts of ad affect when advertising is the only information source available. Hypothesis 3 predicted a direct transferof ad affect to brand attitude(AAD-- AB) for both age groups. As shown in Table 3, this relationshipwas evident for both younger (,3 = .45) and older (,3 = .26) children.This result replicatesprevious findingswith adultaudiences,as well as Derbaixand Bree's (1997) result for 7-10-year-olds. Hypothesis 4 predicted age differences for the indirect route to persuasion.Given the greatermotivationaland resource demands imposed by the indirect route (relative to
8SubsequentF-tests indicated statistically significant differences in the varianceof the second and fifth graders.Thus, the use of dummyvariables and interactionterms is inappropriate.


IMPACTS ON BRAND PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES:AD/TRIALVERSUS TRIALONLY (MEANS) Exposed to trial only Younger children: Brand beliefs Brand cognitions (CogB) Brand attitude (AB) Older children: "Ads as Positive Frame for Trial" Brand beliefs Brand cognitions (COgB) n = 36 2.90 9.40 4.29 n = 18 3.20 11.67 Exposed to ad/trial n = 36 3.02 9.90 4.31 n = 18 3.59 13.10 F ... ... ... p-value ... ... ...



... ... ...

6.78 3.91

.01 .05

.14 .07

"Ads as Negative Frame for Trial" Brand beliefs

n = 18 2.89

n = 18 2.26




Brandcognitions(COgB) Brandattitude(AB)

9.67 4.41

7.28 3.21

9.31 9.61

.01 .01

.19 .19

[1983]). NOTE.-(C09B) = (belief x confidence;see, e.g., Smith[1993];Smithand Swinyard

the direct route), it was expected that the older children would exhibit greater evidence of this path to persuasion. Supportfor this hypothesis was obtained,as shown in Table 3. The first step of the indirectroutewas significantfor both age groups, but, as anticipated, older children revealed a youngerchildren(.22). The second step of the indirectroute, CogB-- A, was also significantlystrongerfor olderchildren (.18) than for younger (.04). Overall, results here are consistent with the expectation that the motivationaland cognitive resource demands of the indirect route were more challenging for the younger children to meet.
significantly strongerAAD
CogB relationship (.43) than did

ties and differencesbetween the older and youngerchildren emerge. In the case of direct impact of AADon brand attitudes, the age groups were quite similar.In the case of the indirectimpactof AAD,however,the older and youngerchildren were dissimilar in expected ways. In this regard,the finding that older children's liking for the ad significantly affects their perceptionsof the brandappearsto buttressthe ad framing finding reportedearlier in Hypothesis 2.

Ad Affect: Advertising before Trial. Hypothesis 5 perdealt with both the direct and indirect routes for AAD suasion when advertising is followed by product trial. Among younger children,we expected that ad liking would
directly influence attitude toward the brand (AAD-- AB) with-

Ad Affect: Trial before Advertising. This condition was expected to attenuatethe impacts of affect towardthe ad, as trial would have alreadyhelped to form higher-order beliefs about the product. Findings generally support our expectations here. Hypothesis 6 predicted that the trial/ad condition was expected to produce reduced AAD impacts

out invoking the more cognitively demandingindirectpath (AAD-k CogB;CogB-k AB). Among older children, increased integrative abilities should enable pursuit of the indirect route, in conjunctionwith the direct route. Results supportedthese expectations, as shown in Table 3. First,the directroute,in which liking for the ad influences liking for the brand (AAD --*AB) was significant for the younger children (.35). Second, the indirect route was not significant. Third, for the older children, the indirect route was significant. Here we see that for the first step (AAD CogB),older children's affective reactionsto the ad strongly influenced their perceptionsof the brand(.47), and that the second step (CogB -- AB) was also significant(.37). Finally, consistent with our hypothesis, there was also evidence of
affective influence via the direct route (AAD-- AB) among



Olderchildren .26A (.07)


Ad only Ad/trial Trial/ad Ad only Ad/trial Trial/ad (.09)


35 (.08)


(.08) .21 (.14) .22 (.11)

.30 (.15)

.17 (.07)

.22 A (.11)


(.12) .18 (.08)


(.12) .37 A (.19)

(.09) .26 (.14)




the older children (.30). Thus, for these older children ad liking exerted its influence through multiple persuasive routes. Overall, the results of Hypothesis 5 indicate that when advertisingprecedes producttrial both significant similari-

are inparentheses. errors NOTE.-n= 36 observationsineach cell. Standard Asterisksindicatesignificanceof regressioncoefficients:*p<.10, **p<.05. Tests of regressioncoefficients:A = significant differencesbetweenyounger B = significant and older children(same conditions)at p<.0001 (two-tailed); C= at p<.05 (two-tailed); difference,youngerchildren(ad only vs. trial/ad) at p< .05 (two-tailed); olderchildren (ad onlyvs. trial/ad) difference, significant at p<.05 (twoD = significantdifference,older children(ad/trial vs. trial/ad) tailed).

40 relative to the ad-only and ad/trial conditions. Among the younger children AAD's direct influence on brand attitude (AB) did decline in this condition (.19) relative to its impact in the ad-only condition (.45), as hypothesized, and was in the expected directionin comparisonto the ad/trialcondition (.19 vs. .35), althoughit did not reach statisticalsignificance. Among the older children, the relevant relation within the indirectroute was AAD-- Cog,. Here, statisticallysignificant expected decreases were apparentfrom the ad-only (.15 vs. .43), and ad/trial(.15 vs. .47) conditions. We also assessed whether AAD's direct impacts were reduced for the older children (given its significance in the ad/trial condition, noted previously). As indicated in Table 3, althoughdirectionally consistent (.17 vs. .26 and .30), the AAD-- AB relationship did not reveal a statisticaldiminutionof AAD impact. Overall, the results of Hypothesis 6 indicatethatAAD's effects are indeed reduced,but not eliminated,when ad exposurefollows trial.In particular, loses capacityto shape AAD brand perceptions among the older children but retains a capacity to exert a direct influence on both younger and older children's brand attitudes.

JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH most importantor perceptually salient dimension (Siegler 1996b)-in this case producttrial. It should be noted that, apartfrom this capacityor strategicexplanation,the younger children's reliance on the experiential data might alternatively be attributedto knowledge or motivational differences. Although seven-year-oldscan reason in multiple dimensions, they have less advertising knowledge and experience on which to base more complex processing.Recently, researchershave shown that many age differences traditionallyattributedto capacity constraintsnow appear to reflect differences in domain-related knowledge (Siegler 1996a). In a similar vein, one reviewer pointed out that younger children are less involved than older children in decisions aboutproductpurchases.From a purelyfunctional perspective, then, older childrenmay be more motivatedto process ads carefully, since they may have more occasion to act on the basis of the information gleaned from advertising. Consistent with older children's enhanced levels of processing capacity,motivation,and knowledge, this study did provide clear evidence of informationintegration.Most notably, advertising'scapacity to frame the interpretation of a later productuse experience was readily apparent.With the provision of advertisingpriorto producttrial,older children shifted their beliefs and attitudes; this was not the case among the younger children. Interestingly,it appears that these framing effects can operate in either a positive or negative direction,a findingthat suggests the need for careful ad planning when the intended audience includes children. We also found that AAD'S influence among the older children was not confined to a direct transferto brand attitude but that it also helped to shape their beliefs aboutthe brand. Thus, for these older children ad liking exerted its influence throughmultiple paths to persuasion. In summary,this experimentincorporatedseveral useful features in its design, some of which are new to consumer researchon children,and that have yielded additionsto our understandingof advertising's effects on children in consumption contexts. The combination of product trial and advertising,for example, revealedpersuasiveimpactsacross a range of products and conditions. As just discussed, the inclusion of distinct age groups allowed different patterns of influencesto emerge.Among the most interestingof these was the demonstration of advertising'scapacityto framean older child's later usage experience. Further, because multiple products and commercials were built into the design, we were able to discerndirectionaldifferencesin the framing process: cases of significantnegative influence from an ad exposure emerged as well as cases of positive impacts. Ad and trial impacts were assessed across levels that spanned confidence in brand judgments, brand beliefs, and brand attitudes. Finally, the addition of the "attitudetoward the ad" construct proved very useful in expanding our appreciation for ways in which advertisingmay work with children. Of particularnote is the fact that AAD retained its capacity to influence both younger and older childrenin all conditions. While this effect was attenuatedwhen actual

The empirical results of the experiment offered strong support for our primary expectations regardingchildren's reactions to advertisingand producttrial. When studied as separatestimuli, actual usage of the productyielded higher levels of confidence in brandattitudesthan did advertising. Further,when product usage preceded exposure to advertising, it weakened the affective impacts of the ads. Thus, relative to concerns of marketersand public policy makers about advertising's power over children, these results suggest that product usage experiences will act to offer some protectionsin the marketplace(the conditions under which such usage occurs, such as requiringa purchasein orderto try the product, are a separate issue). Advertising also emerged as a significantinfluenceon children' s perceptions: several intriguingfindings appearedhere. The inclusion of two age groups in the study (second and fifth grades) allowed us to test hypothesesbased on differencesin cognitive development, knowledge, and motivation to process alternative types of stimuli. Both groups of childrenwere influenced by advertising and product trial, but in somewhat different ways. For the younger children, it appearsthat the dual task of ad interpretation and integrationwith inputs from the product experience can be relatively complex. Dependingon the ad, little brand informationmay be conveyed beyond the easily interpretable sensory datafromproducttrial(although our data show that an ad may still be influential through affective means). Attempts to reconcile the ad-depicted world of fantasy and hyperbolewith evidence from product use may overtax the young child's resources at the integration stage of processing. Theoretically,one reactionto tasks that stress processing limits is to narrowone's focus to the

AND PRODUCTEXPERIENCES ADVERTISING, CHILDREN, usage of the product preceded exposure to the ad, it still remainedas a significantinfluence.Thus, the evidence from s creativeelements this experimentsuggests thatadvertising' may play a more centralrole in the persuasionprocess than has been previously recognized within the children's advertising literature.

41 process was used to identify and An extensive, structured preserve key insights. During the first phase (open coding), data were brokendown into discrete events and ideas: these were then comparedsuch thatconceptuallysimilarphenomena were grouped to form categories and subcategories.In the second phase (axial coding), relationshipsamong categories were articulated:patterns were sought both within and across informants.Finally, in the thirdphase (selective coding) the centralor core phenomenonwas identified,one thatappearedmost comprehensiveand revealingof the children's individual and collective experience. Multiple steps were taken to enhance the trustworthiness of the findings (Wallendorfand Belk 1989). Both internal and external audits were conducted on a continuousbasis, covering all researchmaterials.This process was conducted by two individuals, one a sociologist with extensive experience conducting interpretive research and in using groundedtheory analysis, and the other,the second author. Thus, attributesto ensure trustworthinessof interpretation included triangulationacross sources (age groups) and researchers(authorsplus an external auditor).


We then pursuedthe issues of age, ads, and productusage employing qualitative inquiry. Methodologically, triangulation across methods allows differentaspects of a phenomenon to emerge. Here interpretivistmethods offered us an opportunityto gain additional insights into how children think about ads and products,free of the close-ended measures of experimentalresearch (Denzin 1989; Lutz 1991; McQuarrieand Mick 1992).

Interviews and Sampling Procedure. Individual depth interviews were conducted with 38 children (60 percent female, 87 percent white) from a different school in the same community.Youngerand older childrenwere again included: 18 of the children were in the second grade and 20 were in the fifth grade. Most interviews were conducted in two sessions (range = 1-3) scheduled 2-10 days apart: This format all interviews were conductedby the firstauthor. allowed the researchersto review audiotapes and identify areas for furtherexploration in the second meeting. Interviews rangedfrom 45 to 130 minutes,varying as a function of the child's interest and schedule. The flow of the interviews was cast largely by the children, as they recounted their personal experiences and views of heavily promoted products (Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1989). Props (trial of the Sodalicious fruit snack used in the experiment and exposure to its ad and two filler ads) were included s by children' early in the interview,a strategyrecommended researchers (e.g., Bierman and Schwartz 1986; Peracchio 1990; Wells 1965) and used with substantialeffectiveness in our exploratoryresearch.These props served as a starting point for discussion, which then shifted to the child's own experiences and opinions about other productsencountered in their everyday lives. The children were enthusiasticand to the second sesinvolved participants, frequentlyreturning sion with topics they wanted to introduce, clarify, or embellish. Analytic Strategy. Data analysis was conducted according to grounded theory procedures (e.g., Glaser and Strauss 1967; Straussand Corbin 1990). Approximately800 pages of verbatimtranscriptswere developed from the audiotaped interviews. Extensive analytic field notes were taken. Detailed in these notes were theoreticalassumptions, a summary of the process and content of each interview, and preliminaryinterpretations of the data.

As noted in our discussion of method, the experiment's restricted focus was here supplementedby a much wider range of topics and issues. Given their retrospectivecoverage, moreover, the interviews here embodied the children's own naturalexposuresto many forms of ads, as well as multiple use experiences with many products.This rich base of consumer experience was evident among all of our participants, includingthe youngerconsumers.As expected, children of both age groups offered a wide range of comments on advertisingand productuse. They reportedtheir enjoymentin using various productsand their strategiesfor acquiringnew products.They elaboratedon how they were interested in, as well as amused by, advertising and how they were informedby its contents. Thus, there were some elements of similarity across the sample. However, interbetweenthe two age groups. esting differencesalso appeared These were quite consistent with our findings in the experiment and, in fact, help us to better understandthe genesis of those results, as explained in the following sections.

A Baseline View. Whereasthe exYoungerChildren: perimenthad forced exposure and focused attentionto particularads, here the respondentswere largely free to decide which productuse experiences and ads they wished to discuss. In general, the younger children's reports were consistent with expectationsfrom the literature andthusprovide a baseline of sorts against which the older children can be compared.For example, one interestingdifferencebetween the age groups involved the scope of productsand ads discussed. The younger children, not surprisingly,chose to reporton productsof personalrelevancefor theirdaily lives and largely restrictedtheir discussions of ads to those involving productseither personally owned or sought for future acquisition (other ads seemed to be summarily dis-

42 missed for lacking personal interest on these dimensions [e.g., "I don't like GI Joes, I like Barbie"]). In this regard, there was an emphasis in the younger children's descriptions on how they used commercials as a means of discovering heretofore unrecognized opportunities and desires. For example, informants readily described ads that had been helpful to them in compiling a personal wish list for a birthday or holiday. Furthermore, across interviews children recounted, sometimes vividly, how they looked forward to seeing particular ads. In this focused sense, the younger children emerged as active and involved, not passive recipients of advertising. Finally, these children displayed an obVious enthusiasm for and enjoyment of their advertising experiences. I really, really watch some commercials about Barbie. I like to watch them because I like to see how pretty the Barbies are and if there is going to be, like, a new kind of Barbie. There is one Barbie that I got on a commercial where she could dance with a Ken doll. Then it comes with some little lipstick type thing on a towel. You dip it in cold water and put the lipstick on the Barbie. The Barbie's lipstick turns darker.(203, F)9 The extent of these children's comments was indeed impressive: line extensions and new features were noted, and comparisons to other brands spontaneously offered. The children readily shared details of their use experiences, store visits, and strategies they used to try to influence their parents' purchases. However, the younger children in our study did seem to assume that the product was as depicted in the advertisement: there was little reporting of trust or credibility concerns. And, while the children enjoyed humor in some commercials, ad execution in itself appeared not to be of focal interest. Finally, the parent's role as gatekeeper was a salient consideration, even to the extent of apparently receiving weight in product evaluations. These points are illustrated in the following quotes. I like the one [SuperSoaker]where you get the concentrated color waterjunk. You put it in the gun and it shoots and it's disappearingink, that stuff. It has a motorized one that you have to buy batteriesfor, and you can shoot it and it's concentratedso if it gets in your eyes it won't bum. I haven't gotten it yet, but I want my Mom to get it for me. (204, M) I have a collection of My Little Ponies and I like those commercials. They show different ponies. They show girls playing with ponies and they make the ponies, like, jump and stuff. Just for one certainpony, for one kind, like if you twist it up or something it will dance. I have one of those. I have, like, twenty-fiveMy Little Ponies. I get one for every birthdayand stuff. (207, F) I don't like that one [ad for Chips Ahoy cookies] because it
9Bracketed informationidentifies the grade/ageand sex of the informant (2XX = seven- to eight-year-olds,second graders;5XX = 10-1 1-year-olds, fifth graders).


made me too hungry. Cookies are my favorite. And we're not allowed to have snacks. (203, F) In addition, this study offered additional insight and support for some of the results obtained in the experiment. For example, recall that these interviews began with an ad exposure and product trial for one of the brands (Sodalicious) used in the experiment.10 Evidence from the younger children's reactions to this ad is helpful in explaining why the younger children in the experiment would have reflected -k AB but simpler processing routes as regards AAD (i.e., AAAD not AAD -_ Cogs or Cog, -- AB) but provided no evidence of the ad framing effect found with the older children. Consider the following quotes from two of the younger children: It's like a fairy tale on the commercial.I mean, people can't really be thin. And they can't just pop out of it like that. That's not real. (212, M) I didn't like it when he just like walked to a machinebecause I don't know any machinesthatgive fruit snacks.I don't like that. You can't just be flat and then just turnround.(209, M) It is apparent that these children are having difficulty understanding the figurative language and depictions of this commercial (actual content will become clear presently, with quotes from older children). This in turn restricts their capabilities to develop appropriate brand beliefs (CogB measures). Further, this should have constrained the development of a set of product use expectations, thus working against the creation of a usage framing effect through advertising.

OlderChildren: A Broadened,RicherView. Beyond the baseline of performance established by the younger children, the older children in our study revealed a higher language capacity and a broader and richer set of comments and insights on advertising and products. With respect to the Sodalicious example just discussed, consider these quotes from several of the older respondents:
If you leave soda out too long, the fizz in it gets flat and then it doesn't taste very good. I think they said it. If you eat it, you're not flat or something.They're probablytalking about Sodalicious tastes like real Coke, like real sodas and stuff. And it doesn't taste like the normal fruit snacks that are supposedly flat in the commercial. (504, F) There were otherpeople eating it because he did, sort of like he was popular.He ate it and then all these other people ate it. It's like a lot of people would do that.One personwill buy somethingandeat it. And thenthe otherpeople, if he's popular they'll go and get it too. It happensin real life. (501, M)
1In the fruit snack ad, a fanciful execution was used to promote the idea that the snack was exciting and unusual, containing soda flavors and features unlike conventionalbrands.Special effects depict the childrenin the ads initially as two-dimensionalcharacters. After trying the snack, they pop back to three-dimensional form andenthusiastically proclaimthe merits of the brand. Soda bubbles cover the screen and other children come to join the fun.


They were trying to say thatSodalicious will give you energy. And it will, because it's sugary. It's covered in, like, this sugar stuff, has like sugar sprinkledon it. They're trying to say that you'll be better after you try Sodalicious. After he tried the Sodalicious, he popped out and just got a lot of energy. It didn't happen to me. I mean I did feel good but I was still the same after I tried it. It tasted good, I liked it. (513, F) Notice how the older children were more sensitive to the figurative content of this message and were able to detect multiple levels of meaning in this fantasy-laden ad. In contrast to the younger children, they knew these images are not meant to be taken literally and that the fantasy is used to convey an underlying idea or strategy. Thus, they were able to look to a message's literal meaning as well as its figurative properties. The older children also departed from the younger children in terms of the scope of the commercials they were interested in discussing. Beyond products personally purchased and used-the essential range of discussion for the younger children-the older participants in this study readily described ads for many products and services, such as Stainmaster carpets or Huggies diapers, that they themselves would not be involved in buying. Thus, in contrast to the younger children, there was a larger distinction drawn between advertising and personal product use among these older respondents. The essential motivators for this expanded range of advertising interest appeared to be a fascination on the part of the older children in advertising' s entertainment dimensions and executional elements. In this sense, they appear to be consuming ads much the way they might consume a television program, as an appreciative audience, irrespective of the specific product promoted. For example: The Honey Comb commercialhas never left my headbecause it's got all those details in it. It's got brightcolors, andmusic, and kids with interesting things in it. That's what makes it stay in my head. I don't like that kind of cereal or the new kinds. I don't like sweet cereal. I just like the commercials though. (507, F) I watch most of the commercials that come on [laughs]. I watch them for stuff that they do that make people get attention. If they flashed differentthings, or if they just stayed on the same theme the whole way throughthe commercial. Like, well in the Pepsi commercial,it says it's got two words "GottaHave It."That's threewords andit makespeople think about it. "GottaHave It." So, stuff like that makes you think aboutit or rememberit. Like somethingstupidthatwill make you think about how dumb that commercialwas, that makes you think about it. (503, F) Relative to other forms of communications, advertising is unique in its aims and content, and the older children's reports recognized that ads are strategic constructions. These 10-1 1-year-olds noted not only that ads incorporate a selling motive but also that this leads to a message in which product

claims are positive and exaggeration is common. They readily acknowledged the appeal of celebrity endorsers and described how music, humor, and action are used in "getting kids to pay attention and remember." They show the shape of the cereal a lot of times. When they show the box a lot of times, they show the name a lot of times. Make sure you rememberit. Or sometimes they have a song, and it's like when you get songs in your head and you can't get them out. Like sometimes I'll do that.Like the other day, I had that Targetsong in my head. I couldn't get it out of my head. When I think of the song, I think of that logo with the target,and that makes you remember.(513, F) A final age-based distinction uncovered in this study involves boundaries for persuasive appeals. Consistent with past research, both the younger and older children here readily acknowledged advertising's persuasive purpose. However, as noted earlier, the younger children seemed to assume that the product was as depicted in the advertisement: there was little reporting of trust or credibility concerns. Meanwhile, some of the older children, reflecting their interest in executional elements, reported that advertisers naturally do employ substantial creative license in presenting the positive aspects of their product offerings. However, this celebration of creativity in advertising was at times offered without a concern for limits. For example, Have you seen "Makeit, Takeit?" You put little beads into a frameandthen you melt it in the oven. Well,I meanthey show it so easily on the commercial.Justpoura little bit in andthen you put it in the oven and in 10 seconds it's done. But they are like tiny beads and you have to put each individualone into everything.And it usually flows over and gets into your frame.It's not thateasy, as they'retryingto makeit look like! If I'm buying somethinglike that, I don't like when they do that. But sometimes if it's a real flop of a productthey have to do that to protecttheir product.(503, F) Although this girl knew from her own experience that the product had use problems, she did not reflect a broader view of a marketer's responsibility to fairly portray product performance in ads. Such gaps in knowledge about standards for commercial persuasion were readily apparent among our older informants.

The interpretive approach of the second study was quite useful in gaining additional insights into the topic of advertising and product use. The findings here appear to be in accord with those of prior literature and with the findings of the experimental study as regards age differences among children. In particular, we should note that the advanced levels noted on the part of the older children are in keeping with a broad array of results in the field of literary development. Here studies show that important changes in command of genre occur during the upper elementary school

44 years (e.g., Fitch, Huston, and Wright1993; Gardner1980). Advertising literacy, and an understandingof this genre's defining qualities, rest on children's evolving language and communicationskills (FriestadandWright1994; Ritson and Elliott 1995; Scott 1994; Young 1990). From early adolescence (11-12 years old), children's thinkingbecomes more multidimensional,involves abstractas well as concreterepresentations,and becomes less absolute and more relative in nature(Keating 1990). As readers,children shift from a primary reliance on the physical events in a story to an alertnessto motivations,incentives, and otherpsychological features(Durkin1993). Greaterinsightinto these underlying elements enables the decoding of new layers of meaning, both literal and figurative(Nippold, Cuyler,andBraunbeckPrice 1988; Winner 1988). Within figurative language lie humor,metaphor,and fantasy, all creative tools in the advertiser's arsenal, and as Gardneret al. (1978) suggest, all capable of involving an individual in the affective realm (e.g., throughlaughter,the satisfactionsderived from comwhy we should prehension,etc.). Thus, it is understandable have seen the older childrenin this study expressinginterest and involvementin advertising'sexecutionalelements:their relatively recently enhanced interpretivepowers were allowing them a deeper appreciationof the multiplicity of meanings that ads can convey, and they were enjoying the exercise of this capability. Methodologically, open-ended interviews with children have not often been used in consumerresearch,in partbecause of early concerns aboutthe verbalabilities of younger children (e.g., Goldberg and Gorn 1983).11 However, in related fields psychologists, anthropologists, and educators rely extensively on open-endedinterviews, both to describe and to draw inferences on developmentaldifferencesin perceptions and understanding (e.g., Gelman and Kremer 1991). We were thereforealert to both benefits and barriers in adopting this approach in consumer research (e.g., we ensured that the children in our study were older than the groups identified as being of greatest concern and drew heavily upon closely allied work in related fields in the design, conduct, and analysis of the interpretivestudies).

RESEARCH OF CONSUMER JOURNAL stantive findings emerged regarding(1) productusage, (2) advertising'seffects, (3) children'sdevelopment,and (4) the value of multipleresearchperspectivesandmethodsin work with children.

Productusage was examined in two ways in this project, prodthroughchildren's self-reportsand throughstructured role emergedin both of these venues. uct trials;its important For those productsthat interestchildren,usage is a goal, an involving component of their lives, and a source of salient informationthat advances learning about the marketplace. Advertising was also examined throughtwo means-depth interviews and experimentalexposures. It was evident that advertisingfor some productsis highly involving and leaves a strong impact on children. Participantsreadily recalled ads, sang jingles, mimicked characters,and relatedproduct informationgleaned from these sources.Overall,advertising is clearly an importantsource of informationand influence for children.

The field's primarylines of inquiry and theorizingabout here. children'sdevelopmentalissues were largelysupported In particular, age-relateddifferences were apparentin both studies. For the younger children, our findings reveal significant influences from producttrial experiences and comparatively simple responses to advertising,consistent with prior research showing that younger children's processing skills and strategies lack the sophistication and efficiency of older children. However, three particular findings emerged for younger childrenthat allow us to betterappreciate both cognitive and motivationaldimensions in the responses of this age group:

1. Younger Children Were Influenced Directly by ProductTrialsand ShowedNo Evidenceof an Ad Framing Process. The experimentshowed thatinitial exposure to advertisingdid little to shift the younger children's perceptionsof a producttrialexperience.This can be interpreted as a manifestationof a younger child's capacitylimitations: integrationof the images in commercialswith concretesensory inputs from productusage can be a relativelycomplex processing task, one that appearedto stretchthe capacities of the younger children.


This articlereportsthe resultsof two studies,representing researchmetha combinationof positivist and interpretivist ods, to examine children's responses to advertising and productusage. Although childrenare commonly exposed to both of these stimuli in their everyday lives as consumers, this remainsa relatively undevelopedareaof research.Sub"It has long been recognized that conducting research with children presents special challenges. Fortunately,the children's researchliterature providessubstantial insight into these issues (e.g., GoldbergandGorn 1983; Peracchio 1990). However,the potentialbenefits and difficultiesassociated with interpretivemethods have not been much explored in the children's advertisingvenue. In contrast,educatorsand psychologists have used these methods extensively with school-aged children for both clinical and research purposes (see esp. Barker 1990; Fine and Sandstrom 1988; Garbarino and Stott 1989; Tammivaara and Enright 1986).

2. Liking of an Ad Influenced Younger Children's Attitudesabout the BrandItself. Within the experiment
the observed effects of attitudetoward an ad were strong but also consistent with a relatively simple or rudimentary processing style. The younger children did not engage in much elaboration,as only the simple, direct effects of ad liking on brand attitudes were evident. Within the depth interview study,moreover,theirquotes of directedreactions to the Sodalicious commercialprovidedfurtherevidence of the younger children's simpler approachto understanding

AND PRODUCT EXPERIENCES CHILDREN, ADVERTISING, the commercial.In this case, limitationsin appreciating the figurativelanguage and images would likely hinder development of certain brand cognitions and expectations for productuse experiences.


Implications for FutureResearch

Our primaryimpetus in this project was to examine the interactionof advertisingwith use experience in children's consumer behavior.The results strongly supportthe value of furtherwork on this topic. In particular, the role andpower of usage experience relative to advertisingis an interesting and important issue. Each of the age-relatedpatternsemerging in this project is also worthy of attentionin future research.We should also take care to view the broadercontext within which childrenare developing, and it would be useful to examine furtherthe role that ad executional elements are playing in the persuasion process, particularlysince their influenceappearsto be evolving rapidlywithin the industry. For example, in 1996, ad spending in child-specific media reached $1.5 billion, representingmore than a 50 percent increasefrom 1993 (Leonhardtand Kerwin 1997). To stand out, commercialsare increasinglyfocused on entertainment and image creationand are less focused on the productitself. In recent years, host-selling, creativelicensing, promotional tie-ins, and other techniques have attained unprecedented levels of reach and sophistication. Thus, persuasive messages today are in some sense becoming more subtle, as programming,ads, and the products themselves flow into and reinforce one another. Our findings on advertising framing effects among the older children (1 1-12-year-olds) are relevant here and deserve more focused researchattentionin the future.Advertisers, for example, should be quite interested in learning under what conditions positive or negative framing effects occur and what factors are driving them. Relatedly,the fact that these children("cued processors")possess the capacity to process both the ad and usage experience in a relatively complex fashion (yet may not spontaneouslyinvoke an unof boundariesfor persuasiveinfluenceattempts) derstanding does seem to call for furtherattentionfrom our field. The present results are naturallysubject to a numberof caveats and limitations. The four products all involved foods: it is possible that processes might differ for other categories, such as toys. Whetherthe effects of advertising on producttrial as seen here would hold in more naturalistic settings in which there is a delay between exposure and use is also an importantempirical issue. Our design could be overstating advertising's immediate effects by minimizing recall demands. In this regard, however, the extensive advertising recall demonstratedby informantsduring our indepthinterviews offers some mitigationof this risk. Finally, the direct impact of advertisingrepetitionis not examined here. Repetitionmay serve to enhanceadvertising' s impacts on product trial, particularlyamong the younger children (Peracchio 1992), althoughsignificantlyhigher levels might be necessary to produce such effects. Overall,the use of both interpretive andpositivistresearch approaches in a single project was beneficial to learning more about children's reactions to advertisingand product trial. Each method has strengths and weaknesses, but in combinationthere are obvious synergies. Further, our findings here clearly show that futurepursuitof issues of usage

3. The YoungerChildren'sReportson Advertisingin TheirLives Stayed Noticeably Close to Products They Either Already Owned or Wished to Own in th,e
Future. For this group, it appearsthat advertising,acquisition, and productuse are closely intertwined,as we would expect from a business perspectiveon the role of advertising in a marketingmix. Here, it would appearthat a successful commercial from the younger child's perspectivewould be one that would attracthis or her attention to the product itself and to the enjoyment or benefits to be gained from personal use experiences with that product. Older children, on the other hand, are better equippedto perceive and appreciate advertisements' multiplicity of meanings and to integrate these with product use. Three findings of particularinterest emerged for this age group:

1. For Older Children, AdvertisingHas the Power to Frame the Interpretation of Subsequent Product
Usage. Further,this framing can be a significant source of influence in either a positive or negative direction. Advertisers should be alert to the potentialfor commercialsto eitherenhanceor detractfrom the qualityof older children's brandusage experiences: it would be worthwhileto ensure that copytesting efforts are expanded to overtly assess this kind of impact (e.g., assess the extent to which specific executions enhance receptivity by this target group or, alternatively, foster expectations that will not later be realized).

2. Liking of an Ad InfluencedOlder Children'sAttitudes about the Brand Itself throughMultiple Persuasive Routes. Consistent with previous research involving adults, in our experimentliking for an ad not only influencedbrandattitudedirectlybut also influencedbeliefs about that brand, which in turn influenced liking for the brand. These multiple routes to persuasionsuggest considerable elaborationof points being made in commercials, a conclusion receiving supportin the depthinterviewsas well. Significantly, this effect of advertising was strong enough to persist even when these children also had direct product trial evidence available to them.

3. More Generally, Older ChildrenApproach Advertising with a Broadenedand Richer Perspective.

Upon reflectionthis is not so surprisinggiven the electronic world in which they live, but it was clearthatolderchildren's reactionsto advertisingnot only includedthe brandmessage but also extended to an interestin executional elements and strategic constructions.In a sense, then, older children can be seen to be "consuming"advertisingas a form of entertainment, in addition to their reacting as potential product purchasersand users.

46 experience in tandem with advertising influence is worthwhile in the area of children's consumer behavior. [Received October 1997. Revised October 1999. Robert E. Burnkrantserved as editor, and Barbara Loken served as associate editorfor this article.]


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