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27 November 2014

“That’s Advertising!”: Teens' Ability to See Through Different Forms of Advertising

Keywords: advergames, advertising, brands, internet, teens, Western Europe, computer, experiment, games, marketing, marketing strategy, persuasive tactics, television,

Being advertising literate is an essential skill for today’s youth, as they have become an important target group for advertisers and marketers. A study in the Journal of Consumer Policy shows that most teens have relatively high levels of advertising literacy. They are able to identify the source and intent of different forms of advertising. Moreover, when powerful advertising formats are combined (for example, trailers and advergames), advertising literacy can help teens to defend against their persuasive appeal.

Take aways

  • Previous research showed that young children (6-12 y/o) have trouble recognizing non-traditional forms of advertising, such as web-ads. 
  • This study adds to this by showing that older children (11-14 y/o) recall brands less easily when they are implemented in new forms of advertising, such as advergames. 
  • Advertising literacy (understanding of advertising’s source and intent) can help teens defend against a combination of new advertising tools (commercial trailers combined with advergames). 
  • These findings highlight the importance for educational intervention developers to include the newer advertising techniques in their advertising literacy programs.  

Study information

  • The question?

    How do teens respond to different advertising techniques, and what’s the role of their advertising-related knowledge in this?
  • Who?

    125 11- to 14-year-old children (mean age: 11 years old)
  • Where?

    Belgium, Europe
  • How?

    The children were divided into five groups. In the trailer group they watched a trailer in which a cartoon character encourages children to visit the website of the ice-cream brand Ola to play an advergame, in the advergame group they played the Ola advergame, in the trailer + advergame group they first saw the trailer and then played the advergame, in the TV ad group they were shown a traditional TV ad for Ola with the same cartoon character and trailer in it, and in the control group children were not exposed to any form of advertising.

    After advertising exposure, children were offered three different popsicles: one of a generic store brand, one of a competitive brand, and one of the test brand Ola. Children were asked to choose the one they liked the best in order to measure their brand preference. Following, children’s recall of the Ola brand during advertising exposure, advertising literacy (i.e., identification of the source behind the commercial and of the persuasive intent), and attitude toward the Ola brand were also assessed. 

Facts and findings

  • Teens who played the Ola advergame were less able to recall the brand name than those who saw the TV ad, indicating that children recall brands more easily when they are implemented in more traditional forms of advertising. 
  • Teens’ brand attitude and preference for the brand were equally high after exposure to the different advertising forms. 
  • Advertising literacy did not vary across the different advertising forms. Thus, children were just as able to identify the source and intent of traditional advertising (TV ads) as they were of more subtle advertising formats (advergames and trailers). 
  • Children who were more advertising literate were less positive about the brand (this was only found for the children who saw the trailer and the advergame). 
  • The researchers explain that the identification of advertising’s intent behind powerful combinations of new forms of advertising requires more developed advertising-related knowledge. Since children with less knowledge are more susceptible to advertising effects, they are expected to hold more positive attitudes toward the advertised brand. 
  • This suggests that -- when different new forms of advertising are combined -- having a grasp of advertising’s source and intent helps teens defend against the persuasive appeal of advertising. 
  • Remarkable fact: Regardless of advertising form, 37% of the children were unable to reveal the persuasive intent or source behind the ads. This suggests that 11- to 14-year-old children have not yet reached the optimal level of advertising-related knowledge.
  • Fun fact: Boys were better able to recall the brand name Ola than girls.