Economics and Management

Professor Odonkor’s New Book Examines Advertising Aimed at Children


On Saturday, October 9, 2021, Professor Evelyn Odonkor of the Department of Economics and Management launched her new book, Un regard sur les messages publicitaires destinés aux enfants: Les cas des États-Unis, de la France et du Ghana, at Parisian bookshop Librairie Maruani. As well as AUP staff, faculty and members of the public, the in-person book launch was attended by the Ghanaian Ambassador to France.

The work, published in French and edited by Michel Houdiard, provides valuable insight into advertising targeting children in three countries that are culturally, politically and economically distinct: the United States, France and Ghana. “Advertisers today have many more avenues to reach children than in the past,” explains Odonkor. “It is thus important for parents to understand why children are an attractive marketing target and how advertisers persuade them to have an insatiable need to consume."

Cultural Impacts on the Child Consumer

Odonkor explains that the child consumer has been of great interest to marketers and practitioners for many decades. Scholars have debated the negative impact of advertising on children, children’s ability to differentiate between an advertisement and a regular TV program, and their ability to comprehend advertising intent. Odonkor’s research takes a different angle on the issue and explores the influence of culture on advertising aimed at children. The objective is to understand how culture and cultural values impact the way advertisers approach children from different societies.

Odonkor’s research looks at dominant and non-dominant cultural values, the role and place of children in society, and differing parental styles in France, Ghana and the United States. She uses her findings to explain differences in advertising messages targeting children in these countries. She also examines the natural traits of children, which provides valuable insights into the similarities she finds in advertising messages across different cultures.

Her findings reveal that the era in which children are supposed to be “seen but not heard” is over in France and the US – though this is often not the case in Ghana. In France and the US, children are highly influential members of the family; they participate in decision-making and have substantial purchasing power. They have their own money and use it as they please. This is not the case in Ghana, where children are under the authority of the adults around them. Ghanaian children are often not consulted in decision-making and must seek permission for everything they do, even how they spend money they receive as gifts or have earned themselves. Advertising messages in France and the US therefore pitch directly to children, whereas in Ghana the messaging incorporates the approval of adults.

What is common in all three countries is that the commercials are designed to entertain children, because children, regardless of their cultural background, love to have fun. The difference in messaging is evident in the context in which the children are shown to have fun and the themes that advertisers use to attract them.