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In recent years, the scope and scale of marketing to children has substantially increased (Common Sense Media 2014), and consumer researchers throughout the world have noted increasing commercial pressures on children (Bailey Report 2011, Valkenburg 2000, Oates, Watkins and Tyne 2016). Children are increasingly targeted from a wide number of sources, from television advertising, to merchandising, to advergames, to sponsored events and in-school marketing. The children and marketing group is interested in the direct implications of these influences on children, and the challenges they present to childhood, as well as the question of the impact on society of the underlying values that such socialization promotes.

One of the major considerations for marketers today is the need to examine their own practices when marketing to child audiences. Our knowledge of children's inherent limitations in understanding advertising and their unique susceptibility to commercial persuasion has been well established in prior academic work (Rozendaal, Buijzen and Valkenburg 2011, Gunter, Oates and Blades 2005), however, there is little work on understanding the impact of new forms of media and marketing on children's well-being (Clarke and Svanaes 2012, Nairn 2014). The advent of immersive, digital and online platforms, so attractive to children of all ages, makes this need ever more urgent.

The group's research contributes to the academic literature on the range and effects on children of increased exposure to marketing in new and traditional media. The research is also intended to benefit NZ families, educators and policy makers by recommending standards of marketing and encouraging the development of media literacy skills for children in the rapidly changing media environment.


Aitken, R., and Watkins, L. (2019) Envisioning a Sustainable Consumption Future. Young Consumers Advance online publication. ID YC-12-2018-0880.

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., & Ford, J. (2019) Measuring and enhancing children's sustainable consumption and production literacy. Young Consumers. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1108/YC-11-2018-0880

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., et al., (2019) Capturing the Commercial World of Children: The Feasibility of Wearable Cameras to Assess Marketing Exposure. Journal of Consumer Affairs, Winter, 1396-1420 DOI:10.1111/joca. 12234

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Robertson, K., Thyne, M. and Borzekowski, D. (2017) Environmental Influences on Pre-Schoolers' Understanding of Brand Symbolism. Journal of Marketing Intelligence and Planning. Vol. 35, 7.

Robertson, K, Watkins, L, Thyne, M and Aitken, R (2016) 'Correlates of Parental Mediation of Pre-schooler's Advertising Exposure.' Young Consumers YC-04-2016-00597.R1

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Robertson, K. and Thyne, M. (2016) Public and Parental Perceptions of and Concerns with Advertising to Pre-School Children. International Journal of Consumer Studies 40:5 pp 592-600. DOI: 10.1111/ijcs.12304

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Robertson, K.,Thyne, M and Williams, J. (2016) Advertising's Impact on Pre-Schoolers' Brand Knowledge and Materialism International Journal of Consumer Studies 40: pp 583-591. DOI: 10.1111/ijcs.12303.

Aitken, R. and Watkins, L. (2016) 'Harm or Good?': Consumer Perceptions of Corporate Strategic Giving In Schools Journal of Consumer Affairs

Oates, C., Watkins, L & Thyne, M. (2016) “Editorial: The Impact of Marketing on Children's Well-Being in a Digital Age” European Journal of Marketing Editorial Vol. 50 No. 11 pp. 1969 - 1974

Aitken, R & Watkins, L. (2016) “There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: The Cost of Marketing in Schools”. New Zealand Principal. Vol 31, No. 1, pp 29-32.

Watkins, L. Aitken, R., Signal, L., Smith M., & Gage, R. (2017). Documenting the Commercial World of New Zealand Children. Proceedings of the Macro Marketing Conference 2017

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Thyne, M., & Robertson, K. (2016). "Developmental and Environmental Influences on Brand Symbolism in Early Childhood". Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Denmark 2016

Aitken, R., Watkins, L., Thyne, M and Robertson, K. (2016) “Socializing Children as Competent Consumers”. Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Denmark 2016

Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Thyne, M., & Robertson, K. (2014). The Implications of Television Advertising to Pre-schoolers: An Analysis of Parental Concerns. Proceedings of the Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Edinburgh.

Aitken, R., & Watkins, L. (2014). From Breast to Brand: A Consideration of the Ethics of Marketing Milk in Schools. Proceedings of the Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Edinburgh.

Robertson, K., Watkins, L., Aitken, R., & Thyne, M. (2014). An Examination of the Factors that Influence the Choice of Mediation Strategies for Preschool Children. Proceedings of the Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Edinburgh.

Thyne, M., Robertson, K., Aitken, R and Watkins, L. (2014). Media Content is Making my Child (hood) Disappear Parents View of the Effect of Advertising. Proceedings of the Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Edinburgh.

Aitken, R., & Marshall, D. (2006). Children's drawings of special possessions and the link to brand awareness. Proceedings of the Child and Teens Consumption Conference. Copenhagen Business School.

Marshall, D. & Aitken, R. (2006). Putting brands in the picture: Children's drawings of their favourite things. In M.C. Lees, G. Gregory, & T. Davis (Eds.), Proceedings of the Association for Consumer Research Asia Pacific Conference, 7, (pp. 267-275). ACR.

Marshall, D. and Aitken, R. (2006) “Children's Special Possessions.” Proceedings of the Academy of Consumer Research (ACR) Asia Pacific 2006 Conference. Sydney (CD-Rom).

Marshall, D. & Aitken, R. (2005). After School: New Zealand children's accounts of their consumption activities. Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference [CD-ROM], (pp. 204-210). Perth, Australia: University of Western Australia.

Research Group Members:

Professor Rob Aitken

Professor Maree Thyne

Dr Leah Watkins

Dr Kirsten Robertson

Visiting Academics

  • Dr Suzanna Opree visited the Department of Marketing between 26th June and 14 July 2017. Suzanna works as a senior assistant professor at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and specialises in investigating the unintended effects of advertising on children (for more information, click here). Suzanna is visiting our colleagues Rob Aitken and Leah Watkins to exchange research ideas and insights and to explore the opportunities for future collaborations.


  • How much advertising are our kids exposed to? Dr Leah Watkins discussed on Nine to Noon, Radio New Zealand on 29th June 2017. You can listen the full interview here
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