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Milk of corporate kindness

Rob Aitken banner

Milk of corporate kindness

Schools need guidelines on corporate marketing to children, according to Associate Professor Robert Aitken and Dr Leah Watkins (Department of Marketing).

The pair surveyed more than 2,000 members of the public online and interviewed nine Dunedin primary school principals on their perceptions of “corporate strategic giving” in schools using, as an example, the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra’s introduction of free milk in schools in branded Anchor cartons.

Aitken says that, although most members of the public feel that such initiatives are a good thing, there is a surprisingly high level of cynicism over the motives of companies and concern at the targeting of children, who are more susceptible than are adults to advertising.

He says that school principals tend to be more pragmatic, particularly in lower-decile schools, and focus more on the benefits to the children, although they are generally concerned that there are no policy guidelines to assist them in making decisions about in-school marketing.

Aitken and Watkins agree and have called for the introduction of formal government guidelines regulating commercial activities that target children in schools, as happens in countries such as Scotland.

They say that the need for such guidelines is all the more important in a political environment in which educational institutions are increasingly expected to seek alternative sources of funding, and schools are beginning to rely more heavily on corporate support and financial assistance.

The research results have been published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.

Photo: Graham Warman