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Children "shouldn't be seen as tiny adults"

Terre des Hommes

Children deserve to be protected in advertising, a fact highlighted by the Child Guardian prize awarded to publicity campaigns that show them as they really are.

This content was published on May 31, 2009 - 18:29

Its promoters say it is important to realise that children aren't miniature adults and shouldn't play that role in adverts, nor should they be confronted with problems such as discrimination.

An advert on Swiss television showing a small boy washing his friends' tricycles in the family dishwasher for a few francs earned white goods specialist Miele the Child Guardian prize this year, with the jury highlighting its originality.

"Not only does it make you smile, but it also shows how small children can have really creative business ideas," it said in a statement.

"The aim is to show that advertising can be commercially successful even when child protection rules are followed," said jury president Rocco Maglio, head of communication and fundraising at non-governmental organisation Terre des hommes.

In advertising, following child protection guidelines means not showing children as miniature adults. Campaigns should also avoid discrimination and the sexualisation of children; the reality of childhood should not be hidden under layers of other meanings.

Advertising should also not promote dangerous or unhealthy attitudes for children, nor prey on their credulity. Children appearing in advertising should be seen as examples for their peers.

Another criterion for the jury is violence. "The use of violence or incitation to violence does not belong in ads showing children," added Maglio.

Target groups

The Child-Guardian prize is awarded by Terre des hommes, the Swiss Advertising association, and the advertising and communication federation of French-speaking Switzerland. The award is also handed out in Italy and other European countries.

Every year a television advert and campaign are given a symbolic prize. The SFr10,000 ($9,300) attached to it go towards a child protection project – this year a programme teaching children and teenagers how to take a critical view of electronic media.

"Around 300 adverts or campaigns are considered," Maglio told swissinfo.ch. "Terre des Hommes makes a first selection that the jury then looks at."

The Child Guardian award is aimed at making adults aware of potential pitfalls in advertising with children. The target groups are the companies providing contracts and the agencies putting campaigns together.

More to do

After three years, Maglio reckons the message has begun to sink in. "The people who deal directly with the jury or the patronage committee directly seem to understand," he said.

But he adds that there is still a lot of work to do. "We have a lot more people to talk to."

The patronage committee defined the criteria for the prize. "The committee has among its members representatives of firms that hand out advertising contracts or who work for advertising firms," said Maglio.

"The idea is to get these firms to incorporate the criteria in their statutes," he said, although he admitted he did not know if this had been the case so far.

Eveline Kobler, swissinfo.ch (translated from German by Scott Capper)

Terre des hommes

Since its creation in 1960, when it was founded by Edmond Kaiser, the mission of Terre des hommes has been to help children.

Today, the foundation is the largest NGO for children's aid in Switzerland, with three areas of expertise: health, social care, and the rights of the child.

It has development projects in 28 countries and emergency relief programmes in three others.

Historically, Terre des hommes has worked with two approaches: bringing direct aid projects for children, self-managed and/or in partnership with local organisations; and promoting the rights of the child, in Switzerland and around the world, and denouncing violations of those rights.

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