Even as retailers and manufacturers start their holiday promotions early--because of a late Thanksgiving and continued economic worries--to try to shore up holiday sales, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging some temperance when it comes to advertising.
The consumer watchdog group has sent a letter to CEOs of the country's major retailers, as well as game and toy manufacturers, encouraging them to redirect advertising aimed at children toward their parents instead.
The Toy Industry Association did not return a request for comment.
"Given how serious things are right now, there's almost an obscenity to dangling these products in front of children at this time," CCFC director Susan Linn tells Marketing Daily. "We understand companies' need to get the message out about their products; we're just asking they [direct them at] parents."
The letter accuses the companies of turning children into their "lobbyists" during the holiday season. "Since it's parents, not children who can truly understand their family's financial situation in these difficult times, it is more important than ever that you respect their authority as gatekeepers," the letter continues.
In September, the National Retail Federation forecasted a 2.2% increase in retail sales (to just over $470 billion) for this year's holiday season. That would be far below the 10-year-average of 4.4%, and make it the worse year since 2002. Other groups, such as TNS Retail Forward, have predicted the holiday season will be the worst in 17 years.
Most retailers and toy companies have created advertising--kid- and parent-directed--months ago, well in advance of both the holiday season and Wall Street's collapse in September.
Nevertheless, Linn says, there will be enough public outcry (the group is also trying to organize a consumer letter campaign) to encourage companies to change their marketing strategies.
"It's a whole new world out there than when companies were planning their campaigns," Linn says. "We're in a real emergency, and families are hurting in ways they haven't in years."