Agnes Nairn

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According to Agnes Nairn's website, she “is a researcher, writer, consultant and speaker who investigates issues related to marketing and children. She is Professor of Marketing at two of Europe's leading Business Schools, EM-Lyon Business School in France and RSM Erasmus University in the Netherlands. She sits on the Executive Board of the International Journal of Market Research and is currently serving on two government expert panels for the DCSF and DoH/National Social Marketing Centre.”[1]

The Debate

At an Institute of Ideas conference on 6 March 2009, Nairn argued four main points of unfairness in marketing to kids. She argues it is unfair to advertise to the very young; to prey on the social insecurities of teens; to disrupt family life and to use kids to market to their friends. Describing the debate as being polarised between moral panic vs. complacency; protection vs. empowerment, Nairn concludes by advocating both legislation and media education. Moving the argument away solely from the narrow focus of TV advertising to kids, she argues that legislation is required to protect kids from online advertising. Quoting from empirical research in her book (published in January 2009, co-written with Ed Mayo, 'Consumer Kids: How Big Business is Grooming Our Children For Profit') that kids spend more time on the internet than at school or with parents therefore requiring legislation to protect them, “otherwise marketers will run rampant”.[2]

Writing in The New Statesman, Peter Wilby states that Mayo and Nairn do not advocate legislation explicitly, instead that 'financial capability' should be taught in schools instead.[3]


In July 2007, Nairn et al published what they allege to be the first piece of UK research into the “in depth the connections between the wellbeing of our children and the commercial world that surrounds them” (Nairn et al, 2007: 3). The research was carried out on 557 'tweens' (9 – 13 year old).[4]

In the introduction by Ed Mayo, he comments that national strategy of media literacy should be applied for the empowerment of children and parents; suggesting that Ofcom develop this. Also, “ending the abuses of internet marketing to children, through regulating promotions and classifying children’s personal information as sensitive, requiring parental consent”.


  • more media exposure, more materialistic
  • higher levels of materialism has positive correlation with low self-esteem
  • Higher levels of materialism also correlates with negative relations with family members
  • This is in accordance with similar research conducted in US and the Netherlands
  • Children from deprived families watch more TV and are more materialistic

Watching, wanting and wellbeing are connected.

“The report warns against simplistic claims, whether by commercial advocates of more marketing to children or by critics who argue that there is a ‘loss of childhood’ underway in Britain.”


  1. Agnes Nairn's website [1](2008), accessed 6 April 2009
  2. FORAtv website Battle of Ideas: Consuming Children, 6 March 2009, accessed 6 April 2009
  3. Peter Wilby They want your sprogs, The New Statesman 19 February 2009,accessed 6 April 2009
  4. Nairn, A. Ormond, J. & Bottomley, P watching, wanting and wellbeing: exploring the links, July 2007, accessed 6 April 2009