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5 December 2013

School Kids’ Requests to Santa Claus Dictated by Advertising

Keywords: advertising, brands, games, learning, television, Christmas, Western Europe, content analysis, kids, media, purchase requests, wish lists,

In Dutch-speaking countries the most important gift-giving saint arrives well before Christmas. On December 5th, the eve of the name day of Saint Nicolas (“Sinterklaas”, Santa Claus) families gather together and give each other presents. Traditionally, the presents are accompanied by poems and hidden in creative and funny wrappings (“surprises”). Naturally, these cultural, social, and family habits do not stand in the way of Sinterklaas being the most commercial holiday of the year, and advertisers using this period to target the most advertising at children. A Dutch study in Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media showed that more than 50% of children’s requests to Santa mentioned a heavily advertised brand name. The more television advertising children had seen, the more they asked for advertised brands. 

Take aways

  • More than half of school-aged kids’ requests to Santa are for products and brands advertised in the holiday season.
  • The number of advertised brand requests is even higher among:
    • children who watch more commercial television;
    • younger children
    • boys
  • Children of different age and sex have very distinctive product preferences. Therefore, advertising does not influence the types of products requested, but rather the specific brands requested.
  • 7-8-year olds still prefer toys and games, 9-10-year-olds prefer functional products (clothes, school stationary), and 10-11-year olds prefer products with a social function (CDs, pop idol merchandising).

Study information

  • The question?

    To what extent are children’s requests to Santa Claus influenced by TV advertising in the holiday season?

  • Who?

    250 children aged 7 to 12 (124 boys)

  • Where?

    Utrecht and vicinity, The Netherlands

  • How?

    In the days before Santa Claus (December 5th), the researchers visited schools and asked the children to write down their two favorite gift wishes. They also asked the children to indicate how often they watched TV and which networks they watched the most. In addition, in the weeks leading up to Santa Claus, the researchers recorded ads broadcasted at children’s networks, so that they could compare children’s requests with the brands advertised in this period.

Facts and findings

  • Number of children asking at least one advertised product:
    • 67% of 7- and 8-yearolds
    • 49% of 9- and 10-year-olds
    • 40% of 11- and 72-year-olds 
  • The 7-8- year old boys most often asked for a video game console, construction toys, or a racecar, while the girls most often asked for a stuffed animal, a Barbie doll or a pet.
  • The 9-10-year old boys most often asked for sports items, video game console, or construction toys, while girls most often requested pop idol merchandising, school stationary or a stuffed animal.
  • The 11-12-year-old boys requested video game console, CDs, or clothing, while girls requested CDs, items related to horses, or pop idol merchandising.
  • Fun fact: the study was conducted in the late nineties, favorite pop idols were the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys.
  • Fun fact: The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, says wikipedia.