The aim of this paper is to contribute to an understanding of how the child consumer has been constructed in experience advertising in a historical perspective, how the view of the child has changed and how the presentation of the “good” experience has developed.
The study is based on ads in the Danish children's magazine Donald Duck. The study is a historical overview drawing on both quantitative and qualitative approaches, drawing theoretically on consumer, childhood and experience theory.
The results show that the “child consumer” has moved from being invisible on the backstage to the very front of the stage in experience advertising during the four decades examined. Moreover, the idea of what an experience is for the child has changed radically and a move occurs from a focus on aesthetic experiences to experiences of immersion and challenges of the senses. The most recent ads promote the child as not just the co‐creator but the actual creator of the experience.
It is a limitation that the study is based on a Danish sample only, and findings cannot be generalized to other national markets. It would, however, be interesting to compare with other national markets.
Marketing implications of the findings could be to go further into the direction of user generated experiences as suggested in the most recent ads, e.g. in the direction of online games where the consumer is him or herself writing the storyline of the experience unlike the pre‐planned rides most amusement parks offer today.
This study draws on child experience professionals, who have been found to be more proactive in recognizing the child consumer than, e.g. academics, and in translating the view of the children as actors to advertising copy and imagery. These marketing professionals have from early on addressed children in their own language clearly perceiving them as consumers in their own right. The most recent ads staging the consumer as creator of experiences challenge Pine and Gilmore's experience realms and call for a new way of conceptualizing and offering experiences. This is interesting for researchers working with perceptions of childhood and actors working with commercial conceptualizations of experiences.
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