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Understanding parental mediation of violent television commercials

Akshaya Vijayalakshmi (Department of Marketing, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India)
Russell Laczniak (Department of Marketing, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)
Deanne Brocato (Department of Marketing, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 12 August 2019




This study aims to uncover in-depth examples of how emergent media affects parents’ views and socialization efforts. The study examines these views and efforts in the context of violent commercials.


The authors collected data for this paper using two studies. In Study 1, they collected data from the internet. Comments related to “violent ads” or “violent commercials” were collated and analyzed. For Study 2, they conducted in-depth interviews with mothers on their views on parental mediation and impact of media on their children.


The internet data helped develop a parental definition of violent ads and identify that parents lie on a continuum regarding their concerns about violent commercials. Further in-depth questioning of parents on the above finding led to the identification of four clusters of parents. “Media managers” attempt to control and restrict their child’s media environment while educating their child about the effects of violent commercials. “Enablers” spend abundant time co-viewing primetime TV while engaging their child in conversations on violence, but not on violent ads. To maintain harmony in the household, “Harmonizers” merely restrict viewing of violent commercials without educating their child about its effects. Finally, “Agent evaluators” are likely to co-view violent commercials, without discussing them with their child.

Research limitations/implications

First, several of the parental segments (media managers, enablers and harmonizers) tend to note some concerns with violence in advertising. Importantly, this concern for violence appears to be limited to gore and use of physical weapon. Second, while parents do not have homogenous views on violent ads, those who are concerned also have differing roots of concern. This influences their mediation efforts. Third, socialization is bi-directional at times.

Practical implications

Many parents do not approve are the use of physical violence, use of weapons and depiction of blood/gore even in ads for movies or videogames. Advertisers might be wise to avoid such content in ads directed to children. Second, if media and marketing managers could plan to sponsor TV shows (vs placing violent ads) that offer ad-free program time, parents might respond positively. Third, as socialization is bi-directional, advertisers could consider using ad scenarios where parents and children engage with the pros and cons of a certain product or content, thus enabling parent-child conversations to make an informed decision.

Social implications

Many parents notice violence in ads; policymakers could consider developing ratings for ads that consider the amount and type of violence while rating an ad. Second, a focus on increasing parental awareness on the harms of constantly exposing children to violent commercials might change the views of some parents who currently believe that a few or no violent commercials are being aired during children’s programs. Finally, parents envisage a greater role for media in their lives, and policymakers will have to suggest ways to effectively integrate media content in one’s lives rather than just suggest bans or restrictions.


The contributions of this paper include viewers’ (vs researchers’) definition of violent commercials, showcasing that parents are likely to manage media using new media options such as Netflix, and some parents are likely to co-create rules with their children.



This article expands upon the PhD thesis by the first author. The second author, Russell Laczniak, was the supervisor and the third author, Deanne Brocato, was the thesis committee member. Both provided guidance on the writing of the thesis. The thesis is Akshaya Vijayalakshmi, ‘Violent Commercials: Children’s Responses and Parental Mediation’, (Unpublished PhD thesis: IOwa State University, 2015). Available at:


Vijayalakshmi, A., Laczniak, R. and Brocato, D. (2019), "Understanding parental mediation of violent television commercials", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 551-564.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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