Respondents were 434 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students aged ten to 13 years who were recruited from four schools in Denmark and two schools in Hong Kong. The schools in Denmark were situated in both urban areas and suburban areas while the two schools in Hong Kong were situated in urban areas. There were nearly equal numbers of boys and girls. Eighty-one percent of the respondents had siblings and the remaining nineteen percent of the respondents were the only child in the family. The Hong Kong sub-sample contained a significantly higher proportion of only children than the Danish sub-sample (Chi-square value =19.8, p<0.001). A draft questionnaire in Danish was constructed, partly based on a previous study (Hansen et al., 2002) and additional questions about tweens’ use of money and response to advertising. The questionnaire was tested thoroughly. Through the testing, it was discovered that the children were easily confused when the scales were more complex. To improve reliability, the questions were revised so that they were formulated with as few, simple answers as possible, and yes/no (agree/disagree) wherever possible and meaningful. It must be acknowledged that this choice also leads to some limitations of the study.
The authors translated the questionnaire from Danish into English together, and one of the authors translated it into Chinese. A female graduate employed as a research assistant translated the Chinese questionnaire back to English to check for consistency. The questionnaires were distributed and collected in normal class sessions, for the Danish sub-sample during the period of October 2003 to February 2004, and for the Hong Kong sub-sample from October to November 2005. Children were asked to fill in the questionnaires. Six questionnaires were invalid as over half of the questions were not answered and the response rate was 99 percent.
Sources of income. Children were asked if they get money from six difference sources such as pocket money and spare time job on a dichotomy level.
Income level. Children were asked how much money they received on a monthly basis. They can select from one of three answers provided.
Spending. Children were asked if they save money and whether they spend their money on 11 different items such as candy and toys on a dichotomy level.
TV exposure. Children were asked how much they watch television on a weekday or during a weekend. Respondents could select from one of the five answers, including do not watch, half to one hour, one to two hours, two to three hours, and three hours or more.
Response to television commercials and pop up advertisements on Internet. Respondents were asked if they agree to four statements about television commercials such as “TV commercials can be as funny as TV programs” and another four statements about pop up advertisements on Internet such as “Pop up commercials on Internet are annoying”. Respondents selected the answers ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’.
Favorite TV commercials. The respondents were asked to write down their favorite TV commercials. The number of TV commercials mentioned was coded.
All the results are cross tabulated by country. Chi-square figures and significance levels are compiled for hypothesis testing.
Table 2 shows the sources and use of money among the sample. Nearly all Danish tweens received money from various sources while 10 percent of Hong Kong tweens did not receive money at all. The most popular sources of income for Danish tweens were pocket money from parents, grandparents and gifts. The most popular sources of income for Hong Kong tweens were pocket money from parents. Results of Chi-square tests indicated that tweens in Denmark were more likely to receive money from parents, grand parents, spare time jobs, and gifts than tweens in Hong Kong.
[TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE]
The amount of income also varied in two societies. Two thirds of Danish tweens received income of more than 100 DKK a month (equivalent to more than 17 USD) while over only 18 percent of Hong Kong tweens received the same amount a month. Table 2 also shows how tweens spend their own money. On similarity was that a majority (i.e. over 75 percent) of both Danish and Hong Kong tweens save up their money. A similar percentage of Danish and Hong Kong tweens spent their money on candy, toys, and magazines. However, tweens in Denmark and Hong Kong showed significant differences in the consumption of other items. Danish tweens were more likely to spend their money on CDs, computer games, clothing, sports equipment, cosmetics, jewelry, and mobile phone service. Hong Kong tweens were more likely to spend their money on books. Products such as CDs and computer games are related with entertainment, fun and pleasure. Products such as clothing, cosmetics, and jewelry are related with self expression. The results indicated that Danish tweens were more likely to spend money for fun, pleasure and self expression than tweens in Hong Kong. Therefore H1 was supported.
Table 3 shows how often tweens watch television on weekdays as well as weekends. Television exposure was high among both Danish and Hong Kong tweens. More than half of tweens in both sub-samples watched one to three hours a day on weekdays. Nearly 60 percent of tweens in both sub-samples watched more than two hours a day on weekends. There was no significant difference in television exposure among Danish and Hong Kong tweens.
[TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE]
Table 4 shows tweens’ response to television advertising. All four statements showed significant difference, indicating that Danish and Hong Kong tweens responded to television commercials differently. Hong Kong tweens were more likely to find television commercials funny, and were more likely to stay and watch during commercial breaks. However, a higher proportion of Hong Kong tweens expressed a wish that there were not commercials on TV at all. Also, a higher proportion of Hong Kong tweens disagreed that a lot of people buy what they see in TV commercials. As Hong Kong tweens were more likely to accept the influence of advertising than Danish tweens, H3 was supported. These differences are even consistent with the self-proclaimed avoidance behavior of the Danish tweens, supporting H4.
[TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE]
Table 5 shows tweens’ response to pop up advertisements on Internet. Two out of four statements demonstrated significant difference, indicating that Danish and Hong Kong tweens showed similarities as well as differences in response to pop up advertisements on Internet. There were similar highly negative attitudes towards pop up commercials in both societies. Over two thirds of tweens in the total sample reported that pop up commercials on the Internet were annoying and less than one eighth of tweens reported that sometimes pop up commercials on Internet were funny. However, a higher proportion of Hong Kong tweens clicked on pop up commercials. Also, a higher proportion of Hong Kong tweens did not believe that people can buy things when clicking on pop up commercials.
[TABLE 5 ABOUT HERE]
Table 6 shows the number of favorite television commercials reported by the respondents. One-quarter of respondents in Denmark reported none while over 60 percent of respondents in Hong Kong did not mention any favorite television commercial. Ten percent of Danish tweens reported that they did not like advertisements at all while less than one percent Hong Kong tweens reported so. Excluding those reporting “do not like ads at all” and “like all ads”, tweens in Denmark reported more favorite television commercials than tweens in Hong Kong (Chi square value=64.5, df=5 , p<0.001).
As Danish tweens were less likely to find TV-advertising funnyin general, to sometimes actively avoid TV-advertising, but on the other hand less rejecting of TV-advertising in general, we may find some support of H2 when also taking the results in Table 6 into consideration, because the Danish tweens were more likely to mention favorite TV-ads, thus also respond to TV-ads as something to evaluate and selectively appreciate.
[TABLE 6 ABOUT HERE]
Discussion and concluding remarks
From the seemingly contradicting findings above, it seems quite possible that the tweens may hold complex attitudes towards TV advertising, at the same time both appreciative and skeptical. Prior findings indicate that indifference and lack of attention to TV ads increase with age (Chan and McNeal, 2004).
The Danish findings seem to match a ‘selectively enthusiastic’ attitude better than the Hong Kong findings, as they seem more disinterested when asked about advertising in general, but at the same time also more likely to mention their favorite ads. In contrast, the Hong Kong children seem less likely to switch channel, but also less likely to mention one or more favorite ads. The results of both populations seem to question the conceptions in some marketing literature that television is ‘king’ when it comes to tweens appeal (Siegel et al 2004, Lindstrom and Seybold 2003). It is certainly a media that makes it easy to target the tweens, as they are faithful TV watchers, but the proposed affinity for TV advertising seems to be more selective than the literature mentioned above suggests.
The findings on the sources and spending of money should lead to some consideration on whether the tweens segment really is a very lucrative direct market. This study cannot in itself make any precise estimates on how important tweens are as an indirect market where the purchasing decision of parents are influenced through tweens, but as a direct market it seems that there are considerable differences in direct spending power. When considering the purchased items, the differences in items could be related to the differences in the disposable income. More research is needed to establish whether these results are really related to decisions of parents or tweens, and even to what extend complex negotiations (and ‘pestering’ etc.) are occurring.
This study suggests that there is much more to be learned on attitudes and consumer behavior of tweens, and it also suggests that one should be careful before making general global conclusions on studies of tweens made in particular cultural contexts. And above all, more qualitative research is needed to shed more light on the relationship between consumption, parenting, media use and marketing communication that make up some of the lived experiences of “tweenhood”. In this study we have focused on the attitudes of ‘classical’, more easily recognizable advertising, but more and more resources go into subtle forms of marketing communications such as internet ‘advergames’ (free internet games with brands and advertising tie-ins) which might appeal well to tweens, and these new forms of communication needs to be included in future research.
This paper found several relevant differences in the source/spending of money and attitudes to TV-advertising of tweens. It may still be justified for other reasons to use the concept of the tweens segment across many different cultural contexts, but marketers should be very cautious in assuming it to be a global homogenous segment.
In designing marketing communications, marketers should also consider that tweens are likely to have a generally negative attitude to TV advertising, though Danish tweens hold more of a potential to ‘buy into’ appealing campaigns and be involved to the degree that they can mention their favorite ads. Danish tweens are more likely to react favourably (though selectively) to ‘advertising as entertainment’ and subsequently to be able to recall these ads. These differences are highly relevant for marketers that design campaigns where the strategy is to try and involve the tweens in the ‘creative universe’ of the campaign, and stimulate certain behavior, e.g. when tweens are invited to visit a web site, which may contain games and fun.
Marketers should not overestimate the direct purchasing power of tweens in Hong Kong and similar cultures, as it seems that they are highly dependent on their parents and have quite limited resources to spend as they please.
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Table 1 Summary of societal profiles of Denmark and Hong Kong