I've read books on similar topics before, but this one makes a a pretty compelling case that marketing directed towards children is more damaging than I had thought. A few of the author's points that jumped out at me:
1. She attends a conference of kid-marketeers "undercover" and sees first-hand how marketing directed towards kids works--what I found disturbing is how research in child and developmental psychology is used to manipulate children. (Playing to the natural desire of a toddler to control and to separate herself from her parents as a means to sell candy, for example.)
2. The practice of licensing and using familiar characters to sells toys and food to kids can be destructive to their normal patterns of play. A generic doll can be many different things in a child's imagination, while Shrek is always Shrek and a Barbie is always a Barbie. (I've noticed myself that a lot of dolls seem to come with ready-made backstories. In fact, Jesse and I have noticed a lot of toys that, as we say, "play with themselves".)
3. Kids can potentially learn their values from advertising--obviously, there is the whole sex-sells thing, and violence, but many commercials aimed at kids have other themes. The author cites a series of McDonald's commercials that feature Ronald McDonald "saving" kids from boring situations by taking them to McDonald's. For example, the kids are languishing at the library, being shushed by the libriarian, until they are whisked off for burgers and fries. Thus kids learn that libraries are boring, adults are mean, (or, in other commericials, often quite stupid) and fries will make them happy.
4. Many, if not most, of the products heavily marketed to kids are bad for them and encourage poor eating habits and/or sedentary behavior.
5. Parental responsibility is important, but it is difficult for parents in individual families to battle over a billion dollars a year being spent to get messages to kids, especially as more advertising is getting into schools. This is even more true in single-parent families.
And also, a question: should marketing to kids be limited and/or banned? Is all advertising a matter of free speech?