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Student Profile: William Langer

Student Profile: William Langer

Posted: May 18, 2012

When William Langer, a 31-year-old communication major and father of a 6-month-old boy, saw his young nieces clamor for toys and fast food advertised during their favorite TV shows, he wondered how early children pick up on the barrage of ads targeted at them and what the short and long-range effects are.  

He found that television marketing is increasingly cunning in hooking very young children on both conscious and subliminal levels. He discovered this and other findings as part of a research project he conducted for a communication and society course taught by associate professor Michael Niman.

Langer presented his research during Buffalo State’s 14th annual Student Research and Creativity Celebration (SRCC) on April 28.

Langer’s 15-minute presentation was one of 375 presentations, performances, and art exhibitions that featured the work of more than 500 of Buffalo State’s undergraduate and graduate students in a host of disciplines.  

“Everyone who participated was happy to be sharing the results of their projects,” noted Langer who transferred to Buffalo State in 2010 after earning as associate’s degree and serving in the U.S. Army.

“The presenters were able to answer any questions about their research that the crowd had, and their passion for their topics really showed. It was great for me because I got to share concerns that a lot of people normally don’t think about when they look at the media.”

Langer perused academic journals and consumer parenting magazines and observed young children for his research. He discovered that the United States has slack regulations when it comes to child-directed advertising, especially compared with European countries. And the regulations that do exist here are loosely enforced.

The takeaway message is that parents need to be more involved with their children’s television viewing to be able to interject their own beliefs about what marketers are pushing. Fast-food advertising is a prime example.

“Just look at the childhood obesity rate,” he said. “There are lots of ads for Arby’s and McDonald’s, but when is the last time you saw a TV ad for peas or broccoli?”

Langer also discovered that children up to age 5 don’t understand the difference between television programs and advertising.

“It takes until kids are about 8 years old for them to understand the persuasive nature of (advertising),” he said.

When Langer graduates later this month, he hopes to pursue a career working with veterans.

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