During the video we watched in class, Killing Us Softly 3, we learned that no one is immune to the reach of advertisements.
That got me thinking… what about kids? Adults are clearly targeted because we have money to spend, but what are kids shown?
I went to children’s TV network Nickelodeon to get some answers. Their ad site clearly states how they feel about ads targeted at kids.
“As sites catering to kids, Nick and Nick Jr. Playtime have additional, more stringent requirements concerning advertising. Young children must be informed when they click on an ad and are redirected to advertising content, even if they never leave the site.”
Awesome! Keeping kids from ad bombardment! What a novel plan! The site says that a 10 second bumper will appear onto the screen whenever a child clicks on an ad.
It looks like this:
Now I was able to read when I was 4, but in preschool, I would not have been able to comprehend this message if it was only up for 10 seconds. So I tried it out.
I first went to http://www.NickJr.kids.us where there were no ads whatsoever. It was all counting and music games and I played a couple to see if any ads would leap out. Nope. Ad-free.
My next trip was to http://www.NickJr.com, a site also created for preschoolers. As soon as the page opened, an automatic video player started playing a 30 second K-Mart commercial. After that one was over, it automatically started playing another one, this time for a Kenmore Washing Machine.
At the same time, during the first 15 seconds, an ad at the top of the screen for Thomas the Tank Engine’s Blue Mountain Mystery DVD expanded without my prompt and a moving Flash image began to push the giant blue train in my face. Simultaneously, a game called Dora’s supermarket Bingo began to move in the main part of the page with a small sign reading “Brought to you by V8 V-Fusion.”
All this took place within about 60 seconds. Where is the informative ad bumper? I didn’t see one so I explored.
I clicked on “Kids” and finally saw an ad bumper. But it was text only with a gray background; not the colorful image above. Right below it was an ad for some kind of pain reliever, but it was only up for about 5 seconds, not the promised 10 and then it was gone.
In the kids page, as loud carnival-like music played and a young girl’s voice prompted me to “Click on my friends (Dora, Blues Clues and the like) and play games.” The top of the screen had a bar marked as an ad for an UmiZoomi Firetruck Rescue. Clicking on it did not result in another ad bumper, but did prompt a 30 second video ad for Green Giant featuring a young boy playing basketball with his dad and eating green beans.
I played the game and noticed that the same ad space was now occupied by this ad:
Ooh, Dora loves her friends? Yes, please!!! I clicked on it and found the same gray warning, but this time it told me that I was leaving the site. Again, it was only up for 5 seconds.
The link took me directly to the iTunes store and heaven help the parent that may still have their account open because the child could pick, click, pay and have hours of entertainment downloaded before a parent even realized what was happening.
I plan to elaborate on targeting children with ads, but suffice it to say that I do not believe Nickelodeon’s marketing site one bit. Kids are clearly their next target and one way or another, they’ll get the money they want.
It’s like taking candy from a baby.