I Want It Now! Targeting Kids with Internet Ads

Veruca Salt’s catch phrase “I want it now…” from the 1971 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has been uttered countless times by children, and this is the very phrase that advertising companies want to hear.   The buying power of children is greater than ever before and companies marketing to kids are reaping the benefits.

Television advertisements geared toward children have been criticized for years but the industry boasts $15 billion in annual profits.  With that type of cash coming in, advertising executives have expanded the industry to the Internet.

Sites such as cartoonnetwork.com and neopets.com are designed to be kid-friendly but companies are customizing their advertisements to be a fully integrated part of these websites using a tactic known as immersive advertising.  Immersive advertising integrates the ad into content rather than it being placed alongside the page.

Cartoonnetwork.com When you log onto cartoonnetwork.com, you first notice the flashy graphics, and loud sound effects.  Looking more closely, you can start to see the emergence of advertising at its sneakiest.  The background of the website had been changed to advertise Universal Pictures new film The Lorax.  In addition to the background, there were also banner ads promoting the release of the movie.  As you began to explore the website, you start to notice how advertising companies had utilized the concept of immersive advertising.  There is a newsfeed in the gaming tab that was sponsored by McDonald’s Happy Meals.  There are banner ads for Lego, as well as Cartoon Network shows that are sponsored by the toy company.  It is plain to see that cartoonnetwork.com relies heavily on advertising dollars to ensure their continued success.

Neopets.com utilizes the same tactic of immersive advertising.  When you arrive at the website, a toolbar pops up that provides advertising for Nickelodeon.  The Lorax film is again incorporated into a “showcase game” to promote the release of the film.  It is clear that this form of advertising is effective and companies today are utilizing it to their full advantage.

The monetary benefit from this specific type of advertising is unlimited, but is it worth the possible damage to our children’s physical and mental well being?  Children today are statistically more overweight, teen violence and teen pregnancy continue to rise, and studies seem to indicate that advertising geared toward children has impacted these statistics.  It would be conducive to our youth if companies would be more responsible with how they utilize the Internet and the messages that they are conveying.  Social responsibility should be considered more in today’s industry because its impact will be felt for years to come.

Katie Foley

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