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USA Today on New Techniques in Marketing to Kids

posted by Nell Minow

USA Today has an important article on new technologies for marketing to kids.

With the use of new, kid-enchanting technologies, are savvy marketers gaining the upper hand on parents? Are toy marketers such as Ganz, food marketers such as McDonald’s and kid-coddling apparel retailers such as 77kids by American Eagle too eager to target kids?

At stake: $1.12 trillion. That’s the amount that kids influenced last year in overall family spending, says James McNeal, a kid marketing consultant and author of Kids as Consumers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children. “Up to age 16, kids are determining most expenditures in the household,” he says. “This is very attractive to marketers.”

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Children who play on websites like Webkinz are bombarded by ads.  The article follows one girl who repeatedly clicks on an ad for Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, not because she has any interest in the film but because clicking on the link is the way she earns accessories for her virtual characters.

“We occasionally introduce limited-time promotions so that our Webkinz World members can enjoy fun, unique activities and events,” says Susan McVeigh, a Ganz spokeswoman.

That corporate doublespeak is appalling.  The purpose of these “limited-time promotions” is so that children can be targeted for ads, and this is all within the context of a site that is itself an enormous interactive ad for Ganz.  Parents should be aware of the new avenues for trying to sell to kids and should have continuing conversations with children and tweens about the way that marketing is designed to make them think they want things that are not really important.  Or, in the case of the “Judy Moody” movie, to see movies that ARE a bummer.

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    And thanks to conservatives on our Supreme Court, those corporations are “citizens” now, with the same (or better) rights to free speech normal humans have.

    Except they can freely lie, dissemble, mislead (or any other way you wish to phrase it) to your children, and to you. Give us another Republican president, and it may be illegal to lie to our corporate leaders.

    The good news is it’s not as bad as it will be in the future, when those companies, and others, get even more desperate to get their hands on your money, as the share of money that workers have continues to decrease, and the rich keep their children away from those sites.

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