The Kaiser Family Foundation has recently released a study looking at advergames, a mix of advertising and games – often played online, especially by children and teenagers.
The main findings of the study “It’s Child’s Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children” are that
– 85% of the top food brands that target children through TV advertising also use branded websites to market to children
– 73% of the websites in the study included advergames
– 64% of sites in the study use viral marketing
– 53% of sites in the study have television commercials available
– 44% included some type of nutritional claim ( “good source of vitamins and minerals.”)
– 38% use incentives to purchase food (register points, magic-codes, etc)
– 33% include “advercation” (a mix of advertising and education, e.g. where a brand character present educational topics)
The KFF report didn’t evaluate the ethical or legal issues surrounding advergaming and websites, but only surveyed their content.
Taking a different approach than the KFF report, a recent study completed by researchers fom Middlesex University went a bit further, and looked at how advergames sites would be rated if the CAP code (advertising selfregulation code of conduct in the UK) would be applied.
Based on a more limited sample than the KFF survey, the study called “Analysing Advergames: Active Diversions or Actually Deception” which is avilable online here, makes uneasy reading for the industry: All of the advergames sites of major UK-advertisers targeting children surveyed seemed to countravene the code in some form or another.
While the KFF report highlights the extent of the online targeting of children, together with the Middlesex report the topic of advergames must be quite worrying to both regulators (who recenty tried to ban TV advertising of unhealthy foods to children in the UK) and parents. After all, what good is a strict code of conduct or even a ban on television advertising when online anything is acceptable?!?