Mobile Advergames: Is it ok for 4 year olds to play with beer?
I’ve recently been looking a lot at various advergames across different platforms (such as mobile phones, online etc). An interesting point I noticed was the “age rating” given by Apple’s iTunes store – which seems very strange compared to normal practice. Take the example of Grolsch (beer in case you need reminding!). Their website is only accessible if you “prove” your age, i.e. when you enter a birthday more than 18 years ago. Of course, this is very much in line with both the industry pledges as well as the guidelines by the Advertising Standards Authority that alcohol promotions should not be targeted at minors. Now, I’d have thought that this also extends to games played on phones. I’m not sure how many parents really do activate the parental controls of their phone (particularly when they give to children to play with) – but at least they are there in case the parents are concerned. Anyway, the obvious answer in terms of age rating seems to be wrong. So if you check what age the NHS Drinks Tracker is – then the restriction is 12+. Apparently, this is because of “Infrequent (Really!! Infrequent?? In an alcoholic drinks tracker??)/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, Drug Use or References to these”. Now, I can understand that. Presumably someone under 12 really should not be needing the app to track how many units of alcohol they are consuming. I’m not sure they would do it anyway, given how massively complicated and, lets face it, totally unexciting the app is (see previous post on not so exciting social marketing apps for more).
Now enter Grolsch: If you want to download their game you need to be 4 years old (see screen shot above). While indeed you need to enter a birthday the first time you run the app, after that the app remains a “4+” app – i.e. if you activate parental controls, the app will still be visible and playable – allowing children to “play with beer” on the phone.
Maybe it’s time Apple tightened the controls over their apps? Can it be that BBC News is higher rated (12+) than an game potentially familiarising children with an alcohol brand?