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Online Advertising and Children

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Food companies (no clue why others are not using it) are using the internet more and more to deepen children’s exposure to marketing messages through online games and commercials, blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment, a new study has found.

The study of 77 US-based food company websites by the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation is published as Westren governments try to crack down on the marketing of sugary and salty snacks to children to curtail rising levels of childhood obesity. The Kaiser Foundation, which claims to have undertaken the first comprehensive study of online advertising to children, found that 85 per cent of the top US food brands that target kids through television advertising also used branded websites.

It said the brand-related information contained on websites was more extensive than the information contained in a traditional 30-second television advertisement( that’s obvious), and allowed children to spend an unlimited amount of time interacting with specific brands. It also said some websites “recruited” children as marketers, using them to promote branded messages to their friends.

The report found that 73 per cent of the websites included “advergames” – games in which a company’s product is featured – ranging from one to more than 60 games per site. It also found that 64 per cent of sites used viral marketing, which encourages children to contact their peers about a specific product, and more than half gave children online access to television advertisements.

Based on data from Nielsen NetRatings, the sites surveyed received more than 12.2m visits from children aged two to 11 in the second quarter of 2005. Governments in the US and Europe have been trying to restrict children’s access to junk foods by banning them in school vending machines, and restricting the number of junk food advertisements on television. However, rapid advances in technology mean that companies are able to use other marketing methods( how effectively??).

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Praneeth is the author of the “Digital Media News Portal” with special focus on India.

Online Advertising and Children
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