Kid‚Äôs Smartphone may be a Drain on Parents’ Wallet

Jun 18

You think telemarketers are a pain?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  A phone with a screen, or a “viable marketing space” as described by a research analyst at Parks Associates, is an advertiser’s dream. 

 

Companies plan to forge ahead with mobile ads despite the fact that many consumers resent the bombardment of advertising on their personal phones.  Past research by Parks Associates indicated that almost 40% of respondents do not want advertising on their phones – almost equal to the number of people who are ambivalent about it. 

 

Mobile ads are welcomed among younger age groups.

 

But parents‚ĶListen up.¬† Mobile ads are welcomed among younger age groups. ¬†Teens, in particular, are more accepting of advertising on their phones.¬† It‚Äôs not surprising, given that teenagers feel a need to conform to the standards set by their peers.¬† “That‚Äôs NOT Abercrombie & Fitch?¬†” Increasingly, those standards espoused by peers are further solidified by marketers whose profits can soar if they convince their young consumers that their product is the path to popularity (usually the more expensive the brand, the more desire to have it.)¬†

 

Today’s mobile advertising revenue in the US and Canada is at $208 million.  According to new research, that dollar figure will hit $1.5 billion by 2013.

 

Is your teen or tween begging for the newest smartphone?  There’s a lot of pressure to own one with all the funky advertising aimed at them.  Just keep in mind – the cost of that phone may just be the first expense of many.  Something to think about…

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For Every Screen, A Commercial

Jan 18

When I hear one of my kids singing a commercial jingle, I cringe.¬† It’s not that I don’t enjoy their high pitched, bouncy voices; but rather, I resent the ease with which a giant corporation can brand their unblemished minds with a typically useless product.¬† As many parents can attest, a catchy tune and a few special effects is all it takes for a child to turn their glazed eyes toward Mom and Dad to plead, “Can I have it?”¬† Until the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns shift their power of persuasion to benefit, rather than burden, parents, the desire to shelter kids from advertising will persist.¬† In today’s age of the glowing screen, however, that effort is bound to grow more challenging.

Mobile phones have become the latest vehicle for product promotions

When my kids were toddlers, their TV viewing was limited to commercial-free stations, like TVO Kids, where advertisements are limited to a quick thank you to their sponsors.¬† As they’ve drifted away from The Wiggles and toward SpongeBob, the ban on ads is gone and kids are exposed to a slew of new toys and sugary cereals that they’d otherwise never know about.¬† Parents may take some solace in their children’s replacement of television with video games which have fewer, if any, commercial interruptions; however, advertisers have crept into those forums, as well.¬† In fact, the smallest, most personal screens – mobile phones – have become the latest vehicle for product promotions.¬†

According to a recent article in Advertising Age, companies like Kraft and Nike are offering interactive applications, such as dinner menu planning or ski reports, on mobile devices to better engage consumers with their top brands.¬† Rather than force-feed their audience an ad, they provide free online (logo-heavy) programs that conveniently integrate into recipients’ daily lives.¬† It’s an interesting concept and even die-hard anti-corporate crusaders will be hard pressed not to use a product if it makes their life easier. Parents should be concerned, however, that as more children join the population of mobile device owners, companies that sell children’s products will be salivating at the prospect of reaching them through those mini screens.¬† ¬†¬†

Advertisers are also likely to engage in tactics that are more intrusive and less welcome than the voluntary downloadable programs.¬† Last week, AT&T sent a large portion of their 75 million customers a text message promoting the season premier of the reality show, American Idol.¬† It’s sort of like having a telemarketer join your phone conversation with your spouse to let you know of a sale on ventilation cleaning.¬† It’s no wonder the backlash by its customers was swift and fierce.¬† However, this experimental effort by AT&T to promote its offerings via texting will likely become a regular occurrence as more companies discover the ease with which they can capture the eyes of millions of consumers.¬†

It’s a shame there are no profits to be earned by encouraging children to be more obliging of their parents’ requests.¬† Every kid in North America would be getting a mobile device for his next birthday if that were the case.¬† But that’s the stuff of fairytales.¬† In reality, parents who want to limit the forces competing for their children’s hearts and minds may want to dim some of the screens in their lives.¬† One added benefit?¬† Fewer targets on your wallet.

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Marketing Apples to Children? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Aug 21

Too many Canadian kids are fat.  This is a fact.  Over the past few years, newspapers and health advocates have decried the rising obesity rates, but it’s not headline news today.  As Canadians have come to accept this weighty truth and various organizations and governments scramble to find solutions, it’s hardly surprising that finger pointing has begun.  Who is to blame for this epidemic of chunkiness?  The list of culprits is exhausting and their culpability impossible to define – from the nutritionists in Michael Pollan’s bestseller In Defense of Food (Fat bad!  Carbohydrates good!) to parenting experts that bemoan Mommy’s use of the word “no” – the blame game will very likely find few winners.  A recent report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, however, shows both the food and media industries are strong contenders.

 

According to the report, $1.6 billion was spent in 2006 by 44 major food and beverage marketers to promote their goodies to kids aged 2 to 17 years old.  For children aged 2 to 11 years, a total of $229 million was invested in breakfast cereals alone – while the amount spent on fruits and vegetables was $8.4 million.  Is it any wonder then, that kids are especially vocal about their preferences in the cereal aisle of the grocery store?  Take a teen to the local Loblaws, and it’s more likely to be the soda shelves that invigorate his taste buds.  That’s because the marketing strategy shifts toward carbonated beverages for 12 to 17 year olds where $472.2 million was invested in making sure your kid begs for Red Bull rather than V-8.  In that same age category, fruits and vegetables received a measly $6.2 million to promote their not so hip qualities.

 

The report also chastises the media for bombarding children and teens with messages and images that promote unhealthy eating habits through television advertising, the internet, and movie tie-ins.  In the reported year, food and beverage products were tied to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters that appeal to children.  It specifically cites the use of characters from Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean to sell fatty food products.  According to a National Post article by John Hiscock, Dr. Martin Schiff, weight-loss expert and best-selling author of The Thin Connection, goes a step further in blaming Hollywood for North America’s gluttonous habits.  He is now part of a health campaign that urges the movie industry to add a new rating – “O” for Obesity.  According to Schiff, shows such as Sex in the City where skinny, beautiful women constantly eat yet never gain weight are setting an unhealthy example for thousands of children (as opposed to the promiscuous sex and shallow lifestyles?)  While this proposal is a noble effort to curb the overeating that has gripped our youngest generation, it’s not likely that an industry that profits from gratuitous violence and lurid sex scenes is going to omit all-you-can-eat buffet scenes from their movies.  Furthermore, parents busy censoring their children from lewd language, nudity and blood spilling are not about to whisper “cover your eyes” when some chubby kid eats a twinkie on the silver screen. 

 

A battle against America’s corporations to focus their energies less on junk food and more on healthy eating is, quite frankly, fruitless.  Although the report concedes that some of the largest food and beverage companies have taken “important steps to encourage better nutrition and fitness among the nation’s children” by limiting their advertising to foods that meet certain nutritional standards, if the “standards” are met by injecting a few vitamins into a sugar-laden gummy, children and parents are not much better off.   Maybe advertisers will bear some of the responsibility for North America’s unhealthy eating habits, and maybe they won’t.  Only time will tell.  But one thing is certain, all this finger wagging and strongly worded criticisms will do little to shrink the enlarged girth of a ten-year-old.  Regular trips to the farmer’s market, less time in front of the television, and a firm and well-practiced “No” will shed pounds and transform bad eating habits long before anyone sees an ad touting the funky pink treat that dances in your mouth and spreads cool antioxidants to your finger tips called … Watermelon!

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