In need of a gut check

15 Jun

[by Todd] A friend of mine once lamented to her parents that she really had problems marketing to kids. It somehow seemed just a bit too underhanded to feel good about it.

"Get over it, you’re in advertising," her mother said bluntly.

Scion
I kept coming back to that when I read a couple stories about Scion’s sponsorship on a kids avatar site, Whyville.net. Don’t get me wrong, I fully recognize the value of Scion’s deal. Kids hold enormous sway on the big-ticket items that adults buy.

Nor am I so naive to think that young kids aren’t going to absorb marketing messages, even without deals like this. My daughters could recognize the logos for fast food restaurants even before they could say their letters.

And that’s where my concern kicks in. We all recognize that teens and adults are making us work harder to connect with them. They array technology around them and hypertask in a fashion that makes holds us at arm’s length until they are ready to hear from us. Indeed, if Scion’s program were targeted at teen drivers, I’d call it relevant and brilliant.

But do our children understand when they are being hit with a marketing message? I can explain to my six-year-old that commercials between cartoons are companies trying to sell her stuff. I don’t know that I have a ready-made explanation of product placement in their online adventures.

Somehow this feels like a big budget version of my dad teaching a blissfully ignorant two-year-old nephew to swear like a sailor. Sure, it was funny. But in your gut, you knew it was wrong.

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