The Utilization of New Technologies (such as The Internet, Social Media Sites, Video Games etc.) to market consumer goods to young people … is it going to far?

Are young people able to distinguish the difference between content and advertising? How young is too young to advertise to and what effect is having on young consumers? Or is the technology having the biggest impact on the advertising? Is it changing the way in which we are being marketed to in a positive way? Will technology change what we are exposed to, why and how we view the products and brand?

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Foundation in 2010 (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010pkg.cfm), the average child spent roughly 10.5 hours per day on various forms of technology including 5 hours of TV or movie viewing and around 3 hours on the Internet or video games. With the increased proliferation of personal computers, tablet devices and smartphones on the rise, so do those averages.

While use of these technologies continue to rise, interactive advertising on these devices such as banner ads, search engine results, social media, product placement and e-mail marketing are becoming more and more main stream.

In addition, companies have long since known the power young people play in the consumer world and they are increasing their marketing messages anywhere young people spend their time including schools, the Internet, video games etc and encouraging them to spread those messages to their friends via social media.

So how has technology changed advertising? The main advertising outlet for many years has been TV (and print). Historically, companies pay a set amount of money based on viewer estimations from a company such as Nielsen to advertise on a particular network during a particular time, the more estimated viewers (such as special events like the Superbowl), the more advertisers pay. However, today this type of advertising poses two major problems. One, the target market is hard to estimate correctly and two, new technologies such as internet based TV, DVR’s and devises such as The Hopper, all which allow viewers to skip commercials have decreased the value of the advertising dollar. Thusly, advertisers are relying more and more on other forms of advertising such as product placement, interactive advertising and social media to reach their audience.

This means that children today are being bombarded with advertisements almost 100 percent of their waking hours, and advertising on technology can be target specific meaning data can be collected about age, sex, race, and interests to be used to advertise specific products, companies and/or brands. This is despite the Coppa law passed in 1998, (find out more about Coppa at: http://www.coppa.org/), which has already levied law suites against companies such as Sony BMG and Disney for collecting data on children younger than 13 without parental permission. Unfortunately, given the rate at which technology evolves makes it nearly impossible for lawmakers and the FTC to keep up.

An article by J. M. van der Laan argues, “In this time and place, propaganda and advertising go hand in hand”. With constant stream of advertising through the variety of multi-media in our society the “temptation and seduction” of advertising has become a way of life. If adults can succumb so completely to this form of temptation and seduction, it follows that young people, who are still navigating the world to find their self-worth, identity and sense of reality, will succumb even more easily. In addition, advertising techniques such as online banner ads, ads on social media and product placement in movies and video games may not even be perceived as advertising to young people because of the constant exposure, this could be causing subliminal connections in their brains, making them more susceptible to brand loyalty than previous generations.

Finally, children are being marketed to in all areas of entertainment and education including sites promoting themselves as educational games sites such as http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/, which incorporates banner ads and popular children geared media sites such as Disney.com. This practice makes it nearly impossible to use these sites in an educational setting ethically and most district restrict use of sites based on these advertisements.

Conversely, technology driven advertising, specifically interactive advertising and social media advertising, has changed the what, when and how advertisements are presented to young people. One could argue that this could be a step toward more ethical advertising and educated consumers. Because companies pay per click and/or to be advertised to consumers based on previous search and buying patterns means we as consumers are no longer being advertised to but are taking more active role in the consumer process. In addition, the internet continues to be “the best and the most trusted source of commercial product information on cost, selection, availability, and suitability, using community content, professional reviews and peer reviews.” Making us more informed and educated consumers then ever before. (Woodard)

Please view the remainder of the articles on this site before taking the survey “Are you affected”. We will then move on to the individual and group assignments, ending with the “Come to you own conclusion” survey.

Hopefully after this lesson you will be a more informed consumer and will be able to recognize advertising, as it exists in technology.

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