Monday, December 8, 2008

Advergaming: to engage or not to engage

When marketing to children through the use of online games, the opportunities are endless. When looking at childhood obesity rates, marketers are faced with the moral obligation to ensure they communicate in a manner that is consistent with parents’ morals and values. Major children’s brand Nickelodeon has announced that by January 2009, their characters will only be found on products that are part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Due to societal pressure and moral obligations, marketing to children has shifted from junk food marketing to promoting “health and wellness messaging to children” (Heller, 2007). Furthermore, brands have increasingly been committed to teaching children the benefits of going outside to play rather than sitting around the house watching television or playing online.

Marketers will argue that marketing to children educates, empowers and facilitates the learning and growing process. According to Neeley marketing “can develop [children’s] critical evaluation skills, and may become more savvy consumers” (2004). Marketers have a moral obligation to recognize the learning opportunities that exist through advertising and should take care not to exploit the opportunity by imposing opinions and promoting products that are counterintuitive to growth and development.

Children are highly influenced by visual and auditory stimulus, such as animated characters in online games. Because of this it has been shown that children are more likely to recognize these characters and as such more likely to listen to their messages. Therefore, marketers have great power to influence children with these animated characters and are more likely to make these characters a main focus in online games. When used responsibly, these characters can deliver positive messages that are inline with parents’ morals and values and marketers can still promote their brand in a way that is befitting of the brand and its position.

It has become increasingly more difficult for children to make the distinction between reality and fantasy in the online environment particularly through advergames and spokes-characters. When used responsibly, marketers can use these characters and the online environment to their advantage and for the greater good of the child population.

So, now that you know some of the facts, will you engage children through advergaming?


Heller, &. (2007, Aug 23). Nickelodeon ends character licensing to junk food. Retrieved December 8, 2008 from

Neeley, S., & Schumann, D. (2004). Using animated spokes-characters in advertising to young children. Journal of Advertising, 33, 7-23.

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