It's an experience many parents can relate to these days: their kids are so proficient on the internet it is hard for a parent to keep up. So imagine Ted Lempert's predicament. He's president of Children Now, an organization that among other things tries to protect kids from being exposed to too much advertising. But he admits that when it comes to the internet his ten year old daughter, Caroline, is often way ahead of him.
When we sat down with Caroline she gave us a tour of popular internet sites that are loaded with what are now known as "advergames" -- games that are part advertisement. Since the games are often quite involved and interesting kids can spend a long time playing them -- all the while being exposed to advertising. Lempert says advergames are much more than 30 second TV spots, they are more like 30 minute commercials.
While he can't watch over Caroline's shoulder all the time, he has made sure she is "media literate." She knows an advertisement when she sees it. Lempert says media literacy is a vital skill for kids today.
Media literacy is something much on the mind of Samantha Skey, a marketing executive with Alloy Media, a company that specializes in advertising to teenagers and young adults. She says kids today are so media literate, so savvy that marketers have to come up with innovative new ways to reach them. When it comes to the Internet, she says the kids are very much in control. They can turn off an advertiser's message in the time it takes to click a mouse.
The only way to get kids' attention, Skey says is to give them something of value on the Internet. In advergames, that means providing lots of challenge and variety, along with the marketing.
A generation that has grown up on the internet is so bombarded with advertising messages that they seem to have become pretty good at ignoring them. That's the challenge for Samantha Skey. And a small comfort for Ted Lempert.