Play It Again: Advergaming

Blackstone -- girl @ computer CBS

When 10-year-old Caroline plays games on the Internet, she can score with Skittles, race with Chips Ahoy or hang out with SpongeBob.

Internet games are filled with products like Cheetos, Mountain Dew and Laffy Taffy.

They're not just ads. They're not just games. They're advergames, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports for "Gotta Have It: The Hard Sell To Kids."

"So, this one you jump on the Laffy Taffy," Caroline says, referring to one such game.

"Well, if it was just a game it probably wouldn't have the company's candy bar or cereal or soda in it," says Vicki Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "So it's definitely more than a game."

But does having fun with Froot Loops or battling the Pirates of the Caribbean work as a sales pitch?

"If the game like shows the toy or the movie, it makes you want to see it or buy it or something," Caroline, the 10-year-old, explains.

Samantha Skey at Alloy Media, a company that specializes in marketing to young people, says advertisers know the consumers of tomorrow are the children of today.

"During these years they're developing their first loyalties to – within personal care products, for example...within automotive," Skey says.

Automotive? For kids too young to drive? Toyota sells virtual cars in Whyville, building brand loyalty among kids growing up in a world of cell phones, the Internet and instant messaging.

"They're perpetually connected," Skey says.

So connected and so media savvy, says Skey, that marketers trying to reach today's kids have to give them something they want.

"Their ability to find and edit media, their ability to really manage their media experiences is tremendous," Skey says.

And with children now as likely to be on the Internet as on the playground, they are exposed to so much advertising they learn to ignore it, that's why advertisers love Internet games — they demand attention.

"Attention is a great commodity right now," Skey says.

But Ted Lempert says treating children's attention as a commodity can be harmful. He's president of Children Now, a group that has successfully pushed for limits on TV advertising to kids.

But on the Internet, advergames are outside those rules.

"You think about that 30-second commercial, basically a lot of those games are pretty fun to play and kids really get engaged in them," Lempert says. "So really it ends up becoming a 30-minute commercial."

It's an issue that's right in Lempert's own backyard. Caroline is his daughter.

How much time do you spend playing games?

"Ummm," Caroline says.

More than she shoulds?

"Well, probably," she says.

As a parent, does Lempert feel like he's in control?

"Not as much as I'd like to be," he says.

He's happy Caroline knows an ad when she sees one.

"Well, here's a product ad," she says. It's for pizza offered online and delivered while she's playing. It's a pitch she'll resist — this time.
  • Christine Lagorio

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