Teaching tweens about advertising

Are you selling something? If so you can blog about it, tweet about it, text about it, pay someone popular to say it’s great, tell all your friends about it, even those you rarely see face-to-face ... or there are the more traditional routes: buy a print ad, buy some airtime, rent a billboard, plaster it on the side of your car or the side of your building ...

The number of communication outlets available to companies wishing to sell their products have arguably reached an all time high. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is tasked with monitoring the advertising industry and keeping companies honest — an overwhelming task.

The agency is especially concerned about the power of modern day marketing on one particular demographic: tweens (kids between 8 and 12).

It’s a concern most parents can relate to: What is the best way to get the positive and healthy lessons through to those sponge-like developing minds with the barrage of increasingly clever marketing campaigns creeping into their everyday lives?

The Bureau’s answer: the video game

Admongo

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Admongo takes players through a virtual world where they get an “ad-ucation.” Players create avatars that navigate through an obstacle course full of advertisements. They have to dodge the “Minions” (stout creatures that will doc your points if you touch them) and seek advice from the “Helpers” (bespectacled cat-like creatures wearing ties).

Faux ads are found throughout the game, many based on real products such as “Choco Crunch’n Good Cereal.”

Players earn points by solving challenges, answering questions and passing levels.

“The vast majority of marketers sell lawful products to people who can lawfully buy them,” David Vladeck, director of the bureau, told the New York Times. “The game says advertising is pervasive and it’s good to know what it is, it’s good to think critically and think whether purchasing a product is in your best interest.”

Textbook company Scholastic Inc. was also employed to create curriculum for grades 5 and 6, as well as a library of fake ads to use for teaching purposes. Parents can also find some helpful resources on Admongo.com, such as a scavenger hunt of their homes, looking for all the advertisements that kids might not otherwise notice.

The ultimate goal is to teach critical thinking and to ask these three questions when they see advertising:

Who is responsible for the ad?

What is the ad actually saying?

What does the ad want me to do?

“This campaign complements the many efforts undertaken by the FTC to protect children in the marketplace,” the Admongo site explains. “These efforts include enforcing truth-in-advertising laws as they pertain to ads targeted to kids; enforcing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and related regulations; and promoting better advertising practices by marketers of food, violent entertainment, and alcohol.”

Our question: When will they launch the adult version?


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