As Internet marketing has evolved, customized online games created to promote specific brands or products have been embraced by food marketers. At the same time that these advergames, a hybrid of entertainment and advertising, have emerged, childhood obesity in the United States has reached what some consider epidemic proportions. Advertising to children is frequently implicated as contributing to children’s poor dietary choices, and ultimately to childhood obesity and its attendant medical risks. In this chapter, we describe the nature of advergames, consider their effectiveness as teaching tools and advertisements, and suggest public policy issues related to the continued use of advergames to promote non-nutritious foods to children.
Background: Historical Interest In Advertising To Children
Researchers have long studied the effects of advertising on children and expressed concern about the degree to which evidence confirmed that childhood eating habits are being shaped by the commercials children watch.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Product Placements: Paid inclusion of product or brand identifiers in media, including video and online games, as incidental additions to add realism, provide brand exposure, and persuade the consumer.
CARU Guidelines: Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the U.S. Council of Better Business Bureaus’ voluntary, self-regulatory standards designed to insure that advertising directed at children is not deceptive, unfair, or inappropriate.
Brand Identifiers: Appear as components of video and online games, and include logos often used as the tokens to be moved around a board-type game, brand characters, or product depictions.
Advergames: Customized games provided to users online and embedded with brand identifiers, product symbols, and/or brand mascots.
Advertising: Paid messaging used to increase the likelihood of sale or as a usage suggestion.
Truth Effect: In advertising, the suggestion that familiarity with a message is sufficient to influence what the consumer feels to be true about the advertised product or service.
Engagement: In advertising, seen as the most powerful characteristic of an effective ad, the capacity to command the full cognitive and emotional attention of the targeted consumer.