Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Young children are the new target of mobile marketing

Having done a presentation, last week, for the mobiles and the ways they are used by the brands, in order to reach their publics, I know that companies can go too far in order to achieve their goals. But targeting young children sounds at least exasperating.

A ten-year-old girl from Australia, signed-up for a ringtone service, which was advertised in a website very popular among children. Once the girl signed-up, she started receiving advertising text messages, which, in retrospect, proved to charge her, $5 each.

When the parents of the girl realised what was going on, tried to contact Deda, the Italian company that provided this service, and which promotes itself through Internet. When they called the company, they reached, with surprise, a recorded message that was saying that the potential customers should be at least 6 years old!!! Even though the mobile company compensated the girl, and said that the recorded message of their "partner" was just a mistake, and therefore has changed, the girl's mother called again, to reach exactly the same message...

So are the kids the next target of mobile marketing? When a brand chooses the vehicles through which to promote itself, it has in mind that with the certain means, a certain public will be reached. Having an advertisement in a website popular among children it's obvious that the target is them. But how ethical is that?

Till now, we were surprised or/and irritated by the methods used to reach us through such a personal device, as the cell-phone is. But trying to reach and deceive young children is at least unethical. The recorded message illustrates to what extent the competition and the desire to gain grounds against the rivals have reached. If we can't protect ourselves against that mobile "hurricane", how possible is to protect kids? What remains to see is if the companies will realise their social responsibility towards consumers, and avoid or even punish such tactics.

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Nguyen Thu An Ha said...

Hi Evi,

I think children have always been targeted for marketing purpose. From fast food chains, toys, and the pc game industry also have long automatic assumed children are part of their customers. Phone companies however, as you said has gone too far. I remember when i first got my cell phone was 18 years old. Now we see kids as young as 8? to have a cell phone. I mean there's pc game, while advance target for children of 8 years old. It's sad that we're living in the world of consumerism where money is the drive. It's crazy.

Evi said...

I agree with you, An, that children have been the target for many marketing purposes the last years. But the fact that the age limit that was set from that company, for promotions of their services, was the 6th year of age, is at least provocative and unethical. It reveals although, the intensive competition in the world of communications.

Nic said...

It's a sad fact that children and the pre-teen market are probably the most marketed-to and advertising-savvy people on the planet. I am only eight years older than my brother yet I am constantly astonished at his level of knowledge when it comes to things like branding, marketing and especially technology. Technology is advancing at such a pace, it feels to me like it's hard for anyone over 16 to keep up. Even when I look at what he is tauaght at school, the curriculum is completely different to what I learned. When I was his age (cue old fuddy-duddy speech) I was lucky if I got on a computer at school for more than half an hour a week, and it took me that long to work out how to switch it on. And I'm only 23!!
Like An, I only got a mobile phone when I was in my teens; he has had one since he was 9. He is constantly downloading 'stuff' onto it (at great expense to my parents, I suspect); he is the source of all my ringtones since I don't know how to get them myself. Even more worrying, my 4 year old sister has been able to operate our DVD player since she was 2. She was using it before me or my mum.
To conclude, I have come to the tragic realisation that my 14 year old brother (and before long, my 4 year old sister) are cooler than me. I might as well just give up now.