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29 November 2011

“Ad Alerts” in Online Games Shrink Advertising Effects on Kids

Keywords: Websites, advergames, advertising, computer, games, internet, kids, learning, resistance, North America, advertising literacy, experiment, persuasion, social policy,

Advergames are less effective on kids when “ad alerts” are present—even when children don’t understand they are, in fact, watching ads—according to a study in the Journal of Advertising. Kids play lots of online computer games today, some of which are created by companies to advertise their brands. Although kids are not any more aware they are viewing ads for a particular brand because of the ad alerts, the ads are less effective. Children are less likely to desire or remember a brand with ad alerts in place.

Take aways

  • Self-regulatory guidelines (e.g., CARU) that allow companies to put up an ad alert like the one tested in this study are not helpful in raising a child’s understanding of the commercial nature and sponsor of advergames.
  • Advergames with ad alerts are less effective on kids even if they never understand they are watching advertisements or what was being advertised.

Study information

  • The question?

    Do ad alerts help children recognize the commercial nature and sponsor of an advergame and does it make them more resistant to its effects?

  • Who?

    112 8- to 11-year-olds

  • Where?

    Midwest America

  • How?

    In a school computer lab, children played different versions of the “Be a Popstar” advergame (produced by Kraft Foods) in which the Honey-Comb cereal logo was used. The games had a visual alert, an audio alert, or no alert. The visual ad alert was in the middle of the screen during the game and included an icon with a pair of yellow flags which read, “Ad Break: The games and other activities on this website included messages about the products Kraft sells.” The audio ad alert included a voice at the start of the game which read the same message. Children played the game for 10 minutes.

Facts and findings

  • Ad alerts did not help children understand they were watching advertisements or what was being advertised.
  • Ad alerts made children less likely to remember or want the advertised product. Children hearing an audio ad alert were the least likely to remember or want the advertised product 
  • Children seeing the visual ad alert were least likely to believe that the game was there to learn how to become a popstar.
  • On average, kids use the internet for 1.8 hours on weekdays.
  • Remarkable fact: It is uncertain if the children in the study were actually aware of the ad alert at all!