November 2nd, 2012

When is a kids’ online game actually an ad?

By Cecilia Kang

Last spring, the International House of Pancakes launched an online children’s game that was inspired by the Dr. Seuss classic “The Lorax.” IHOP appeared to be serving up a hearty portion of advertising to children, too.

That was the conclusion of the ad industry’s own standards police, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, which said IHOP’s placement of menu items and its logo within the game made it too much like a commercial. The panel recommended last month that the firm disclose its marketing intentions to its young users.

But IHOP disagreed, saying the game was just for fun and didn’t fit the traditional definition of an ad.

“We did not consider the game in question to be an advertising vehicle,” the company, a unit of DineEquity, said in a statement, adding that it tries to be “sensitive to the issue of advertising to children.”

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