Product Placement, Online Adverts & Your Child


Technology | by | 15th Feb 2016

What are product placement and online adverts doing to young people?

With product placement, paid promotion and in-app advertising on the rise, we look at the effects of sneaky advertising on children.

Recently, we were sent some stats from Ofcom about young people’s online habits and we previously looked at what they said about the levels of bullying that young people face online. You can read about that here. In this article, we’re going to look at online advertising and product placement, which is when a product, brand or particular item is included in a film/TV show/online website because a company paid for it to be there.

An interesting part of Ofcom’s report was about online advertising. It looked at whether children and young people can recognise adverts and sponsored content. Online adverts and sponsored content often take the form of paid search results and product placement by YouTube stars. For example, if your child watched a 10 minute video of a YouTube celebrity playing a video game, and all the way through the video that star is drinking a branded soft drink like Coca Cola, then effectively, your child has watched a 10 minute advert for Coca Cola, and some parents might not be comfortable with this.

Scared Lego Figure in front of a computer for product placement and online adverts

Paid Search Results

Paid search results are the sponsored links that often appear at the top of searches on Google and other search engines. They are basically adverts and may not be the best results for what you are searching for compared to organic or natural search results. Dummies.com has a nice explanation of the difference between these different types of searches. It’s always worth scrolling past the ‘paid results’, as the links underneath are there because they genuinely fit what you’re searching for.

Another scary method used by online advertisers is using pop-up surveys to elicit personal information from whoever is browsing the website. This information is used to send targeted, more accurate adverts to that person in the future. Have you ever been browsing Facebook and seen an advert pop up for some shoes you were previously looking at? This is one way that companies can try to draw you back in and make you spend money. A quick and effective way to block these types of ads is installing AdBlock, a browser extension that hides all adverts and can be easily enabled or disabled.

Child on laptop with yellow background for product placement and adverts

Product Placement

Product placement and endorsement is where a celebrity is paid by a company to say positive things about a product or service. This can be very common in YouTube videos and on social media. In a survey for CBBC Newsround, it was discovered that more than three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 in the UK have social media accounts, which means these products and companies have a huge demographic.

“Unboxing” videos, where people open new toys and gadgets on camera, are particularly popular with children and young people at the moment. The difficulty is figuring out whether the video-maker’s enthusiasm is genuine or has been paid for to encourage viewers to get the toys or gadgets for themselves. This article shows the influence and reach these videos have with toddlers.

In November 2015, YouTube launched their brand new ‘YouTube Kids’ app, aimed specifically at children with child-friendly videos. Almost immediately, child advocacy groups like Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood spoke out against the app’s heavy use of advertising, claiming they’d found 47 TV adverts and 11 promotional videos for Coke and Coke Zero. By creating a space just for kids, it’s likely that advertisers believed their product placements would go unnoticed by adults – clearly, advertising companies are finding new ways to influence children.

It’s been suggested more than half of children and young people can’t or don’t recognise these forms of advertising. If you’re worried about your children or young people you know spending time online, this can be an excellent starting point for a discussion on advertising and online safety.

We’ve got a whole section on Technology on FamilyPoint. It’s a great place to start if you’d like to know more about keeping your child safe online. Here’s some related articles about social media and online safety:

Do you have any questions or experiences around online safety? Why not share them with us on our new A Problem Shared… page?

Photo Credit: kennymatic via Compfight cc and Alex Mills


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