Webkinz On-line Ad Strategy Backfires

If you have kids you’ve no doubt heard about the Webkinz craze that has been sweeping elementary schools. Webkinz are stuffed animals that come with a free one year subscription to the Webkinz web site where kids can play games and interact with their toy on-line. The offering has been hugely successful but Ganz may have overstepped the mark by announcing their intentions to use the site to as an advertising revenue stream.

An article in the New York times last week stirred up the controversy and The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood quickly activated a viral machine that went into overdrive to ensure that schools were informed. At my children’s school alone every parent was e-mailed with a warning notifying them of Webkinz use of Ads and encouraging parents to “Tell Ganz: Stop Advertising on Webkinz”.

There’s an opportunity here in our Web 2.0 world for Ganz to respond to the criticism in a positive way by outlining the types of ads that will and will not be allowed for example but alas to date the parent’s section of the site still has no reference to the issues. From a parent’s perspective this lack of ownership is disgruntling especially given that many feel they have already been manipulated into buying the toys not to mention letting their kids use an ad free site site that decides to change course. I for one will be closely monitoring my childrens’ Webkinz forays and assessing whether the ads are appropriate. If they aren’t I can foresee a lot of sad faces around here….

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