When we think of an advertisement for a movie, we immediately think of a trailer or preview. However, what you may not realize is that the idea of said movie is being spread like a virus all around you. One such example is The Dark Knight. Sure, you’ve heard of it, you saw the Joker faces everywhere, and you decided you probably wanted to see the movie. What you may not have realized is that according to Patrick Coyne, the campaign that preceded the release of The Dark Knight was huge and all-encompassing. Some of the advertising included an alternate reality game that created Joker henchmen in cities all over the world, as well as a real-life campaign for Harvey Dent for District Attorney of Gotham City. Players were encouraged to rally in their cities for his election; this spread even to a news anchor wearing a campaign pin on live television. Websites were dedicated to the game, which included a scavenger hunt, cell phones being distributed inside bakery cakes where individuals could receive messages from the Joker, and messages in bowling alleys. This alternate reality was played out in over 75 countries and culminated in the movie release being sold out for its first five premier times in the theater (2013).
With this being said, does it make you wonder whether you actually wanted to see the movie or whether you were brainwashed into it? That is viral marketing, and it is everywhere. From movies to television, to small, seemingly insignificant pop-up ads on the Internet—this is what our children are being exposed to every day. Although, perhaps not quite to the scale of The Dark Knight. In 2010, it was averaged that kids aged 8–18 used about seven and a half hours of media per day (kff.org, 2010). A study from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business estimates that by 2015, Americans will consume an average of about 15.5 hours of media a day (2013). These are astounding numbers but really help drive home the point, which is that our children are being flooded with product marketing everywhere they turn. Marketers not only know these numbers, but where the hours are being spent. In addition, there are whole web pages dedicating to teaching people how to market directly to teenagers.
As most of us know, kids and teens use the Internet like it’s an additional appendage. In addition to the now-standard social pages like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, there are whole other communities out there that kids are using. Snapchat, Vine, and Tumblr are just a few of the more popular apps and pages with teens. Let’s not also forget the online games that are played (Candy Crush, anyone?). Advertisers know this. Every one of these sites and games represents the potential for getting their product under our children’s noses. Not only that, but they use the initial viewer or gamer to advertise for them. If a person likes a video, photo, or meme (new-age emoticon—catch up, people), they tell their friends. If said person runs out of lives on a game, they tap into their network and beg their friends for more lives. Those friends are potential new converts. And so it goes.
So what do you, as a parent, do about it?
First, you become aware of how many avenues are open to grabbing your child’s attention.
Second, you familiarize yourself with the things your child is using the Internet and smartphones/tablets for.
Then, you find out the other sneaky ways advertisers get at your kids.
Finally, you talk to your child about how these advertisers are using them so they can be on the lookout as well.