Online advertisers who want to reach children are shifting their focus to parents, according to a report released Monday by AdRelevance, a division of Internet statistics firm Media Metrix (Nasdaq: MMXI).
Online ads aimed at families rose 96 percent between May and August, while ads targeted specifically at kids fell 56 percent, the report said. The data suggests “a reallocation of online ad dollars from the child to the parent,” said Charlie Buchwalter, vice president of media research at AdRelevance.
Buchwalter said companies might be operating carefully as a result of a directive from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “It’s safe to say that companies have learned to tread lightly as they seek to target younger generations,” he noted.
“Advertisers wanting to reach the child and family audiences are going to great lengths to protect children by ensuring that advertising content is easily differentiated from site content,” Buchwalter added. “We’re seeing more and more ads on these sites flagged with text or graphics to make it clear to both parents and kids that banners are paid advertisements.”
Online advertisers are “looking very carefully” at the way the government handles old-line media advertising in an attempt to avoid new rules and controversy, Buchwalter told the E-Commerce Times. “The online community is extremely conscious of regulation and is trying extremely hard to get ahead of the curve” to convince government that self-regulation works.
Entertainment a Big Draw
In a separate report released Monday, the FTC found that the entertainment industry — a major force in online advertising — is targeting kids with TV and print ads for violent movies, games and music. The report, ordered by President Clinton last year in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings, found that companies are advertising R-rated movies on TV programs aimed at kids and in teen magazines, and that kids are often the target audience for violent movies and games, newspapers reported.
The AdRelevance survey found that 30 percent of the ads on kid-and-family Web sites were for television, movies and other forms of entertainment. Department stores, pet-supply and toy sellers accounted for a combined 19 percent of impressions.
The report analyzed standard banner-ad campaigns of 183 child- and family-focused online advertisers between January and August.
Family Sites, Portals See Most Ads
AdRelevance said most online ads aimed at children and families run on sites that target those audiences, as well as on portals. Advertisers aiming specifically at kids use child and family sites more than those who target the whole family: For advertisers who want to reach a younger audience, child and family sites are almost as popular with portals, garnering just 4.6 percent fewer online ad impressions. Yet for family-focused advertisers, child and family sites host 22.5 percent fewer banner impressions.
The most popular portals for child-focused advertisers were MSN, which saw 13.62 percent of ad impressions, Netscape, with 12.97 percent, and Yahoo!, with 8.43 percent. Family-focused ads, though, were found more on Yahoo! (27.07 percent of ad impressions), AOL (12.28 percent), Go.com (6.92 percent) and AltaVista (5.35 percent).
Some companies aim to reach both markets. The AdRelevance survey notes a recent campaign from Fleet Bank, which promotes its kids’ site, Fleetkids.com, to parents and children alike. The bank’s ads aimed at kids promote the site as a source of information for them, while the ads aimed at parents point out the site’s use as a tool for helping educate kids about money.