In last night’s episode of Channel 4 Dispatches, the digital industry got a kicking for marketing unhealthy foods to children through advergames.
Now, we are all for rules and regulations when it comes to advertising, and since the Ofcom regulation was enforced in 2007 we haven’t hesitated to turn down work that seemed unethical; marketing with morals is how we like to think of it. However, it seems in this case that a big bunch of middle men are being left out of the equation.
Think of it this way; a child plays an advergame that features the branding of a chocolate bar. Does said child then buy this chocolate bar on their credit card through an in app purchase? Can the child order the chocolate bar through the app to be delivered to their front door? This is sounding totally ridiculous isn’t it? Well that’s because it is! If little Joffrey is craving a Freddo because of these big bad advergames, who is going to walk him to the shops and buy it for him? Mum, Dad, Granny, Granddad, Auntie, Uncle or the old dear from next door. In other words, the middle men.
A quote from the television advert alone is enough to send people in to a state of panic: “Now the food industry has a new set of tricks to get our families gorging on unhealthy products. They can reach us through our phones, tablets and computers. They can befriend us on social media; they can attract us with engrossing games. No wonder we’re getting fatter.”
A statement that completely neglects to put any of the blame or responsibility on the adults who are buying these products.
Another important thing to think about here is, if junk food and fun must be mutually exclusive, what about Kinder Eggs, Happy Meals, or the fact that McDonalds sponsored the Olympics? If parents can’t be held responsible for the food they are putting in their children’s mouths then we may as well go ahead and ban it all!
Call us biased but it’s hard to feel ashamed about the work we do when we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact advergames can have on both children and adults. For example our Cosmic Clean and Brilliant Brushers advergames for Philips taught children how to brush their teeth and avoid sugary foods. Not to mention the advergames we made for Comic Relief and Sports Relief that helped drive traffic and donations to the website.
We are sick of the mainstream media demonising games whenever they get a chance. The game industry is bigger than the film industry. Games can educate, raise money for charity, allow families to play together, help children problem solve, whilst learning maths, physics, history, geography etc.
The reaction on Twitter last night seemed to sway towards the side of the agencies, calling out Channel 4 for ‘scaremongering’ and ‘scapegoating’. So what does everyone else think? Should the media be commending agencies like KoKo Digital instead of dragging their names through the mud? And should we instead be asking Dispatches to investigate the junk food brands at the heart of this?