In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission made the decision to remove the limitations that had long been in place for children’s advertising — what kinds of commercials could be viewed during children’s programming, for example, or how many minutes per hour could be dedicated to advertising aimed at young kids — stating that the marketplace would determine what programming was best for children. Fast-forward nearly 30 years and there is still a dialogue going on about what actually is best for children.
Children’s advertising has been blamed in the UK last week for everything from rising rates of childhood obesity to excessive drug usage and teen pregnancy. In America, we’ve seen a similar correlation drawn between media consumption (particularly “superfluous” content such as advertisements) and childhood obesity.
Needless to say, people are nervous about — and perhaps even fed up with — the effects of aggressive advertising on younger children.
So what’s a brand to do without targeted advertising? Netflix thinks they might have the answer in a tactic that’s a little more… subversive.
Everyone knows why Netflix can, at times, be preferable to cable television — there are no advertisements; much of its content is on-demand, streaming media; and full seasons of shows are ready to be watched all on one lazy weekend afternoon, whenever and wherever you like. And they already had a large selection of kid’s media to choose from: in 2012 alone, over 12 billion hours of children’s content was streamed through the popular media hub.
As of April 11, Netflix announced that they were teaming up with Hasbro to offer even more streaming kids’ content, adding shows such as “Littlest Pet Shop” and “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.” They wanted to create an atmosphere where kids could stream content “unencumbered by aggressive advertisements or inappropriate material.”
But is it really uninhibited and “free” from advertising? With virtually unlimited hours of television right at their fingertips, children are easily able to cherry-pick what they deem most interesting to watch. Long gone are the days of waking up early on Saturday morning to catch a few hours of carefully packaged cartoons with the intermittent advertisement for Rock-Em-Sock-Em-Robots or a Skip It. Now, you can have whatever content you want, whenever you want it — as long as mom and dad still have a subscription to Netflix. And the shows certainly put activities and material items in them that kids will want to emulate or obtain for themselves.
So really, aren’t the brands themselves doing all the advertising? Hasbro is the classic staple for children’s entertainment, Netflix has become a monolith in on-demand entertainment, and your child can select their favorite shows with just the click of a button, learning of their desires through their favorite shows.
What do you think? Does this count as unwelcome advertising, or is Netflix on the right track?