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Summary:

Kids’ plush toy social network Webkinz.com has started running advertising, a move that, if recent articles in New York Times and Silicon Alley Insider are to be believed, has greatly upset parents. In fact, whatever controversy exists seems to have been manufactured by a nonprofit group […]

Webkinz logoKids’ plush toy social network Webkinz.com has started running advertising, a move that, if recent articles in New York Times and Silicon Alley Insider are to be believed, has greatly upset parents. In fact, whatever controversy exists seems to have been manufactured by a nonprofit group with an idealistic agenda.

In October, some Webkinz bloggers noticed that the site was running an advertisement for “Bee Movie.” Conversation ensued, much of it over how to score a bee costume by clicking on the ad.

Blogger WebkinzMom asked Ganz, the company behind Webkinz, about their advertising plans and policy, and Ganz responded by saying the advertisements would only be for family-friendly products and that they would never offer hyperlinks directing children off the Webkinz site.

In the comments to that post, Webkinz parents largely expressed satisfaction with Ganz’s response and, by extension, its decision to start running ads. One said, “There is a limit to how much of this I am willing to buy, so if limited and tasteful advertising helps them meet their bottom line without me having to buy ungodly amounts of this stuff, it is fine with me.” And another, “[Y]es the ads told you where to go. But never ever did they try and take the littler ones out to another website. I thought that was pretty cool.”

So who is creating the controversy if not parents of Webkinz toy owners? The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, whose mission seems like a well-meaning but impractical idea. The CCFC itself points out that Webkinz is, from the ground up, a commercially-oriented site, a fact that Webkinz purchasers surely understand.

This seems like a huge mismatch: a nonprofit activist organization that wants all commercials removed from childrens’ lives joined with a set of parents who choose commercially-based online playtime. Parents willing to buy their kids the Webkinz plush pets that allow them entry into the Webkinz.com site are likely practical enough to accept some limited amount of advertising along the lines of what Ganz is doing.

Webkinz reindeer smallThe real story here is parents and companies relating directly to each other and figuring out what’s agreeable to both sides. Via blogging, Webkinz parents discussed the issue among themselves. Then WebkinzMom checked with Ganz to find out their policy on advertising. It’s notable that Ganz didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from the New York Times, but did respond to WebkinzMom in October.

Now, where can I get a Webkinz reindeer?

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    1. Webkinz and Advertising 2.0 – – mathewingram.com/work Friday, December 14, 2007

      [...] Times piece or Henry’s post are willing to admit. The always level-headed Anne Zelenka has a good roundup of the events at GigaOm, and from her description it’s clear that the reaction to the Webkinz [...]

    2. It’s not okay with me! I think it’s ridiculous and I’m enthusaistically returning the 2 I bought for the holidays.

    3. I am a parent. I am not upset by the ads at all.

      If the parents would have clicked on the ads they would have known the ads were giving the Webkinz Pets a costume or a free food. When clicking on the ad the pet receives a costume in the dock for there Webkinz to wear! Lighten Up for heavens sakes.

      Search long enough and you will find something negative. This is not it.

    4. RandomThoughts Monday, December 17, 2007

      Advertising on Webkinz World could actually be pretty cool. Consider the political opportunities!

      Now, can someone tell me where to buy the damm Turtle?

    5. thinks » Blog Archive » Hey, social networks! Customers expect you to be a good friend Monday, December 17, 2007

      [...] In practice, it appears a tempest in a teapot. Anne Zelenka, over on GigaOM says it’s no biggie. Speaking as a father of two Webkinz-addicted kids, I agree. Frankly, the ads for sugary crap on TV [...]

    6. Webkinz Info » Blog Archive » Webkinz Advertises, and Parents Say That’s OK Tuesday, December 18, 2007

      [...] Original post by Anne Zelenka [...]

    7. What’s Wrong With Advertising On WebKinz? | WildBlueSkies Wednesday, December 19, 2007

      [...] article in GigaOm, however has a couple of insights from WebKinz parents: Webkinz parents largely expressed [...]

    8. Personally I do not see how the issue is much different from TV advertising during cartoons, the holiday wish catalogs from retailers, and that sort of thing. Access to WebkinzWorld is free with purchase of a pet, I think it is reasonable for them to run ads to offset bandwidth and server costs.

      I think the CFCC has some valid perspective, but there are more nefarious things they should focus their attention on if they want to make a real impact.

    9. Great post! I’ll have to try that. Let me know if you ever expand on your code

    10. KidZui: No Pornography Here – GigaOM Tuesday, March 18, 2008

      [...] has social components, but KidZui aims to be broader than Webkinz or Club Penguin, both of which have received loads of media attention and have subsequently [...]

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