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 with an idealistic agenda.
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.
The 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?