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Firms reach kids via Web games, video

August 03, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The nation's largest food and beverage companies spent about $1.6 billion in 2006 marketing their products to children, according to a Federal Trade Commission report.

What's a little more surprising is that the companies don't spend much money marketing to kids where so many hang out -- on the Internet. In 2006, food companies allocated only 5% of their youth marketing dollars online.

The report says that the relatively low price tag for Web marketing doesn't mean that companies aren't reaching kids there, however.

In fact, the report says, kids are spending a lot of time on websites such as Millsberry.com, a General Mills-sponsored site with games encouraging kids to watch Lucky Charms webisodes and play games hunting for Reese's Puffs online.

Between March 2007 and March 2008, kids spent as many as 20 minutes a month on Millsberry.com and 30 minutes on Wonka.com, the report found, using data compiled by Nielsen.

"These ads are very, very pervasive" and include sponsoring chats, commercializing online social networking communities such as MySpace and creating viral videos, said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor at American University's School of Communication.

For example, fast-food chain Wendy's created a video that was placed on YouTube and did not mention the company directly but sent users to a special value menu website.

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