New Ads Only Kids Can See May Open the Floodgates for Child-Targeted Marketing


ADOTAS — Ad targeting has jumped out of the online world and into the realm of outdoor advertising at Spanish bus stops and subway stations in a new campaign that can relay different messages to adults and children simultaneously.

Created by the Spanish child advocacy organization called Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation (ANAR), this anti-abuse campaign is able to display a different ad message to adults and children according to differences in height.

The execution of this ad is a technological feat: The ads are printed with a lenticular top layer over the creative that divides the ad space into different regions that can show two separate ad images with respective messages that can be seen from different angles.

So when an adult — or anyone taller than four feet, five inches — looks at it, they only see the image of an unhappy child with the message: “Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” But when a child views the ad, they will see bruises on the boy’s face and a different message: “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” along with the foundation’s phone number.

The idea, as ad agency Grey Group explains, is that abuse victims might see the message as they’re walking down the street with their abusers.

Reaching out to abused children is traditionally a very difficult task and the elegance of this approach allows ANAR to completely bypass the abuser. The campaign was developed in order to reach kids who are unable to find the help they need to distance themselves from an abusive parent or guardian, and it is especially powerful if their abuser is the person standing right next to them.

In 2009, companies spent nearly $17 billion marketing to kids, more than double what it was back in 1992.

Here in the United States, regulations exist for ads targeting kids under the age of 12, although you only have to turn on the television any Saturday morning to see a deluge of commercials for toys and fast food aimed at getting kids excited about brands. The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) released guidelines for its self-regulatory program to promote responsible children’s advertising.

“Instead of advertising, the most innovative brands are taking content marketing strategies and applying them to kids,” said Mark Bonchek, founder of Orbit + Co., a social media strategy company based outside of Boston. “In content marketing, the focus isn’t on promotional deals and offers. Instead, there’s some kind of intrinsic value, and the advertising message is embedded within the content or experience.”

Only time will tell if this form of outdoor ad targeting will be used to market toys, food and products directly to kids, but for now, the ANAR anti-abuse campaign is an innovative step in the right direction for a much nobler cause.


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