Webkinz WITH Non-Webkinz Ads? Hmmm…

So the ever-Brill “MOM” over at Outside the (toy) Box ping’d me on an interesting question regarding Webkinz & it’s decision to add ads to the site:

First CCFC and Lisa at Corp Babysitter are all over Webkinz for adding ads to their website, on the sly.  Bastards!  We’ve discussed the need for ad free virtual worlds here before, so this is an important update.  CCFC let’s you email Ganz and tell them that they are scumbags. I highly suggest you do so – it takes 2 secs.  Izzy, you’re the VW queen – comments, new ad free ideas to add?

outside the (toy) box » Quick Links – Webkinz, McCarthyism, and My 2 New Favorite Blogs

Hmm.

It’s a reasonable issue…

Here’s my wandering thought process regarding Webkinz & Ads:

A. What is their rational behind the 2nd need for income? No doubt it’s purely to grow their cash cow profits… but they HAD to know that people would find offense to it. In the customer’s eyes, they officially became a paying subscriber the minute they purchased the stuffy. And one of the unwritten understandings of web interactivity = paying subscribers shouldn’t have to be bombarded by ads. period. end of story.

So, what is the PR rational? How will they spin this? I understand that it can be pricey to retain a virtual world (staff especially)… and growth? Staying UP with the VW times (because I’ve seen some pre-beta VW’s that will be fantastic and much edgier than Webkinz). But Webkinz is doing QUITE well in the population department. So, what’s the dealio?

B. What will their AD policy be? Warning pages? Will they make it quite clear which are OUT of world ads, and which are webkinz cross-promotional ads? I ask this because– if you’ve been tooling around Neopets any time recently, you’d notice how badly they SUCK at Ad policy. I clicked a t-shirt button, thinking it was for my avatar, and was brought WITHOUT ANY NOTIFICATION out of the Neopet’s realm, to a IRL t-shirt shop that had skinned their page to look identical to Neopets… and I was TICKED. They’re going on my blog’s naughty list for the holidays (stay tuned). I find it more disgusting to be on kids websites that have such a low standard of ad policy than the idea of having it to begin with.

C. Ads are everywhere. They’re on just about every page. Why? It’s like the only real way (outside of subscriptions & microbuys) to make any income– and let’s be honest, with the time & effort needed to run a website, it’s not cheap. Billboards line highways, spam litters mailboxes, and ads adorn sites. They all suck. And it’s sad. But really… I can’t fight that because I do work in the industry and realize why such things are done. Blech. I hate to have said that. But, ads are just one of those things… like weeds in a garden, or morons on the highway.

Personally– it’s not the existence of ads, but the type of ads. Ads that are inappropriate for children should not be on or NEAR sites children may attend. Every site I’ve worked with has a 2 or 3 click policy– within 2/3 clicks of a page must be kid-friendly. It’s a toughie to follow because that’s a lot of constant maintenance (esp when google ads sometimes screw up and slip naughtiness into their links by accident). The decision to have ads to begin with is a HUGE decision. That’s a relationship you have to build with your ad departments & clients, etc., and maintain on a regular, attentive schedule.

D) I agree with the hatin’ on the ad on an ad idea. Which is why I’m glad people are standing up for what they believe in (campaign for an ad free childhood). But then, if you’re going to battle Webkinz… Disney is in that path too. Disney is an ad wrapped in an ad, dunked in an ad, soaked with ad, and regurgitated as an ad. And then it’s placed in another ad, which is incorporated into an ad, which is shown as an ad, which has an ad itself. Not too much said about that, right? I grew up a Disney-a-holic. Ate, drank, slept Disney.  And yet… none of us had a problem with that until we were old enough to see the approach of the Disney train towards are children.  Mama Bears are a particularly keen, sensitive lot.  We don’t take too kindly on those who step into the bubble around our wee cubs.

And yet, it seems to be a horrible trend at the moment: like there.com’s new coke world. Pay to play in an ad. Weird.

E) But all in all it’s a choice. If webkinz has made this move, and I don’t like it or how they approach it– personally I move along.  Webkinz isn’t that great to begin with. Their mainpage looks like a traffic accident of colors & ideas, and the tone in which they approach their audience is babyish and insulting. Their plus is the pet-user-care experience… it’s larger and has more opportunities than say… club penguin (which is sooooo yesterday, lol). Webkinz may currently be the pack leader of kid VWs, but I don’t think it will take much to pull them from the king-o-the-heap position. At least I hope not.

Personally– i like the “Subscription” sites the best (like Club Penguin & Pirates of the Caribbean Online).  Parents are actively setting up accounts WITHIN the world.  Less of a blink eye, and more direct.  Plus, you are CLEARLY purchasing a membership, instead of getting some 1/2 entry ticket/ 1/2 stuffed animal combo, which can blur the lines of responsibility & ownership rights.  With “Online Subscription” sites– you are IMMEDIATELY a customer (are you a customer of the world when you’re a customer buying a doll?  Who does the company support more?  The idea of the product or the idea of the virtual experience?  Gotta be only one Highlander in the end, yeah?), and there for have a stronger voice regarding your experience.  The product route leaves far too many excuse-filled barriers (well, with the doll you bought the doll and the entry, but we need money through ads to sustain the site since you don’t pay a subscription… yadda yadda).

So, thems my apples. 

I hope some of that made some sense. LOL. My rambling ways can be a bit intense when I’m unsure of a rambling direction.

Leave comments at the beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. (beep)

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  1. December 14, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Izzy, ads are everywhere, which is why I welcomed the ad-free Webkinz into our home. I’m not making a fuss about Disney ads because I know what to expect (and we don’t go near those sites). The Webkinz ads took me by surprise.

    Thankfully, screen time is limited and there are plenty of good sites/games out there (virtually and at the store) that don’t advertise.

  2. December 14, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Hey, hey, Lisa 😉

    Yeah, I think Webkinz took everyone by surprise on that. I’m glad there are peeps like you who step up to the bat and speak regarding things like this. Helps set a trend for those of us who work on kids sites and want to do RIGHT by conscious parents.

    Have a great weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekend!

  3. Dee
    September 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    You always have the option to turn AD’s off. Your Pet has control over what happens in it’s environment.
    So ads are not an issue in Webkinz World.

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