Food Fight: Activist Aims At 'Advergames'

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It sounds as though the tie-ins between TV marketing and online gaming sites, so-called "game-vertising" will be a hot topic of conversation at the FTC's seminar on obesity and food marketing to kids Thursday and Friday.

There was the news Thursday that grocers planned to recommend at the conference that the Children's Advertising Review Unit--ad types' self-regulatory body--start looking at online gaming marketing along with TV advertising.

Then there is the presentation of American University Professor Kathryn Montgomery, who plans to tell seminar attendees that all kinds of onmline-related pitches, from game-vertising to viral marketing, need to get a more critical industry and government eye.

Nickelodeon may have announced an effort to brand spinach and carrots with SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, but Montgomery plans to talk about Web-based cross-promotions between TV nets and online sites,including a campaign last year that joined P&G with Nick's Fairly Odd Parents.

In the campaign, P&G "put codes in Pringles "Snack Stacks" packages that enabled kids to go to Nick.com and insert the code numbers to watch the show, vote for their favorite flavor, and play games," she says, essentially "driving" kids to advertising on the site.

Other practices she puts on a watch list include cell phone and text-mesage advertising and "branded environments" like mycoke.com, where you can spend "hours interacting with a product."

Her recommendations: A full FTC investigation into marketing practices; revamped rules and CARU guidelines to regulate food marketing to children; and "strong, proactive government oversight."

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