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Amazon tests boundaries for advertising toys online




He man toysWhich came first, the cartoon or the toy?

  • Transformers
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Smurfs
  • He-Man

Some toys are so inextricably connected to their media brother that it’s hard to tell which begat which. In the 80’s, cartoons based on toys and vice versa were so popular that Saturday morning TV was the equivalent of watching two hours of infomercials.

To protect children from undo influence the FCC put rules in place that force a separation between cartoons and related toys.

The FCC also requires that, in television programs directed to children ages 12 and under, program material be separated from commercials by intervening and unrelated program material. The purpose of this separation policy is to protect young children who have difficulty distinguishing between commercial and program material and are therefore more vulnerable to commercial messages. If a program fails to adequately separate program and commercial material, the entire duration of the program may be counted as commercial material (a “program-length commercial”).

But all of that only applies to TV, online streaming video is a whole ‘nother story and Amazon is about to test the limits.

According to a story in the New York Times, Amazon has teamed up with Hit Entertainment (a division of Mattel) to promote the pre-school, animated series Fireman Sam. Amazon plans to put the videos inside of a portal that will serve up links to the licensed toys, shirts, sheets and backpacks.

It’s a bold move and one that could anger parents. Of course, it makes total advertising sense. If kids are watching Fireman Sam, chances are they’ll want the toy etc. You could argue that every Disney movie is just a giant commercial for licensed products, too. And if it was aimed at adults, no one would care but as soon as you aim those ads at kids. . . look out! Doesn’t matter that most of the time it’s mom, dad or grandmom who is actually doing the buying. If they’re unduly influenced by a cartoon or a whining child then is that the brand’s fault? The advertiser’s fault? Amazon’s fault?

If the concept sells, it will open the door for similar content portals on Amazon. Right now, Amazon’s streaming video portal doesn’t link out to anything other than other videos. Personally, I’d be happy for a link to a show’s soundtrack or collectible mug. But then, I’m a huge collector of licensed products.

My only request is the ability to move the advertising sidebar aside so I can watch the video without all that stuff in my line of vision.

** Amazon was kind enough to send over this clarification:

In the Fireman Sam video experience via Amazon Instant Video, Prime Instant Video and FreeTime Unlimited, the experience is completely ad-free.

Bottom line for me – I’d rather have a list of related product links than an irrelevant pre-roll ad. I’m just surprised that Amazon decided to test this concept with a product aimed at kids.

What do you think? Good idea or headed for trouble?

  • Scott

    what’s the answer to the question at the start of the article?

    • cynthialil

      I meant to include that! All four were toys first then they became cartoons – thus parents felt like the cartoons were made only as advertisements for the toys.