This study examines the extent to which character advertising and other host-selling practices prevail on popular children's websites and assesses whether commercial sites geared toward young users are complying with voluntary guidelines calling for a clear separation between advertising and content. A longitudinal analysis of 101 of the most popular children's websites over a six-year period (2003, 2006 and 2009) found the integration of content and advertising through the use of spokescharacters, advergaming, and product personalities to be common. A majority of sites employed characters in their online advertising and most did not identify advertising with an explicit label when characters were featured on their homepages. A similar pattern was found for product-based games that featured spokescharacters. Branded sites with a recognizable product were much more likely to employ spokescharacters in product-based games than non-branded sites, and to use popular characters in their advertising. Over time, fewer websites featured product characters on their home pages, while the use of character advertising in product-based games inside websites increased substantially.
- CARU guidelines
- host selling in cyberspace
- online advertising to children
- product personalities