Watchdog Group Wants Ads Out of Webkinz

The Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood (CCFC) is targeting Webkinz, a popular online destination for children which combines real-world toys and virtual play.

A CCFC press release issued this morning demands that the Webkinz site remove ads for third-party products. According to the Boston-based group, Webkinz began integrating ads into its virtual world in October.

A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie. Susan Linn, CCFC director, said:

One of the reasons parents purchase Webkinz is the expectation that the website will be free of advertising.  It is disappointing that Webkinz is choosing to maximize profits at the expense of parents’ trust.

[Webkinz corporate owner] Ganz was already walking a fine line since the site is really designed to sell more Webkinz. But adding immersive advertising for other products is all about greed.

CCFC is initiating a letter-writing campaign to Webkinz management in an effort to have the advertising pulled.

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  1. 0
    Mom of Two says:

    I’ve read all the comments, and only a handful here seem to “get” the issue at hand. FroggersRevenge said it the best.

    In a nutshell, my kid is “paying” through purchase of a Webkinz item… to have advertisers have one on one time with her via the internet at the Webkinz site.

    Webkinz decides who the advertisers will be – not us as parents. I suppose they expect us to “trust” they will only advertise age appropriate items/products.

    Make no mistake – Webkinz has gone out of its way to assure parents like me that their site is “safe” for kids that are far too young to be on the internet in chat rooms and playing online games unsupervised in my humble opinion. But Webkinz is now on my kids “Favorites” list as an approved site she can get into when I’m not in the room w/ her.

    I may be a minority, but I’m one of the parents that DOES try and limit the marketing/influence of ads on my kid. A few already hit the nail on the head – kids process this info different than adults…and the advertisers know it, “I” as a parent knows it…unfortunately my kid does not yet!

    Thanks for the Firefox tip and the AdBlock – that will be my personal solution.

  2. 0
    FroggersRevenge says:

    I think I see a bias here, because we’re talking about parents and their kids, and generally when parents leap in to protect their kids from something, we’re very cynical about it around here. I know this sounds a lot like the antics of Jack Thompson and company, but we seem to be forgetting two things here:

    1) This isn’t about ads on a free medium like television, or a free site like Neopets (which Webkinz cribs from heavily). It’s about using a pay-to-play game as an ad portal. So whatever your opinion is on seeing ads in Halo, you should have the same attitude here; they’re the same situation.

    2) Unlike a majority of the stuff GP covers, this is NOT a story about people lobbying for government or regulatory control on games. All they’re doing is writing letters to the company asking them to stop. That isn’t censorship; nobody’s going to force Webkinz to dissolve if they decide to ignore these guys.

    Personally, if I were a parent, I’d be pissed if I paid someone to advertise to my kids; it’s a huge violation of consumer trust. But if I were the CCFC, I would play dirtier: start a campaign to get Webkinz parents to install Firefox with AdBlock, so they can still use the service while denying the company its ad impressions. :)

  3. 0
    Pierre-Olivier ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    We had already a law for this in Québec (don’t know about other provinces in Canada). By the law, it’s forbidden to make advertising for a target audience of less than 13 years old, make ads about a product targeted for childs younger than 13 years-old (some foreign products seem to bypass this law somehow) and to boardcast the ad in a place and a time where it could reach those younger than 13 years-old. When one of those three rules is broken, the ad is illegal.

    I remember when a cake company tried to advertise it’s product in a kindergarten (one of the big reason why I’m glad of such law. This kind of marketing strategy is disgusting in my opinion). They got slapped both by the law, the parents and the kindergarten’s directors. Even a marketing expert found this strategy bad.

    But this group obviously doesn’t know much about technology. There are hundred (probably thousand) of children-oriented commercials websites (most are even legit). Objectives like this are impossible to achieve. One point in what I agree with them is the big number of ads that can be painful for a computer-illiterate child to navigate in such a website. Let’s just hope that Webkinz don’t have shady advertisers.

  4. 0
    sheppy says:

    I think I should chime in here for a moment and say this. Did you know the ONLY reason why the RX-78-02 from Mobile Suit Gundam is painted in red, white, yellow, and blue instead of the much more militaristic matte greys Tomino wanted was because Bandai wanted a color scheme that would sell toys?

    Having said that, this is how Webkinz works. You buy the primary machine and you access a small amount of content. Buy more characters, get more content. The game constantly reminds you of this. So essentially you have a website based upon a toy that constantly advertises itself. And suddenly I’m supposed to be offended because the latest Seinfeld travesty is toted about? To me, this seems more of a case of “Hey! Get your commercials out of your commercials!”

  5. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I couldn’t really care if there are adverts or not in all honesty. I can’t remember the last time I saw an Internet-ad, not because they aren’t there, but simply because I totally ignore them these days, they are like air, so common they no longer get noticed.

  6. 0
    Spekkio ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I don’t know a damned thing about parenting. I don’t think I ever will. I haven’t any intention of procreating. So I’m not going to comment on parenting at all.

    I will say this: commercials didn’t rot my mind. OK, I still collect Transformers, but that’s rather harmless, isn’t it?

  7. 0
    Marlowe says:

    Why is everyone defending this jackass website that has ads all over the page when people have to pay to use it? I hate online advertising, it’s really annoying, time-wasting and can load my computer up with a shitload of spyware. Another thing, they aren’t unfairly targeting video games, they feel the same way about tv and all other forms of media. I’m not saying the group is all that good but they aren’t an anti-game group. Frankly at least in this case i think we can all agree that online advertising is really annoying even if we concede companies have a right to do it. One of the things I love about this page is what ads it has are inconspicuous and mostly just helpful links that someone who visits this page is probably going to be interested in.

  8. 0
    CyberSkull ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m actually with the CCFC on this. If I have a paid membership on a site, I don’t want to see any goddamn ads! That, and I can no longer stand Alvin & the Chipmunks.

    Side note: For a second, I thought the owner was Gantz, not Ganz.

  9. 0
    me says:

    My sisters into webkinz, and it’s not all that suprising that they have ads. There’s no claim to the contrairy. Besides, I get ads in Madden and such, and I pay $60 for that.

  10. 0
    jdecamp ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    These CCFC freaks need to knock it off. They seem to think that bandwidth and colocation fees grow on trees or something. That advertising revenue is likely used to finance the operations of the site and facilities. Aside from that, what company in their right mind isn’t going to maximize profit?

  11. 0
    Mystik Tomato ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ BmK:

    Well, my mum frequently smacked (or “spanked” or whatever you wanna call it) when I was a child, and now she is saying that I’m much better behaved than “most of all the other little shits” around (Yes, she has said that). I had learnt that complaining about something equates to not getting it, AND a sore ass. And I actually love her more for it, because I learnt very good values from her, by her doing that.

    Compare that to my cousin who only ever gets the “Wait until your father comes home” shtick. If that doen’t work, it’s the “go to your room where there’s toys, and stuff” thing. They don’t generally work. Funnily enough, she’s learned that she has to behave when mum or I are around.

    BTW: Did anyone else think that the ads were going to be for things like Manhunt, etc when they read the title?

  12. 0
    Icehawk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well I suppose they could drop the onsite ads that help Pay for the thing. That of course would mean that the paying members would have to make up the difference. Not likely I guess….

    Hey here’s an idea. Webkinz drops their 3rd party ads only on agreement with the CCFC to pay for their site, also the CCFC would be responsible for lost sales to the ex-advertisers.

  13. 0
    Matthew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Obstructive and intrusive ads (popups etc.) in something you’ve paid for? That’s worth of an ewww disirregardless of the target demographic. Still, I think CCFC are missing a crucial point here: In order for a movie to be seen by anyone at all, people need to be told it exists. The Chipmunks movie needs to be advertised *somewher* otherwise nobody would go to see it beyond passing trade and the three kids in the world who read movie magazines.

    In the UK, there are guidelines and regulations about the sort of thing you can advertise around kids. Storms are kicked up if a junk food ad appears during the after-school cartoons, for instance.

  14. 0
    Tye The Czar says:

    I would go for their cause too if my child’s website was populated with advertisements for foods whose majority contributes to childhood obesity accompanying promos for movies that get 50-to-0 percent positive reviews found on Cut them some slack since it’s the ADs they go after.

  15. 0
    Conejo says:


    if one thinks a spaking is “harsh punishment” they’re part of the problem of lack of discipline in children. a tantrum isn’t a child saying “i want that” it’s a child kicking and screaming and putting up a fuss. it is the extreme that requires a more extreme discipline.

    and for as much as people scoff at Dr. David Walsh, his “Say Yes to No” book (and lectures) make a lot of sense on how to discipline children.

  16. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “and that’s when you beat their little asses.”

    Giving a young child a spanking once or twice as a last resort is o.k. imho but constant physical punishment when a child breaks the rules is probably one of the worst things you could do to a child. I definely agree that many parents out there are lacking in parental skills and wanting the government to take over for them, but “beating your child ass” to make them behave isn’t the way to go. If anything it will make them behave worse.

  17. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Kids think positive things when they see clowns”

    Funny, most of my friends and others i’ve talked to were actually deathly afraid of clowns when they were young children.

  18. 0
    Shih Tzu says:

    Advertising is obnoxious and advertising to young children is particularly creepy. Webkinz deserves all the criticism they get if that’s the road they’re choosing to take.

    I always liked that Consumer Reports for Kids magazine “Zillions”, where they taught kids about deceptive advertising techniques and tried to make them into smart consumers. A shame that it seems to have gone away.

  19. 0
    Catch 33 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I don’t like advertisements anymore than the next person, but they are an ever-present aspect of human life in a free enterprise. I’d be more shocked if a chunk of my hair suddenly fell out for no immediately evident reason.

    As for the exploitation of children through commercials, it doesn’t make it right, but kids have been, and will continue to be, exploited in much worse ways. I’d rather worry about those than a commercial designed to, for example, make a kid feel like a loser for not having a certain toy.

  20. 0
    Benji says:

    @Conejo: Not all parents are willing to bring such harsh punishment against their kids, especially in today’s political climate when a spanking for inappropriate behavior is tantamount to child abuse. That’s not saying I necessarily agree with this – spare the rod, spoil the child, tough love, and all that. I’d like to think that we can just say no to our kids but sometimes it’s not that easy.
    I see your point, though. Although honestly I’m more concerned about the ethical concerns of child advertising. Kids shouldn’t have to try to figure out who’s in the right between their parents and their good friend Ronald McDonald.

  21. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    I would have to agree with Pandralisk and Benji (minus the tantrum thing. When my kids throw tantrums, I laugh at them and then continue doing what I was doing before the tantrum)

    Kids are impressionable. They have a hard time understanding that just because the tv says they will have fun playing with said toy, game etc. doesn’t mean they will. They also don’t understand the concept of money and when you tell the kid that you can’t afford said toy, game etc. they get mad and beg harder.

    It also conditions them from an early age to to be succeptable to advertisning and they will have a harder time avoiding the influence when they are older.

    I may not like CCFC, but I can understand why they want to minimize the amount of advertising that children see.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  22. 0
    Conejo says:

    “Kids throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want at times, and they don’t always understand the concept of compromise, just the concept of ‘I want!’ The choice might either be a prolonged tantrum in a public place, or capitulating to their demands.”

    and that’s when you beat their little asses. have we gone so soft that we can’t say NO to our own children anymore? what did your parents do when you threw a tantrum?

  23. 0
    Benji says:

    I have to post because this may be one of the few times I’ll ever get to use this phrase, but I agree with Pandralisk.
    For one, you can’t just say that parents can say no to what the kids can have. Kids throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want at times, and they don’t always understand the concept of compromise, just the concept of ‘I want!’ The choice might either be a prolonged tantrum in a public place, or capitulating to their demands.
    But more importantly is the ethical concerns. Young kids don’t process advertising the same way. They’re more likely to be completely convinced by it, and being impressioned at a young age can impact your choices for years. McDonald’s didn’t invent Ronald McDonald on a whim. Kids think positive things when they see clowns, and Ronald ads would create subconsious positive connotations that cannot be easily broken up. Advertising to adults is at least ethical because adults understand ads enough to know they have a choice, but advertising to kids is half a step above brainwashing.

  24. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “If they don’t like it, they don’t have to buy it. Maybe they should quit bitching and learn to parent their own kids.”

    Exactly. The parents are the ones with the money. All they have to do is say “NO” if their child asks for something. Not that hard to do actually. Yes, the kids might moan, bitch and complain but no one said parenting is easy. Parenting is for the parent to do not the government or the CCFC.

  25. 0
    Conejo says:

    remember all the cartoons in the 80’s that were just thinly disguised 30-minute commercials? when they didn’t have to trick you into hearing about a product they just came out and said “hey, buy this, idiot!” and everyone was content with that kind of advertising?

    those were the days.

  26. 0
    John ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I feel that way about here sometimes however the CCFC is kind of idiotic. The website is a free add-on to the product purchased. Websites cost money to run, and if webkinz sales are down do they expect the company to just eat the cash? What CCFC should do is boycott the site and stop buying Webkinz instead of sending edicts to companies.

  27. 0
    Buckeye531 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Pandralisk (sorry for double posting)
    When you bitch and moan ads for entertainment for kids, you have gone over the edge.

    If it were for games such as Gears of War, Halo 3, or Mass Effect, I could see the CCFC’s complaint. Those games should never be advertised on a website for kids. However, that is not the case here. These are ads for kids entertainment, not for mature entertainment.

  28. 0
    Buckeye531 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We (or at least most of us) are pissed at this because this is a kids’ website and adverts on this site are not for games like GTA of Manhunt 2. Most or all of these ads are for childrens’ entertainment. The CCFC is losing it and they proved their insanity with this stunt.

  29. 0
    Pandralisk says:

    I agree with this. Advertising to children can be one of the most damaging, unethical, and absurd forms of commercialism currently practed in our society. Children are not mature enough to ignore extremely powerful advertising techniques, and these techniques often monopolize the asthetic tastes of children for years (power advertising has also been tied to poor conduct, low scores, childhood obesity, etc) . Advertising companies know the unethical conduct that takes place within their advertising and should exercise greater judgment in the first place.

    You people need to realize how the minds of children are being knowingly manipulated by people whose only concern is the generation of profit. I usually couldn’t give a damn less about the children, but this is one issue where a bad thing is imbedded so deeply into society that speaking out is almost neccessary.

  30. 0
    Tom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Why is everyone so pissed at this? This is what the CFCC said in their mandate that they’ll do. If they want to go after Webkinz or whatever because they have commercials targeted at kids let ’em go crazy.

    What pisses me off is when the CFCC starts getting all high and mighty about games that are not aimed at kids and that feature no advertisements that kids would reasonably see. That’s when they can shut the hell up.

    Basically, I’d rather have them spending their time on this then on trying to regulate my games.

  31. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ugh, any of these for the children people really piss me off. Not that i’m against protecting children, but protect them from things they really need protection from (i.e. – child molesters, physical or mental abuse from parents or others) not things they don’t need protection from (i.e. – seeing a few commercials, video games, movies, music, ect.)

  32. 0
    Diane ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Oh damn, parents show interest in kids yet again. Let us discuss how this is yet again proof that all parents are failures and assert how only we, gamers on the internet, know how to do everything right.

  33. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    I really hate CCFC. They basically want a childhood free from any influence that does not come from the parents, school and church. They would prefer it if there was no children’s programming on tv, no children’s toy, no children’s games, and no children’s fun.

    These are the people who complained that Shrek was promoting exercize and playing outdoors. All because Shrek is a fat lazy ogre with different eating habits. Talk about bigotry. Can someone think of the Ogres?

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  34. 0
    CommiePuddin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Or parents could do the personally responsible (and admittedly heart-breaking) thing: Take the toys from their children, divest themselves of teh cuteness, and buy some other similar product instead.


  35. 0
    Rigor Mortis says:

    [sarcasm] Oh dear, businesses want to make a profit? They want people to know about their products their livelihood depends on? How terrible, whatever shall we do? Run for the hills, the sky is falling! [/sarcasm]

  36. 0
    Benji says:

    I’m inclined to hear some opinions of parents that might have kids. Kids that love Webkinz because it’s fun or cute or whatever, and love whatever Webkinz advertises, and ask Mommy and Daddy for whatever is advertised, and then cry if they don’t get what they want.
    There’s something to be said for parents keeping an eye on their kids and those kids’ web activities. But the advertising may be implemented in such a way that the parents won’t necessarily catch it, and parents might not even be concerned because they’re resigned to a world where advertisements are everywhere. But a lot of parents don’t realize that advertising is processed differently in the minds of adults and kids. Young children haven’t necessarily learned to differentiate between fiction and reality, and between advertisements and simple statements.

  37. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One of the reasons parents purchase Webkinz is the expectation that the website will be free of advertising.

    Riiiiiiiiight. I don’t seem to remember that at all in the advertising for the toys. Who are these naive parents? It’s an online game. What online game DOESN’T contain ads, unless you pay $15/month?

  38. 0
    Vagrant says:

    “One of the reasons parents purchase Webkinz is the expectation that the website will be free of advertising.”

    Give me a break! Parents don’t let there kids on here because they don’t have commercials. Parents put there kids on there so that they don’t have to bother parenting them.

    Granted, thats not always the case I’m sure, but I’m willing to bet most parents see it as a place to dump their kids for a few hours.

  39. 0
    Myrpok says:

    parents should be more concerned their child is wasting their childhood on Webkinz. If the ads for the site are any indication, it’s most likely a place where growing imaginations go to die. Not the damn ads on the site.

  40. 0
    DavCube ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “It is disappointing that Webkinz is choosing to maximize profits at the expense of parents’ trust.”

    Oh, please. Like Buckeye said, these guys need to get a life. “OMFG ADS THEY WILL BRAINWASH MY CHILDS AND TAKE AWAY THE FREE WILL OF PARENTS!!!”

    It’s just… ugh.

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