Marketers are also taking advantage of technologies that children use such as text messaging (SMS) on mobile phones. This enables them to reach children “in a format and language they relate to”. In the UK, for example, half of all children between eight and eleven have a mobile phone and 83 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds have them. Examples include:
Wireless technology enables marketers to directly target users based on such information as previous purchase history, actual location and other profiling data… Increasingly, mobile users will be receiving personally tailored electronic pitches, designed to trigger immediate purchases and timed to reach them when they are near particular stores and restaurants.
Marketers are also infiltrating instant messaging services on the internet such as AOL’s Instant Messenger Service (AIM) which has over three million users between 12 and 17. The major instant messaging providers “all promote themselves aggressively to advertisers that want to reach teenagers” and offer them a way to “engage young people as they communicate with their friends, by surrounding them with branded content and encouraging them to interact with advertising”.
A branded version of MSN Messenger, with integrated advertising, was produced in a deal between McDonald’s and Microsoft. Messenger has an estimated 800,000 users under 18. Yahoo offers interactive, branded backgrounds for instant messaging conversations (IMVs – IMVironments) that enable teenagers to “express themselves” but in the process view an advertising message and send it on to their friends. Kraft and Pepsi are among the companies that have produced IMVs.
On average, for a specific IMV, we see 1.5 million people download a particular IMV, send over 100 million messages within it, and spend five to 10 minutes per user per day per IMV. This time spent is a particularly impressive statistic when you compare it to how much time in one day that user would spend watching a particular TV commercial for that advertiser.
Smoking is also being promoted on mobile phone and tablet/ipad apps, through product placement and also more directly. University of Sydney researchers found 107 tobacco-friendly apps available for Android and Apple devices: "Some were programmes that allowed the user to simulate smoking or collect points for buying Marlboro cigarettes. Others included pictures of global brands or images of cigarettes that could be set as 'wallpaper' for the phone. Some apps were a game where users can pass a cigarette to on-screen characters, or were "how to" programmes, such as advice for using hand-rolled tobacco."