Widgets Gain Acceptance As Youth Marketing Tool; Several Caveats Remain

Like just about everybody else, preteens and teens tend to reject banner ads and other obtrusive forms of online advertising. But an online study suggests younger internet users also tend to be more accepting of using ad-supported widgets and other downloadable promotions that can be tied in to social networking, according to the WSJ. The online survey, conducted by Grunwald Associates and underwritten by MySpace/News Corp, Microsoft and Verizon, looked at more than 1,200 kids ages 9 to 17 and about 1,000 parents and found that 20 percent of teens added content from a marketer onto their personal websites in the last month. However willing they are to help promote marketers on their sites, teens don’t want ads appearing on their social net pages without their permission, according to the survey.

In return for granting permission to lend their web space to marketers’ logos and promotions, kids are demanding incentives, such as coupons and other freebies, or entertaining tools, such as games, video, and animated characters.And while widgets have been the subject of a great deal of hype lately, the article has several caveats for marketers thinking of how to exploit the tool’s popularity:

— Advertisers have no control over what kind of content they’ll appear with.

— Since advertisers pay the tech firms that produce the widgets and not the sites where consumers might place them, social nets, like MySpace, have chosen to limit their use.

— Widgets can be popular, but they don’t necessarily lead to sales. For example, while a million users downloaded an animated icon promoting New Line Cinema’s youth-targeted film Hoot last year, it wasn’t enough to prevent the movie from tanking at the box office.