Friday, February 27, 2009

Heads Up! FTC Open Forum on Kids and Advertising Literacy

For those of you in the D.C. area, the FTC will be holding an open forum on March 12, 2009, to gather feedback and input on an upcoming advertising literacy project aimed at tweens. Here are the details:
Ad It Up! Kids in a Commercial World
The Federal Trade Commission staff will host a forum on March 12, 2009 to gather input for its advertising literacy initiative, which will educate and empower tweens to be better informed consumers of information. At the forum, experts on advertising and marketing to kids will discuss a range of issues, including:

* What kids experience in the commercial world;
* What kids understand about their experience; and
* What kids need to know to navigate in this world.

The goal of the campaign is to educate kids to be better informed consumers of information.

The FTC staff invites interested parties to participate by attending in person or via webcast.

The forum will be free and open to the public (and will also be webcast live), and looks like it will at least touch upon some of the existing FTC consumer literacy initiatives, such as You Are Here and OnGuard Online.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interesting Hook Ups Among the Toy and Media Giants

Two news stories caught my eye this morning, both written by Emily Claire Afan for Kidscreen Daily, and both describing new, somewhat unlikely partnerships between some pretty heavy hitters within the children's (media and toy) industries. The first, an announcement that Disney/Pixar is getting in on the branded Lego action. As Afan writes:
Three Disney and Disney/Pixar properties will be getting the Lego treatment, thanks to a multi-year licensing deal that grants the construction toy company access to develop product for Toy Story, Cars and Prince of Persia.

The plan for now is that all three Disney branded construction sets will be released in 2010. Toy Story-themed construction sets (for kids aged 2 to 12 yrs) featuring themes and characters from the first two films will launch in January 2010. Additional sets will appear in May 2010, coinciding with the big screen release of Toy Story 3, slated to hit screens in June of that same year. The Prince of Persia Lego sets will be released in April 2010, just prior to the cinematic release of the videogame-based film Prince of Persia: Sands of Time in May. And the Cars sets will appear in June 2010, likely somewhere around the same time the Cars MMOG goes live.

The second story involves videogame giant EA and toy manufacturer Toy Island, who are entering into a multi-year deal to produce branded sporting goods for kids. According to Afan:
The multi-year deal will see the toyco developing a new line of branded sports equipment for three demos - three to six, six to nine, and nine to 12 - set to launch this coming fall. It's the first merch deal of its kind for the game label, thanks to its partnership with IMG Licensing, the exclusive worldwide CP and brand licensing agent for EA Sports.

In addition to the obvious associations with EA Sports games, the partnership represents EA's attempt to compete with the Wii in the exergaming arena. As described in the EA/Toy Island joint press release:
"The unique and differentiated EA SPORTS-branded products will bring classic sports activities to life in a whole new way, utilizing infrared, motion and equilibrium sensors. The products, which will serve as a virtual coach as they instruct the user on form and technique, speed and power, and more, are in development for baseball, football, basketball, soccer and hockey. Products will include:

• a line of interactive training tools featuring voice commands and instructional coaching elements designed to take budding stars to the next level;

• a complete game-in-a-box containing all the equipment necessary for kids to practice and play a sport;

• a line of sports toys that will utilize electronics to reward young athletes with cheers when they use proper techniques;

• a basic line of high density-foam balls to help kids develop throwing and kicking motor skills at an early age.

The products will be available for three youth categories: ages 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. Other sports are expected to follow this year’s launch."

Friday, February 13, 2009

"OMG You Guys Let Me On": Kids vs. COPPA

Via yesterday's YPulse Essentials, a link to COPPA Kids, a site that archives quotes and messages from kids that have been age blocked from sites as a result of COPPA (I suppose the sites are either unable or unwilling to become COPPA compliant, since the Act is about the collection of personal information, not about whether the contents of the site are appropriate for children). Some are hilarious:
"Dear [COMPANY] Feedback,
It says that I am under 12 when I am not. I am 13, but please don’t tell anyone that. I hope all this feedback is kept private. Please let me become a part of [COMPANY], I really want to! =]"

"This thing says I am 12 and under. I am 13. Trust me I am not 12. I would never say that I am. THank u for letting me tell u this horrbile story."

"help im 13 and i axadently put me as 12 lol and im locked out opps sorry can i regester im POKEMON MASTER"

Others reveal some pretty interesting things about how kids feel about and make sense of age restrictions:
"i am 12 but i am a girl and i am responsobal and i will not say any thing bad or innaproprait"

"I dont think you shoud not let someone not be able to register because of their age.Its not our fault we are not 13 yet.I just dont think thats fair.How would you feel if you had to be kept out of the fun because of your age."

"im 14
i put in 2000 as my date of birth!
i just dont want people to know when im born!
datz all!
nufin personal!"

Read more over at COPPA Kids.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sesame Street Gang

This year will mark the 40th anniversary of everyone's favourite kids' TV show, Sesame Street. In lead up, Mark Medley of the National Post is doing a series of stories on all things Sesame (which is also where the above image comes from), including an interview with the author of a new book exploring the history of the series, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis. The interview (and likely the book as well), is full of gems such as:
National Post: Why is the death of Jim Henson still a cultural watershed moment?

Michael Davis: I think it was the shock factor. It came on a day when it was just so unexpected. Here was a man who was in the prime of his life, the peak of his creative powers, and he had this wonderful pied piper aspect to him. He seemed so wizardly and so approachable. People really felt like they knew him. Which is kind of funny because the man, when you look at him in total, was sort of enigmatic. But his persona was so vivid that people thought they knew him, and they felt close to him. They felt like he was in a way an extension of Kermit and vice-versa. I’ve spoken to people over the last five years..who break down in tears talking about him, and how much they miss him, and what the effect has been from his absence....When you look at the videotape of the memorial service, I think what’s most striking, beyond the star-watching, which is kind of fun, but just the folks who showed up with their children and plopped down on the floor of the cathedral and filled its every corner. That is what’s most moving about watching that tape, and I’ve watched it many, many, many times, and everytime I saw something different.

Medley has also written a wonderful article about the anniversary itself, Look who's 40!, which includes some great stories and recollections from longtime Sesame puppeteer Stephanie D'Abruzzo. You can also link back to the paper's previous post listing The Top 8 Most Underrated Muppets, part of an ongoing series called "Puppet Watch" that Medley also contributes to.

In other Muppet (related) news....(courtesy of Gamasutra)

Last month, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and EA's Spore were each recognized with Jim Henson Honors, a program "founded to recognize people and products that represent the values of the acclaimed Muppets creator." The highest honor, the Jim Henson Celebration Honor, was awarded to Miyamoto, for both his previous creations and his more recent innovations such as Wii Fit. As the Jim Henson Company press release describes:
As the creator of some of the world’s best-known video games such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and the Zelda series (which have collectively sold more than 350 million copies), and the person who ultimately oversees every Nintendo game, Shigeru Miyamoto has reignited America’s love for gaming with the creation of Nintendo’s hugely popular Wii console. Taking the application of video games a giant step forward, Miyamoto recently developed the Wii Fit, dedicated to improving people’s physical health and well being. The game not only serves to entertain and give players a workout, it is also being used as a rehabilitation tool – known as “Wii-hab” - by physical and occupational therapists to help patients with balance, endurance and core strengthening.

The other big winner was EA's Spore, which was awarded The Jim Henson Technology Honor for demonstrating ground-breaking technology in a creative way. Here's the description from the press release:
Spore, the popular video game created in 2008 by celebrated game designer Will Wright and EA gives gamers their own personal universe in a box where players build their own galaxy from scratch. The game is meticulously conceived and executed with infinite detail, allowing a gamer to design and create his own character – a digital alter ego - providing for an unprecedented level of user creativity as his being evolves from a single-cell organism to a galactic god over hundreds of millions of years.

Awards were also given to The Center for Puppetry Arts Distance Learning Center, and guerilla street artist Shepard Fairey (the guy who did that famous portrait of Barack Obama). Included in the press release (and in most of the surrounding news coverage) are statements from Jim Henson's children -- and co-CEOs of the newly reconstituted Jim Henson Company, Brian and Lisa Henson -- who had this to say about this year's recipients.
“The recipients of this year’s Jim Henson Honors demonstrate true creativity and commitment to innovation. They have raised the bar in their respective fields, from Shigeru Miyamoto’s ground-breaking work fusing entertainment and technology at Nintendo, to the Center for Puppetry Arts’ dedication to enriching lives through arts education, this year’s honorees, who so strongly reflect the traditions of The Jim Henson Company.” - Brian Henson

“Each of this year’s recipients inspired us in different ways. In addition to Shigeru Miyamoto and the Center for Puppetry Arts, we also honor the visual brilliance and topicality of street artist Shepard Fairey, who tapped into a generation’s profound desire for change, and the incredibly imaginative and provocative world of Spore. Varied and vast in terms of their impact, this year’s four honorees are true models of originality, innovation and ingenuity. It is a privilege to honor their outstanding work.” - Lisa Henson

Talk about building a lasting legacy!! I just love seeing all my favourite things/people/media forms come together like this :)