Is "Copywriting" Unethical When Used on Kids?

by JustinBrooke 18 replies
Hey Warriors,

My son and I LOVE to play "Beyblades" and we've spent over
$200 on buying all the best accessories/characters. I've even
showed him how to "split-test" which ones work the best!

Long story short, I'm thinking of creating a review site with
my son. But I would use be using powerful copywriting in
the reviews. Headlines, stories, calls to action, guarantees.
etc etc.

Even thinking about saying "Go ask your parents to buy
this [insert character here] right now before the last one
is bought and they are gone forever."

And "If you don't have a credit card, ask your parents to
take you to wal-mart and buy a "Visa Gift Card" with your
allowance. They will turn your allowance money into a
credit card for you and then you can buy right away."

Obviously I would not lie about anything, but is it unethical
to use these powerful copywriting tactics on kids?

What do you think?
#copywriting #copywriting #kids #unethical
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  • Profile picture of the author LynnLewis
    I don't know if it's unethical but it is a pretty blatant tactic, so I'm sure a lot of parents would be unappreciative to say the least.
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    • Profile picture of the author PLRExpress
      Technically, the idea feels a little off to me. I’m not saying that I disapprove exactly, but it’s not something that I would like to do.

      Beyblades are huge at the moment and I suppose there’s a lot of money to be made from them but it depends on who’s actually going on the internet looking for them. Is it the parents looking for stuff to buy their kids or is it the kids themselves? How old is your son for instance?

      "Go ask your parents to buy
      this [insert character here] right now before the last one
      is bought and they are gone forever."
      The question is: would you mind your son being marketed to like that? Do you think parents would have a problem with a website telling their kids directly to get their patents to go and buy something?

      At least with adults, you know that they should be able to make a calculated decision upon reading your copy. I would feel more comfortable marketing to the parents as oppose to the kids themselves. But then again, I’m far from being a ruthless marketer. I’m sure the parents won’t be impressed by the sales tactics towards their kids.

      It also depends on who’s on the websites looking at the Beyblades. A little keyword research for the types of terms being searched for may give you some indication as to those that are searching. For example, parents may be looking more for “Where to buy Beyblades” or “cheap Beyblades” etc. whereas a kid’s search would be much different – maybe types of Beyblades and stats etc.

      There may be enough of a market of parents looking to buy Beyblades for you to put together a successful site and you can still create your site and still feel comfortable with what you are doing.

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      • Profile picture of the author JustinBrooke
        Originally Posted by NathanDevlin View Post

        Technically, the idea feels a little off to me.

        The question is: would you mind your son being marketed to like that?

        At least with adults, you know that they should be able to make a calculated decision upon reading your copy. I would feel more comfortable marketing to the parents as oppose to the kids themselves. But then again, I’m far from being a ruthless marketer



        That's what I'm debating right now... Is it really "ruthless"
        to say "Kids go ask your parents to buy?"

        Is it ruthless or is it aggressive?

        Is it malicious or is it a little pushy?

        I think words like "ruthless" have a lot of weight and it's
        something used normally with very malicious things.

        If that's the case then NO WAY IN HELL would I use that
        kind of tactic. However, if it's more like "a tad aggressive"
        and not "ruthless" then I think I would.

        I think aggressive is good - necessary even.

        Thanks for helping me think through this and see all the
        sides. I'd hate to jump in without thinking things through.
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    • Profile picture of the author JustinBrooke
      Parents unappreciative?

      You mean, they would not like the fact that
      I told their kids to "ask your parents to buy
      this before their sold out"

      Trying to think of how I might word things better??
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    • Profile picture of the author J Bold
      Originally Posted by LynnLewis View Post

      I don't know if it's unethical but it is a pretty blatant tactic, so I'm sure a lot of parents would be unappreciative to say the least.
      If parents are unappreciative of any business selling to their kids and don't want their children to be exposed to such messages, then their is a few actions they can take.

      Such as, never let your kids watch TV commercials, never take your kids to toy stores, never take your kids through the checkout line where there are attractive cheap toys and kids candy at their eye level, etc.

      The amount of advertisements on TV alone that say, "Tell your mom to buy this" or "tell your dad to get you this" are copius, and it happens all the time.

      I see nothing wrong with what you're doing, as it's done all the time by thousands and thousands of advertisers, every single day.
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    • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
      Originally Posted by LynnLewis View Post

      I don't know if it's unethical but it is a pretty blatant tactic, so I'm sure a lot of parents would be unappreciative to say the least.
      Yes, this is a good point, but keep in mind that if you want the parents to buy the product, having the kids annoy them until they get it, is a good thing.
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  • One thing I'd question is if that's the best form of copywriting to use on children. It's certainly not the typical TV style advertisement. I'm sure, with the amount of money spent on commercials, that someone has tested that.

    Reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Krusty The Clown gets all the kids to bug their parents until they take him to his new theme park. Of course, that was meant as parody.

    Thom
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  • Profile picture of the author Joshua Rigley
    Banned
    Of course not. Parents use copyrighting tricks on their kids all the time, like reverse psychology.

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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    I think your approach is basically correct in that the "call to action" is to get the kids to bug their parents. Now, it would be a fair argument to say this is a little shady, but the parents are the ones who would, presumably, have the purchasing power.

    Keep in mind that it's ONLY about getting the kids to convince their parents to buy something for them, BUT it's really up to the parents to make an informed decision...if they don't then that's on them, not you.

    All of this assumes that you're being honest, and you have stated as much, so I see nothing wrong with the basic approach.

    The only part I would personally have a problem with as a parent is telling the kids to get their parents to buy them a Visa gift card. For one thing, I believe kids under 13 aren't allowed to make any purchases online, and teaching them how to skirt that bugs me.

    Anyway, I think you're on the right track, as long as you handle it properly.

    All the best,
    Michael

    p.s. The very fact that you're asking the question shows that you have a conscience, and that's a definite plus when selling to children.
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    • Profile picture of the author PLRExpress
      I think the responses to this will be interesting.

      In general I would say that that telling kids to ask their parents to get a Visa card is going a little into “aggressive” marketing.

      I’m in the UK and here, in marketing to kids, you’re not allowed to say go and get your parents to buy...x... for you. All you’re allowed to do is promote the product and generally say how cool it is so that they kids bug their parents to buy it for them.

      There’s a different between this and telling kids to ask their parents to buy them something and then telling them how they can pay for it also.

      But, there’s also another question here – and it’s not about ethics. It’s actually about how you’re going to make sales.

      It’s coming up to Christmas. Or let’s say it’s coming up to a kid’s birthday. Kids usually know what they want straight away and they’re probably already and they’ve told their parents what. It’s then up to the parents to go and look online to find the best deals for what their kids wants. Parents generally want to please their kids.

      If you’re going through affiliate marketing directly to the product, it’s easy for a parent looking for the best deals etc to head online see what you’re got to say and then purchase the product through an affiliate link.

      Parent browsing for product reviews > purchases product through affiliate link> Sale.

      You’ve already got yourself as a middle man between the product and the customer when targeting the parent – so you’ve got a conversion for the parent to your link and another conversion from the link to buy the product.
      If you’re targeting affiliates offers to kids, you’re then factoring a whole new wall between the actual product > affiliate (you) > kids > parent’s bad mood :-) etc.> buyer.

      If you’re target market can’t pay for anything themselves you’ve got to rely on the “conversion rate” of the kids. Not that kids aren’t good sales people – they’re usually good at getting what they want. But is it through your affiliate link.

      It’s worth giving it a go and also changing your sales copy to see what works best for you.

      If you don’t want to be too pushy, you can be respectful to the parents and the kids:

      - Click here (aff link) and then ask a parent nicely if they will order for you

      - Click here (aff link) and then let your parents know so they know what you want for your birthday/this Christmas

      - Show your parents this page (aff link) so that they know exactly what to tell Santa you want this Christmas

      - Don’t rely on your parents knowing what you want, show them this page (aff link) so they know exactly what to buy.

      - Tell your parents that there’s a limited special offer for this product here (aff link) so that they can save money.

      etc.

      These are much more ethical approaches where the kids make the click based on the sales copy and the parents make their purchase themselves. But I suppose it’s the parents that make the decision to purchase – they’re grown adults and they don’t have to buy if they don’t want to.

      Just as a PS – there’s a website in the UK called thepresentclub.co.uk . It manages to make decent sales and it’s a website for kids to get their parents to buy stuff for them. The idea is that the kids make a wishlist and then their parents or relatives put money into the online “piggy bank” until they have enough to reach the targeted amount and then the product is delivered. It’s aimed directly at kids and kids use the site themselves. There’s not really any “sales copy” because you don’t really need to sell it to the kids – they know what they want – your challenge is to get the parents to pay for it.

      Hope this helps a little. Great question by the way!
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Chucky Cheese has no problem in creating an overwhelming desire in my kids to go to their restaurant and eat the most crappy pizza on the planet, behind Little Ceasar's.

    Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

    The only part I would personally have a problem with as a parent is telling the kids to get their parents to buy them a Visa gift card. For one thing, I believe kids under 13 aren't allowed to make any purchases online, and teaching them how to skirt that bugs me.
    I am with Michael on this.

    When my 8yo tells me that I need to buy X, Y or Z, I tell him "I don't need to buy anything."

    He responds with the call-to-action on the commercial, and I tell him not to believe everything he hears on TV.
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  • Profile picture of the author JustinBrooke
    Alright so looks like "Go ask your parents to buy" is ok
    but "here's how to turn your allowance into credit" is
    a bit over the edge.

    I was thinking the same, but wanted to see if I could
    get away with it
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  • Profile picture of the author AzzamS
    In my tradition you are not permitted to sell to children directly without the initial intervention of their guardian. The main reason is for protecting them from being taken advantage of, but as long put a disclaimer stating that you want their parents to come to the site and do the actual buying or approving the purchase I do not see anything wrong with it personally.
    It is the responsibility of the guardians to ensure that children are making a buying decision correctly and not just yours since children nowadays desire items that are above their age group and many companies know this [make up, fashion label, music] but they still employ the same marketing tactics without warning..
    the fact that you are thinking about it ethically i believe is a good sign of your wanting to clear your conscious from the outset
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  • Profile picture of the author JSThompson
    Honestly I don't see anything wrong with the idea. I mean just sit back and watch a commerical for any action figure or transformer. They have all these awesome sets that they play on and they're not included with the toy but it makes every child want the toy more. Call it marketing. Call it subliminal messaging. But whatever you call it, make sure you call it successful. I think it is a genius idea, especially if it is something you and your son are passionate about.

    I use to play Magic The Gathering and can't tell you how many times I sold rare cards or decks to "kids" for list price. Mommy and Daddy were usually happy to fork over the money requested just to make the kid happy.

    Just my 2 cents.
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  • Profile picture of the author SergeyZ
    Why not make a For Parents section on the site and encourage kids to get their parents to visit that instead of asking their parents to buy something. It's the parents who hold the purse strings and it's them you have to convince. After all, if their kids ask them to buy something why would those parents buy from your site? They'll just go to the nearest toy store and get the toys there instead. Focus on selling to the parents just as much (or, quite possibly, more) than selling to the kids.
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
    I personally don't allow minors on my sites.

    I don't think it's a good idea dooood
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  • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
    Justin,

    Depends on your own personal "code of ethics". But I would say no, not for me... I go by the ole David Ogilvy saying "Advertising is only evil when the thing being advertised is evil"... So, are you selling toys made out of lead, or little baby mouse traps, or silly puddy made with mercury? If not, I think your good to go.

    One thing to keep in mind is that most adults aren't much harder to manipulate or persuade than kids, if you have a rudimentary understanding of psychology and persuasion.
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  • Profile picture of the author Hans Klein
    Originally Posted by JustinBrooke View Post

    Hey Warriors,

    My son and I LOVE to play "Beyblades" and we've spent over
    $200 on buying all the best accessories/characters. I've even
    showed him how to "split-test" which ones work the best!

    Long story short, I'm thinking of creating a review site with
    my son. But I would use be using powerful copywriting in
    the reviews. Headlines, stories, calls to action, guarantees.
    etc etc.

    Even thinking about saying "Go ask your parents to buy
    this [insert character here] right now before the last one
    is bought and they are gone forever."

    And "If you don't have a credit card, ask your parents to
    take you to wal-mart and buy a "Visa Gift Card" with your
    allowance. They will turn your allowance money into a
    credit card for you and then you can buy right away."

    Obviously I would not lie about anything, but is it unethical
    to use these powerful copywriting tactics on kids?

    What do you think?
    I think the better approach may be to create the review site
    for parents looking to buy their kids the toy.

    I suspect you may find it's a really hard sale to get money out
    of someone without a credit card... and can't make an impulse
    purchase very easily.

    Also... I bet a well-written review site written by a kid good
    for adults might go over well on the parents, especially grandma
    or grandpa or who are looking for a gift for their grandkids.

    The parents have no idea which toy their kid is going to like best.

    That said... I don't know what beyblades are... so maybe I'm
    missing something. That's just my first reaction if you were
    creating a review site to sell a product for kids.

    -Hans
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