CCFC members demanded that children be protected from sneaky marketing when playing Pokemon GO, and got results!
Pokemon GO, produced by Niantic, Inc., is a location-based augmented reality (“AR”) game, where players visit specific real world places in order to capture virtual creatures. While some of these places are parks and landmarks, others are paid for by advertisers to entice game players into their brick and mortar locations. In the U.S., Starbucks and Sprint are among the companies that have sponsored “PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms.” Starbucks entices game players with a purple Pokemon GO Frappucino loaded with fat and sugar. And when the game launched in Japan, all McDonald’s restaurants became Pokemon gyms – and further lured kids with Pokemon toys in Happy Meals.
More than 7,300 people signed petitions hosted by CCFC and our partners at Corporate Accountability International demanding that kids under 13 be excluded from this insidious marketing ploy of directing players to paid sponsors’ stores.
CCFC sent Niantic a letter with the petition signatures and asked the company to put the welfare of children first and exclude them from sponsored locations. In response, Niantic announced on their blog that sponsored locations will not appear in Pokemon GO for players under 13. In other words, players registered as children will not be directed to Starbucks or other sponsored locations as part of game play.
Pokemon GO is the first wildly popular AR game and it won’t be the last. With your help, we hope to have set an important precedent with this campaign: if you want to use AR as a marketing tool, leave kids out of it!