Later today, Alloy Media + Marketing, will launch First Day, its latest web series for children and teens on the Internet channel AlloyTV. An Alloy press release suggests the show will have it all – if by all you mean the full gamut of troubling trends in youth marketing.
Because First Day will air on the web instead of a traditional television channel, the FCC’s rules that dictate strict separation of commercial content and programming matter do not apply. That means that, unlike children’s television shows, First Day can feature product placement. That’s where Kmart comes in. Not only will the characters wear Kmart’s back-to-school fashions (Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez, Rebecca Bonbon and Bongo), but Kmart actually helped create the script for First Day, so expect the clothes to play a prominent role in the show’s narrative. And if you’re creating a Kmart infomercial, why stop there?
First Day will also feature a unique retail component in each episode. Kmart will "hotspot" its fashions throughout the series, enabling viewers to buy the inspired looks worn by the lead characters by means of a direct link to the products on the Kmart website.
When they click through to the Kmart website, what will they find? Perhaps images like these that are being used to promote the same Bongo line in Seventeen magazine and Teen Vogue, two publications whose readers skew younger than their titles imply:
Or this ad that touts Bongo’s junior line for “back to school” at Kmart’s parent company, Sears:
It’s as if Kmart designed their back-to-school campaign using the exploitative marketers’ handbook. Use sex to sell tween girls on clothes. Create “branded entertainment” so that children won’t realize they’re really watching ads. Use interactive technology so that kids can click right from the “program” they’re watching to the checkout line. Add a viral component so that children’s friendships are commercialized; Kmart is offering applications for kids to upload to their phones so they can tweet their purchases to their friends.
And of course, promote your brand in schools. Kmart is also advertising its fall fashions on Alloy’s controversial in-school television network, Channel One. For students in the 8,000 schools with Channel One, viewing Kmart’s ads will be a compulsory part of the school day. That’s right – Kmart will be using class time paid for by your tax dollars to promote its clothing to a captive audience of students.
Kmart clearly believes that its provocative marketing strategy will result in more sales, but I’m not so sure. There are a growing number of parents who are saying, “if you want my business, treat me and my children with respect.” That’s a lesson that Kmart clearly hasn’t learned. Maybe we need to teach them that this fall.