Advertisers exploit children’s apps to increase profit

By Matt Gillis

The field of advertising is no stranger to controversy. From the use of sexuality to the introduction of false claims to attract consumer attention, advertisements border the line of inappropriate in order to stand out in the cluttered marketplace. However, more recently, companies have found themselves crossing that thin line by targeting children with advertisements containing mature subject matters.

Even with the development of consumer-focused advertising using the tools of data mining research, some advertising companies have still found themselves struggling to reach their intended target market.

An advertisement for Vype, an electronic cigarette brand created by the British American Tobacco (BAT) company, was recently featured as a banner message on the children’s iPad application, My Dog My Style HD. After BAT was notified of the seemingly inappropriate advertisement placement via their corporate Twitter account, the corporation removed the online message and apologized, stating, “We’ve investigated and found a breach of protocols by third party used by ad agency. It’s unacceptable and we’re taking the issue seriously.”


While the company admits that the advertisement placement was not purposefully intended, researchers admit that the problem stems from the struggle to gain revenue in the development of children’s applications. These advertising networks hired to fill the developer’s display spaces are failing to secure the filters, which causes inappropriate advertisement placement, in order to redeem their costs within the children’s application market. Parents are usually only willing to download free children’s applications, leaving advertisers no choice but to install banner messages within the applications that aim to achieve in-application purchases to produce necessary revenue.

Because these networks are motivated by profit, they aim to gain as much exposure as possible for their advertisements, leading to their neglect in filtering out the inappropriate content in children’s applications. As a solution, companies including UK’s SuperAwesome, are attempting to develop advertising networks made up of children-appropriate brands to be used in children’s applications, television programs and magazines.

While the motivation behind this act of exploiting children’s applications to garner attention and make a profit mimics that of all advertising initiatives, this abuse of resources has the potential to create a negative brand image for the company featured in the advertisement.

So instead of advertising nicotine to children, I think companies should put their time and effort into making use of data mining and consumer targeting to more appropriately reach their target audiences. While some people find the placement of this e-cigarette advertisement on the My Dog My Style HD application to be controversial, from an advertiser’s perspective, I find this to be a waste BAT’s time and money.


Reference list:

–       Dredge, S. (2013, October 28). British American Tobacco apologises for advertising e-cigarette in kids’ app. The Guardian. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from


–       Lawrence, N. (2013, October 25). Should advertising for e-cigarettes be more tightly regulated?. The Guardian. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from

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