Advocates Slam Webkinz for Online Ads

NEW YORK The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is demanding social networking site for kids Webkinz stop putting ads on its site.

Webkinz.com has promoted itself as being ad-free. But a complaint by a parent earlier this week alerted the CCFC that an ad for the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie has appeared on the site.

On hearing the news, Susan Linn, CCFC’s director and a psychologist at Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, launched a letter-writing campaign urging parent company Ganz to pull the ad.

“Webkinz is one of the most popular social networking sites for children; one of the reasons it appeals to parents is because it has a reputation for being ad-free,” Linn said “And it was. They weren’t taking outside ads, and now they are.”

She added, “One of things that’s so unfair is that once a child gets hooked on the site and goes to it regularly, it’s harder [for a parent] to say ‘No’ to it. Parent company Ganz set up a premise and now it’s no longer true.”

For its part, Ganz, Toronto, which launched Webkinz in 2005, defends the use of a limited numbers of ads on the Webkinz site.

According to Ganz corporate communications manager Susan McVeigh, who responded via e-mail, “We consider opportunities on a case by case basis,” she said. “We have only introduced two third-party advertisers on the site, first the Bee Movie, now Alvin and the Chipmunks. We take a very cautious and considered approach to third-party advertising on our site. We don’t allow links that take children outside of the site.”