Clickbait for Kids?

Image from Noxcrew. Ponies you can buy with Minecoins for the game.
Click Bait for Kids? image credit:

Dear Ms. Smartphone: We have been eating a lot of Cheez-Its in our household because my nine -year- old wants to participate in an offer on the back of the box. It requires that we upload a picture of our purchase receipts or a QR code.  For each box we buy, they send him a code for 350 minecoins. I like Cheez-Its but is this clickbait for kids?  Jackie

Dear Jackie: I begin with a two part disclosure:  I am well acquainted with devouring Cheez-Its but less familiar consuming Minecraft. The key question is whether redeeming this code will leave a digital trace and encourage your tween to play the game more. As you said, is this clickbait for kids- in that case it would be like the orange powder on your fingertips after you eat the Cheez-It crackers (or similar Kellogg’s brand promotions).

My Royal Ace:

Uncannily, the offer on the back of the box resembles a promotion that landed in my email box this week. The email (presumably spam) was sent by a casino called “The Royal Ace.” To begin, I only needed to press an oversized green button in the email. It was aptly labeled “Get Started Now.”  The promotion touted a $24.00 “free” chip for new users like me and then a $4,000 bonus by entering the code “Casino400.” As I scrolled down this compelling screen, the casino reminded me to open a new account and join up for free. Then I could deposit the coupon codes and bonus, ready to play to win big. The casino added cartoon images from some of their 250 top-rated games. They had names like Dr. Winmore, and Glitz and Glamour.

The promotion on the Cheez-Its box looks similar to the appeal from The Royal Ace. It even uses some of the same colors and text font! Mind you, these are bite sized ones for kids. They offer free minecoins to get started. But the minecoins can only be redeemed by depositing them into an online account set up with Microsoft. Again, ostensibly free to setup. There is an add-on, designed to appeal to socially conscious, civically minded teens. The add-on encourages Minecraft users to build a virtual children’s playground and submit the design to a competition. A jury will select a winning playground, a “Build for Better” and then use the Minecraft blueprint to build a real, physical playground for needy children.

The Fine Print:

As you would expect, there is more to read in the fine print. The entry says that you have to be ten years or older to qualify for the Minecraft giveaway. Perhaps your son’s  birthday is soon, or you will choose to set up the account, and validate it with a credit card, since the Minecraft site requires users to be age thirteen plus. In principal, the FTC’s COPPA legistlation will protect your son’s privacy but it only applies to children up to age thirteen! Further on, the fine print indicates that you need to be sixteen years old to enter the “Build for Better” competition.  

But the cheesiest part of this promotion (pun intended) is the value you are getting from the promotion. Minecoins, like bitcoin, are an off-market currency.  The value fluctuates but 350 minecoins are currently worth around $3.00 in U.S. currency.  So, when you submit the online forms, make sure it’s worth $3.00 of your time,  even though you save the $0.63  postage stamp. Keep in mind, you will be populating a marketing database with valuable,transactional facts  on you and your nine- year old.  Hopefully COPPA will protect him. 

Walled Gardens:

Cereal boxes and snack foods have offered promotional tie-ins for a long time. They have ranged from freebies packed inside the product box,  give-aways sent through the mail, and today, direct registration over the Internet. What makes this Cheez-It (Kellogg’s) one more contemporary, but also more dangerous, is that it leads your child into a walled garden. The promotion is only of value if he signs up for the game. Then, once he starts playing, he can pester you for your credit card so that he can buy more minecoins or premium levels of play. Keep in mind that both a gambling casino  like The Royal Ace and video games can become addictive. Players get hooked on the intermittent rewards and the accompanying dopamine release. You can read more about that here.  

But, that’s the bit dark side and and probably not what the snack food company intended when they offered  this ”easy and fun” promotion. On the brighter side, perhaps you and your son will invest some quality time together exploring Minecraft together and discussing  the better playground. Still, before you get started read the fine print and do watch for that orange trace!