Manipulative or Not?
As head of the marketing department for Butter Crisp Snack Foods, 55-year-old Frank Bellows has been forced to learn a lot about the Internet in recent years. Although he initially resisted the new technology, Frank has gradually come to appreciate the potential of the Internet for serving existing customers and reaching potential new ones. In fact, he has been one of the biggest supporters of the company’s increasing use of the Internet to stay in touch with customers. However, something about this new plan just doesn’t feel right. At this morning’s meeting, Keith Deakins, Butter Crisp’s CEO, announced that the company would soon be launching a Web site geared specifically to children. Although Deakins has the authority to approve the site on his own, he has asked all department heads to review the site and give their approval for its launch. He then turned the meeting over to the IT team that developed the new site, which will offer games and interactive educational activities. The team pointed out that although it will be clear that Butter Crisp is the sponsor of the site, the site will not include advertising of Butter Crisp products. So far, so good, Frank thinks. However, he knows that two of the young hot-shot employees in his department have been helping to develop the site and that they provided a list of questions that children will be asked to answer online. Just to enter the Web site, for example, a user must provide name, address, gender, e-mail address, and favorite TV show. In return, users receive “Crisp Cash,” a form of virtual money that they can turn in for toys, games, Butter Crisp samples, and other prizes. After they enter the site, children can earn more Crisp Cash by providing other information about themselves and their families. Frank watched the demonstration and agreed that the Web site does indeed have solid educational content. However, he is concerned about the tactics for gathering information from children when that information will almost certainly be used for marketing purposes. So far, it seems that the other department heads are solidly in favor of launching the Web site. Frank is wondering whether he can sign his approval with a clear conscience. He also knows that several groups, including the national PTA and the Center for Media Education, are calling for stricter governmental controls regarding collecting information from children via the Internet.
What Would You Do? 1. Stop worrying about it. There’s nothing illegal about what Butter Crisp is proposing to do, and the company will closely guard any personal information gathered. Children can’t be harmed in any way by using the new Web site. 2. Begin talking with other managers and try to build a coalition in support of some stricter controls, such as requiring parental permission to enter areas of the site that offer Crisp Cash in exchange for personal information. 3. Contact the Center for Media Education and tell them you suspect Butter Crisp intends to use the Web site to conduct marketing research. The Center might be able to apply pressure that would make it uncomfortable enough for Deakins to pull the plug on the new kids’ Web site. SOURCE: Based on Denise Gellene, “Internet Marketing to Kids Is Seen as a Web of Deceit,” Los Angeles Times (March 29, 1996): pp. A1, A20.
Case for Critical Analysis
Pinnacle Machine Tool Co. Don Anglos had to decide whether to trust his gut or his head, and he had to make that decision by next week’s board meeting. Either way, he knew he was bound to make at least a member or two of his senior management team unhappy. The question at hand was whether Pinnacle Co., the small, publicly held Indiana-based machine tool company he led as CEO, should attempt to acquire Hoilman Inc. Hoilman was a company known for the cutting-edge sensor technology and communications software it had developed to monitor robotics equipment....