Warc, 3 June 2014
LOS ANGELES: The notion of what is acceptable when marketing to children is likely to be pushed to new limits by Amazon's latest venture which will see it stream a popular children's cartoon on the same page as associated merchandise.
The online retail giant has teamed up with Hit Entertainment, a division of toymaker Mattel, to create a content hub on Amazon.com selling episodes of Fireman Sam along with the opportunity to buy various related items – toys, games, lunchboxes etc – the New York Times reported.
"This allows us to test the boundaries of how a kids' franchise can be activated," said Sid Mathur, a Hit Entertainment vice president. "At the same time, it allows Amazon to transition from a place that simply fulfills consumer demand to one that also creates consumer demand."
Groups monitoring how businesses sell to children will be less than impressed by a statement from Peter Larsen, an Amazon vice president who said: "We're always looking for ways to make parents' lives easier".
Other company spokesmen were more reassuring, as they expected children would access cartoons through subscription services. "Kindle FreeTime doesn't allow kids to buy things and contains no ads," stated Nate Glissmeyer, Amazon's director of digital product management, Kids and Kindle Products.
Mattel decided against the traditional route of selling the show to a TV channel, building an audience there and then persuading retailers to stock themed merchandise. A quicker route, it felt, would be to tap into the increasing trend for children to consume cartoons via streaming services and on-demand apps.
"Netflix would have brought reach to a certain set of consumers," Mathur said, "but Amazon brought that and something else, namely a giant retail platform."
This development could mark the beginning of a lucrative new direction for Amazon, which could set up similar deals with a range of programming, from home decorating to cooking.
"These programs are product placement from beginning to end," according to James McQuivey, a Forrester Research analyst. "Amazon is perhaps the only video distributor in the world that can let people immediately act on those impulses."
Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff