Games for Change interviews the team behind Admongo

Admongo

Technology is becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous every day. This trend allows young people to have more access to it but it also allows advertising agencies to have more access to them. Advertisers know that children from 8 – 12 years old largely influence the purchasing decision of their entire family and that makes them a lucrative target. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sees that as a concern, especially if there is not enough awareness all around. Recently, the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC partnered with the multimedia firm, Fleishman-Hillard, to create Admongo – an interactive learning campaign with a video game as its center piece.

I spoke with team members from both the FTC and Fleishman-Hillard about the importance of advertising education and the lessons they learned from making and publishing Admongo.The FTC acts as the ‘Consumer Watch Dog’ for the United States. One of their main goals is to protect consumers from frauds or false information they might see in advertising. The Bureau of Consumer Protection is one of the FTC’s many branches and they create projects like Admongo so consumers can better understand advertising. Their efforts also serve to keep companies “in line” and promote corporate responsibility.

Fleishman-Hillard may be best known for their White House sponsored campaign ‘Above the Influence’ and their government backed initiative ‘That Guy’. They were excited to create Admongo because the team agrees with the FTC that increased advertising literacy will lead to a smarter generation of consumers. Admongo’s educational campaign is targeted at the 8 -12 year old ‘tweener’ demographic and the website is packed with tools that allow educators to integrate the campaign in the classroom.

The FTC has done a project like this before called ‘You Are Here’ that acts as a brief introduction to the FTC and consumer education. But to take the concept further, the FTC knew they needed a diverse team. Fleishman-Hillard utilized their creative web development team, content creation team and strong marketing skills. They even brought in the educational publisher Scholastic to the table, to assist in curriculum creation and community outreach.

Just to clarify, the FTC doesn’t have a negative stance on advertising. They believe it helps promote a healthy economy, but in terms of consumer protection, being smart about ads and how the public responds to them would help create generations of consumers who spend wisely. And that would create a better, more competitive marketplace and a more focused consumer overall.

But is this glossy looking game about the even glossier world of advertising making any change? The response from the creators is yes. The FTC took Admongo around to various teachers’ conferences, with the help of Scholastic, to see what educators think and the response far exceeded their initial hopes. They saw educators from the 1st to 12th grade adopt Admongo into their lesson plans. The team at Fleishman-Hillard told me that the average time spent on their website is 18 minutes, which is about 3 – 5 times more than the statistical average. Also, the FTC’s Bureau of Economy is constantly testing and gathering data on Admongo’s effectiveness to create further improvements to the game’s engagement and content retention.

The creation of Admongo was an iterative process. Some of the major changes to the game came from numerous play sessions with children who offered ideas frequently. In fact, the team at Fleishman-Hillard wasn’t even sure about the name ‘Admongo’ until they unveiled it to a few student test groups who literally cheered and applauded the name. For them, the children were the true experts.

The premise of this project is that in today’s world, advertising literacy is just as important as other classroom subjects. ‘Tweeners’ are the future consumers of the world who will affect the economy of tomorrow. And as they grow, more organizations will follow the FTC and leverage the vocabulary that children love and understand: video games.

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