National Geographic Kids magazine has a mission – to prep a child to spend, spend, spend

H.o.p. was reading his “National Geographic Kids” magazine the other night and yesterday got up and asked me about a cute rabbit he’d seen in it, which he believed was like the Microsoft Agent, Peedy the Parrot, only this creature would text-to-speech “email and blogs!!” which he thought was great. “Can I get it?” H.o.p. asked, thinking this was downloadable text-to-speech software and would place a funky bunny on his desktop. So, I looked at the article and saw how he would easily have misinterpreted it as being just text-to-speech software, when instead it is Nabaztag, a wi-fi toy, which will read web text and emails and tell you the weather and play music and do other stuff, what stuff dependent on whether you’ve forked over for the $99 or the $199 model.

What was interesting to me was this little bunny was offered up in the National Geographic Kids June/July issue on the Cool Inventions page.

It’s a handful of ten year olds that aren’t going to go running to their parents, pleading, “I want this cute bunny, please, please! I NEED that cute bunny!”

Across was a full page ad for the movie “Tak”.

There are lots of full page ads and I give a rundown below.

Page 1, cover.
Page 2, full page ad for Yogos Sour Bits candy.
Page 3, table of contents.
Page 4, Guiness World Records, a few facts.
Page 5, Wii Boom Blox video game full page ad.
Page 6, Cool Inventions page with a paragraph on the Nabaztag Digital bunny (which in effect is an ad). Also a Centerfold folding electric guitar and a Die Moto green motorcycle.
Page 7, full page ad for the movie Tak.
Page 8, Sports Funnies shorts.
Page 9, full page ad for virtual sports cards.
Page 10, Weird but True shorts (statements).
Page 11, full page Pop Tarts ad.
Page 12, The Green List, 6 tips on being green.
Page 13, full page ad for
Page 14-15 Amazing Animals article, with an ad insert at this point for a subscription to National Geographic Kids.
Page 16-17 Naughty Pets shorts.
Page 17, 1/3 page ad for “The Edge Chronicles” books and online game.
Page 18, Wildlife Watch.
Page 19, full page ad for “Space Champs” movie.
Page 20, Bet You Didn’t Know (7 statements)
Page 21, full page ad for Pokeman trading card game.
Page 22, Video Game Central, a National Geographic article (description and playing tips) on the PC game, “Nancy Drew, Legend of the Crystal Skull,” and the two Nintendo DS games, “Professor Layton and the Curious Village” and “Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Warrior”. So, essentially it’s an ad for those three games.
Page 23, full page ad for Wii’s Emergency Heroes game.
Page 24 Happiness article, 10 tips for being happy.
2 page (4 sides) insert ad at this point for Wildlife Explorer game cards.
Page 25, the happiness article continues.
Pages 26-27, Jack Black article.
Pages 28-29, article on “Kung Fu Panda”, a new movie in which Jack Black stars.
Pages 30-31, Bamboozled, some facts about pandas.
Pages 32-33, Amazing Pet Rescue, short article.
Page 34-35, Secrets of Stonehenge article.
Subscription card insert here for National Geographic Kids.
Pages 36-37, article on the new movie “Wall-e”.
Page 39, Fun Stuff, a game.
Page 40, several cartoons and a 1/3 page ad for “Gregor” books.
Pages 40-41, Car Trip Fun ideas.
Page 42, What in the World, game.
Page 43, 1/3 page ad for Yogos fruit snacks and the movie “Tak”.
Page 44, Art Zone.
Page 45, Art Zone continued and a 1/3 page ad for the book “Savvy”.
Page 46, Funny Fill-In on Safari game.
Page 47, full page Legoland ad (chance to win trip).
Page 48, back cover, full page ad for the Disney movie “Camp Rock”.

About 25 percent of the magazine, which costs $19.99 for 10 issues ($15 for 10 if ordered online from National Geographic), is devoted to advertizing, and that’s not counting the inserts.

I explained to H.o.p. that the bunny was a fairly expensive product, and though he’s a fan of novelty he felt he’d been duped, especially when I told him the price tag, and said no he didn’t want it.

As I looked through the magazine, I realized the lay-out and font styles and sizes and coloring/graphic choices for the “articles” and ads render them in many respects, at least emotionally, siblings. There aren’t clear boundaries that a child may use to distinguish between what is ad and what is content, so the ads come close to seeming to be content, and content is fuzzily warm-warmer-hot close to being promo.

Still, when I then sat H.o.p. down and asked him to go through and point out all the ads to me, he did so easily. However, he also selected as being ads, the Jack Black article on pages 36-37, the following two page article on the “Kung Fu Panda” movie in which Jack Black stars, and the two page article on the movie “Wall-e”!

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

3 thoughts on “National Geographic Kids magazine has a mission – to prep a child to spend, spend, spend”

  1. Sounds like you’ve got a smart kid there. I’m not a parent yet but I imagine that ad-recognition is a useful exercise for… well, people of all ages, actually.

  2. Hi, Michelle.

    I’m not a parent yet but I imagine that ad-recognition is a useful exercise for… well, people of all ages, actually.

    Yes, including the folks at National Geographic Kids. When a child identifies their “articles” as ads, then they’ve got a problem.

    It occurred to me to check at Amazon to see what the customer reviews were. Out of 85, 39 give a 1 star and 13 give a 2 star, because of the overloading with advertisements and much of the content being product promo.

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