This Friday evening my kids plan to scare the hell out of the
Equipped with spooky, life-like rubber masks - guaranteed to frighten
and successfully tested on their mother - they will perform ghostly
doorstep manoeuvres in an attempt to persuade the occupants to hand over
cakes and sweets.
This ritual is based on a traditional US adaptation of a pagan custom
that involved inviting the dead to celebrate the first full moon after
the autumn equinox.
A little less traditional is a visit to the Harris mountaintop Halloween
It’s scary to find that, in the virtual Halloween world, you can enter
Halloween competitions sponsored by advertisers, buy related products,
order appropriate music (such as the Monster Mash), click on banners and
play games online.
With recent data informing us that 960,000 families in this country use
the Internet, the real nightmare is that children are using it because
of the increasing desirability of interactive electronic game-playing,
which is replacing more traditional forms of entertainment including TV.
In turn, this is causing advertisers and their agencies to splatter
disparate and diverse forms of communication all over the Web.
At the moment, this is all peripheral stuff. Perhaps it doesn’t matter
that little thought seems to be given to the role of advertising on this
medium, and that creative standards fail to match up to the efforts made
in mainstream media.
After all, a penetration level of only 4 per cent hardly warrants much
attention, especially when practically every kid has access to
Perhaps we should examine the issue from a different angle. If we
consider that more than 10 per cent of the average seven- to 12-year-old
child’s day is spent playing computer or video games (equating to more
than 30 per cent of the total time spent with the TV or computer), then
we have a different picture.
Add to this the vision of Entertainment Online (E-On, a Web-based online
games service), which is close to completing the acquisition of the Sega
Channel, and we should rethink.
E-On is quite clear. The Sega deal is evidence of the vision. The
majority of homes do not have computers and the bandwidth limitations of
conventional Internet modem links restrict the type of games that can be
played online. Therefore, driving penetration via broadband cable TV is
a wholly logical and effective route to accelerate growth.
It’s worth adding that next year digital TV will offer 200 channels.
But it is unlikely there is enough content to fill 100 of them.
Entertainment of this nature should be one of the key drivers for
interactive services in the home.
We should be developing a better understanding of the emerging
relationships between the users and new electronic ’screen media’ now,
particularly in the light of the arrival of digital TV and the growth of
Despite low penetration figures for digital in the early years, we
should not underestimate the ’kids factor’. We can learn much from their
current use of interactive media - the way they relate to electronic
games and the way they influence take-up of services.
We need to understand more than just numbers of viewers. The existing
audience measurement systems are woefully inadequate. If we want to
advertise brands successfully in the digital TV age, we must build a new
And from this knowledge will come strategies that are focused on
involvement, leading to creative excellence, new brand-building
techniques and better product communication.
Paul Longhurst is the executive media director of Ammirati Puris Lintas.