Missing kids = money?

May 25, 2007 by Dave Haynes

Like most people, I tend to get a little squirrelly when I read about media networks that wrap an advertising or screen deployment around missing kids.

There was one a few months ago that was hooking into the Amber Alert system, seemingly as a “how could you refuse?” way to get ad screens installed in c-stores.

Now along comes the Child Watch Network.

Evans Systems, Inc. announces that it has signed a joint venture agreement with Child Watch of North America for a new program, the Child Watch Network (CWN). The companies will be working together to assist in the safe return of missing and exploited children through digital signage systems currently used in restaurants and sports venues.

The Child Watch Network (CWN) will be provided through “Point of Sale” systems in various commercial areas nationwide. Businesses interested in carrying the Child Watch Network include gas stations, restaurants, retail locations and more. Child Watch of North America has sponsors that provide funding and support on a national level, such as Shell Oil, Epson and Continental Airlines. Since 1993, Child Watch has worked with national sponsors like Texaco, Pizza Hut, AT&T, KB Toys, and Toys R Us to help in their many different endeavors. Between 2002 and 2003, Child Watch distributed over one million free Home ID Kits through Shell and Toys R Us locations alone.

The CWN will use a collection of advertising spaces to fund the program. For advertisers, CWN provides the ability to target markets that are difficult to reach for on-the-go consumers. CWN offers an interactive and captive experience since the consumers are viewing missing children for longer periods of time while viewing a wide variety of other different advertising. Unlike traditional advertising mediums, which can be costly and may never reach the target audience, CWN provides the opportunity to affordably advertise within the confines of neighborhood establishments where potential customers enjoy their leisure time. CWN enhances a businesses’ image and reaches hundreds of people who may help in search and rescue type scenarios. The network is expected to go live next month. 

The last paragraph is what gets me jumpy. Yes, any distribution of images and information for a missing kids program is, without argument, a good thing. But this is being positioned as an advertising play, and a little research on Evans reveals this is a company that was in the petroleum marketing business and doing very poorly, so much so it had ceased operations, according to recent SEC filings.

There are scores of networks out there with screens in the right sorts of locations that always have unsold ad slots, most of whom would happily run spots for non-profits like ChildWatch. Using a heart-tugging program to resuscitate a dying company through ad sales doesn’t feel right, and with no other business happening for these guys, what else could be going on here?

  1. Indeed; and nor does it seem to me that watching missing children is what people do while enjoying their leisure time. oh and – have these things ever helped – have any missing children been located because of a few hundred screens? Forgive me if I am skeptical.

  2. I think it is ok. Nothing is free and (as you all know) the work involved needs to be compensated for or at least the equiptment has to be bought.

    It seems like this could and maybe should be a grant thing for local goverment. I think it is a good idea.

    If my child was missing I would want to know it wasn’t just on a highway sign but in local neighborhoods where the possiblilty of being found is statistically greater. The truth is no one knows if a child has been located because of a screen being in a local bar or restaurant yet?


    All it could take is just one person glancing up at a screen recogonizing a childs face that could save a life. Just my 02 cents

  3. Michael says:

    ‘@DSforum: indeed, and there will be some subsidy money probably.

    But would it help? If there was a screen in every store, yes, maybe (and there would be false alarms too). But these networks will probably be smallish: maybe a few hundred screens. And how many children have actually been saved by means like pictures on trucks and milk cartons? I suggest that it is very few indeed. People who abduct children do not walk the streets with them. Even if they do, other people do not look at children on the off chance they see the child in the street later. Given all that, then the money is perhaps best spent on other ways to promote safety?

    Finally: leasure time? “Child Watch Network”? If this was an ancillary activity, fine – but a network just for this? Feasible?

    That’s just my 0.02 of course.

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