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?