Should Companies Advertise To Kids At The Library?

Who doesn’t like stuffed animals? Free stuffed animals, even! E. isn’t happy, though. At storytime at her local public library, people representing Wells Fargo brought stuffed ponies with the Wells Fargo logo to distribute to the children, and donated a large pony to decorate the children’s section.

At storytime last week, Wells Fargo representatives showed up to give all the children stuffed horses wearing their logo blankets. Additionally, they donated a giant horse wearing the blanket which now sits atop a bookshelf right in the middle of the children’s section. I absolutely do not think this is at all appropriate.


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  1. SpamFighterLoy says:

    Donate to a library, sure. Donate to the children’s section with brand positioning, no way. Children do not yet know how to separate logos from toys. This is manipulative and *totally* inappropriate. The head librarian deserves to be called to the carpet to answer for this.

    • FatLynn says:

      The money has to come from somewhere. Would you rather they laid people off? Shortened library hours? Stopped acquiring new books?

      • mehitabel says:

        There’s a point where a library stops becoming a library – a place where kids come to grow and learn – and when it starts colluding with mega corporations to brainwash those same kids into becoming corporate vassals it’s coming close to that point.

        Yes, the money has to come from somewhere, but it would be better to cut services than to so pollute / dilute the fundamental mission of the library.

        • conquestofbread says:

          Do you really think this dilutes the fundamental mission of the library that much?

          The library is full of books, and if the kids are reading, then they might just learn the tools to think for themselves and not become corporate drones.

          I don’t like the idea of branding in libraries, but if it’s a matter of having a few items inside with ads, especially if the ad is not prominent (which it doesn’t seem to be with the horses), I don’t see the big deal. I got a free bookmark at my library that’s an ad for the power company. It also has messages encouraging kids to read.

          If they want to put large ads anywhere, or even a ton of small ads, I am against it.

          But really, I don’t think this is something to get alarmed about. I doubt most of the kids will notice the branding, and even if they do, they probably don’t know what Wells Fargo is.

          • Talmonis says:

            See, there’s this book in the children’s section called “If you give a mouse a cookie”. I think it counters your arguement that the corps will keep it simple and “not prominent” quite nicely.
            For instance, it’s highly likely that they’ll go the Wal-Mart route if they think they can get away with it. By which I mean they’ll start to become a major factor in the library’s budget, and slowly but surely start to ratchet up their demands.
            “There’s this book we don’t like that criticizes our company, and we’d really like it if you didn’t stock it.” “Oh, you want to stock it anyway? Oh…well, I guess we’ll have to pull funding.” But sure, just one book. What harm could it have?
            Next it’s “Oh, theres all these concepts and authors we don’t like.” Like Adam Smith. Maybe Marx. Maybe if they’re a “christian” organization, they don’t want Darwin, or Dawkins, or Sagan, etc. What if they’re Rand-cultists? No Bibles, no Qurans, No other religious or spiritual texts; the masses must be raised with no hope but the aquisition of wealth. Anything the organization wants. If not? They’ll close the library down, as they won’t be able to function without the (by that point) sizable donation.
            The corps WILL go that route with anything they can get their grubby paws on if they think it will increase their market share by enforcing early pro-corp propaganda to children, or even adults.

            • Cerne says:

              That’s a lovely little paranoid rant you have there. Only problem is that you have no facts to back it up and no idea how corporate donations actually work. Tons of worthy causes are supported by corporate donations without compromising their principles. Corporations aren’t evil.

      • fredbiscotti says:

        The money has to come from somewhere. Would you rather they laid people off? Shortened library hours? Stopped acquiring new books?

        I would prefer they pay for these things with my tax dollars.

        • NotSara says:

          That is preferred to me as well, but I don’t see any increasing library budgets in the current economic climate. Do you?

          • fredbiscotti says:

            I guess I don’t understand why we can’t simply decide that we want our tax dollars to go to things like, say, funding libraries and education, over things such as, say, tax breaks for millionaire and corporations.

            Do we no longer live in a democracy where government happens with the consent of the governed?

          • George4478 says:

            My county did just that. Our library system hours had been reduced to 5 full days/week (4 full days and 2 half-days) in 2009.

            Then we got the ‘we hate to do it, but we have to raise your property taxes for critical country infrastructure’ speech last year. Now we’re back to 7 open days/week as part of the tax hike.

            Who knew having the library open on Wednesday mornings was a critical part of county government?

      • nybiker says:

        Here in NYC that’s what they have done. The Queens Public Library has stopped buying new books. And IIRC, there were layoffs last year. They do have a program for donating so you can write ‘in memory of’ or ‘donated by’ inside the book. And by ‘write’ I mean there’s a sticker.

        So, +1 to SpamFighterLoy.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Lots of books in the library are donated (often in memory/honor of someone), probably many by businesses. I’ve got no problem with a book that says in the front “donated by Wells Fargo”.

  2. bonzombiekitty says:

    meh. Company does something nice for kids and gets some good credit from the community. This isn’t exactly anything new. Might be a little inappropriate if it was a company promoting something that isn’t good for kids, like “Bag O’ Glass”, but it’s a bank.

  3. pop top says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with businesses donating items to a library, as long as there’s no branding on it.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      …give all the children stuffed horses wearing their logo blankets

      Sounds like they do have their branding on them.

      • pop top says:

        I’m talking in general. I was going to add that this specific instance was inappropriate, but I f’ed up and hit submit before I was done. Thanks for pointing out my error Mr. Fix-It. x(

        • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

          Pointing out other people’s shortcomings is how I feel better about myself! :D

  4. rpm773 says:

    To be fair, I suspect Wells Fargo wasn’t advertising to the kids. Did E. suddenly have the hankering to go to her nearest branch and open a new 5-year CD?

    But I think it’s a little inappropriate. I’d like to not have my child start associating the library with being showered with free shit every time we go. At the very least, perhaps a “It’s Wells Fargo Free Teddy Bear Day!” sign on the door might be in order, to alert sensitive parents to what’s about to go down.

    • Kredal says:

      I get free books every time I go to the library. I have since I was a kid. I guess I have gotten used to it!

    • HomerSimpson says:

      No I think the idea was for mommy or daddy to run down to the branch

      • mehitabel says:

        plus that the kiddies would grow up with warm and fuzzies about Wells Fargo and later run to the branch themselves.

        The amount of naivete on this so-called savvy consumer site regarding advertising is pretty amazing. There’s a reason all kind of megacorps advertise on Nickelodeon, for instance. It’s to brainwash the next generation of consumers.

        and let’s not forget that we all subsidize these “generous community donations” via their tax writeoffs and our compensatory tax dollars

  5. Marlin says:

    I don’t mind the giving the toys to the kids. But unless they paid the library I don’t think their logo should be in the library.

    One is on the line and a parent can be a parent and say yes or no.
    The other i think crossed the line and should not be in the Library.

  6. Rachacha says:

    I think it depends on what Wells Fargo did to get the library to approve this donation. Did WF just donate the stuffed animals, probably not, but if they donated a bunch of money to the library to purchase new books or hire additional staff or run promotions to encourage kids to read, then I have no problems with the company getting some free publicity in exchange for their donation.

    • missy070203 says:

      when I worked for a Western Pennsylvania bank we would volunteer our time at the local library and at the childrens center reading for story times and talking to kids about saving money… we made it fun and had coloring contests and gave away little stuffed animals etc. and the bank made quarterly donations a few hundred dollars to them…. we saw it as community service and community involvement – not marketing- we didn’t get any additional accounts or customers but the bank did give us credit for community service hours and we got out of the office for a few hours here and there…. I enjoyed doing it….. Also BTW the horse in the picture above looks nothing like “snowflake” the horse Wells Fargo is using this year….they pick a different horse from the original buggy every year for their stuffed animals and the tags on the ears tells the story of each horse…. it’s more focused on the history of Wells staring out as a coach and courrier not a bank

  7. Brontide says:

    There are a few things here that stink. First off the donations were at school, but they were not educational in any way. Secondly the donation of, essentially, a billboard should be taken down. If they want to pay for advertising or product placement then fine, but otherwise it stinks.

  8. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    No. It’s taxpayer supported property. Why should corporate America get to advertise for free on public property? That is not only sleezy, but should be illegal. It’s one thing to donate, but when it has your logo on it, it’s just not right. The city shouldn’t be allowing it either.

  9. Vox Republica says:

    First thought: “That is completely disgraceful.”

    Second thought: “But wait, wouldn’t an unadorned Mickey Mouse doll be just as brand-conscious as a pony with Wells Fargo on its saddle pad? Aren’t most toys pushing a brand?”

    Third thought: “I miss playing with toys and not caring about the larger societal ramifications.”

    Fourth thought: “I really want that pony.”

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      I love how you broke it down like some kind of self-help pamphlet: The Stages of Brand Acceptance:

      Anger – “How dare they do that thing they did!”

      Bargaining – “Isn’t what X is doing just as bad as what Y is doing?”

      Sadness/Nostalgia – “I miss not giving a shit.”

      Acceptance – “Enh, fuck it.”

  10. caradrake says:

    It says the advertising is on the blanket. Is the blanket removable? If so, remove the advertising and enjoy your brand new horse! That applies to both the smaller ones the kids got as well as the larger one in the library.

    Kids are rough with their toys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the blanket is fairly easy to lose/dirty in playtime.

  11. kranky says:

    Did a WF rep tell the kids to go home and pester Mommy and Daddy to switch their banking to WF? Did WF only give toys to kids who could prove their family is a WF customer? If WF had donated $100,000 to add a wing on the library, would it only be wrong to have a plaque that recognized them for the donation? Oh my, what if kids saw that!

    If WF had bought books, some people would be against it saying that all books push a particular point of view and therefore is equally inappropriate. I’m no fan of WF but I see nothing wrong with giving toys with a logo.

    I’d be more inclined to agree with the viewpoint of those saying it’s wrong if I knew none of them allowed their kids to watch any commercials on TV. Otherwise it’s a pretty hypocritical stand.

    • SpamFighterLoy says:

      I *didn’t* allow my children to watch advertising on TV until they were school aged, around 5. At which time we began considerable ongoing discussion about brand marketing and how advertisers how to associate a positive experience (like the library) with their brand. But I’ll admit that very few parents actually parent these days. And we continue to wonder about the decline of common sense and the increase in mindless consumerism.

  12. reimero says:

    There is far too little information here to make an informed decision as to whether it was appropriate. Should a company just be able to march in and advertise in a public library? Probably not. Was Wells-Fargo sponsoring the story time? Then things become less cut-and-dry. Right now, libraries (especially public libraries) are facing severe budget crunches, so corporate sponsorship and assistance tends to be welcome. Additionally, it’s easier to argue in favor of more money if you can show a higher level of library use, and more attendance at story time is quantifiable evidence of increased library use.

    I’m guessing there was a sponsorship, underwriting or endowment of some sort going on. It wouldn’t surprise me if W-F donated a few thousand dollars to the library (maybe the children’s area specifically) and in return was allowed to do some marketing.

  13. Bladerunner says:

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with free items donated by a company having that company’s logo on them, and I don’t understand why anyone would. Can any of you who are against it give me a reason?

  14. The Brad says:

    This promotion is keeping the library afloat. If you don’t like it then you should consider donating to your library and they won’t need to have corporate promotions like this.

  15. thomwithanh says:

    Libraries should be an advertising free zone, period. Donations should be neutral

    • HannahK says:

      The only place I think truly needs to be an advertising free zone (for children) is public schools. Since school is required, it’s keeping kids a captive audience. I think parents have the ability to keep their kids away from it any ads they find inappropriate pretty much anywhere else.

  16. SwaggeringCuban says:

    eh, everything is advertising something these days. This really isn’t that bad.

    • SwaggeringCuban says:

      One of my treasures as a baby was a teddy bear wearing a AAA (auto insurance) shirt. Maybe it was stupid but I didn’t care about what the shirt said.
      A horse has nothing to do with a bank, and a bank isn’t that bad. It’s not like it’s advertising something controversial.

  17. CubeRat says:

    Poo. I can’t get one of those ponies unless I open another account. WF has a different one every year and they are all very cute.

    So the pony has a kerchef in WF red and with the WF logo. Grow up, every book in the library has at least one company name (the publisher). They’re not saying, “kids, bug your parents to open an account” at most they’re saying “kids, bug your parents to bring you to the library”.

  18. dpeters11 says:

    Storytime brought to you by the letters W and F, and by the symbols $.

  19. conquestofbread says:

    I hate advertisements, but they have become a part of life in modern society.

    I usually don’t like advertising to children, but I think this is subtle enough that it’s OK. If it’s just a little blanket on the pony, I doubt most kids will even know it’s a company logo, or think it’s the company logo of the maker of the toy or name of the horse.

    My dad always brought home little toys and trinkets with company logos on them from trade shows when I was a kid. The logos didn’t have me begging my parents to buy Dinty Moore beef stew because I played with a frisbee.

  20. misterfweem says:

    You know what? There’s plenty of advertising out there, even in our schools. The dairy lobby pretty much rules our kids’ cafeterias. We take our kids to our annual credit union picnic, my company’s annual summer picnic, and they get free stuff emblazoned with logos all the time. Funny thing is, our kids don’t come home and lobby for more dairy products, beg to open accounts at the credit union or suddenly express ludicrous amounts of loyalty for a certain nationwide engineering and contracting firm. They’re just thrilled with the swag. We’ve done much more to inoculate our children against advertising by not having television in the house than if we went around shielding them from any advertising they might see in a public place, taxpayer-supported or not.

  21. Robin says:

    I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to start talking to your kids about advertising no matter what their age. You can’t shield your children from giveaways but you can get them to ask important questions about why companies give things away and other ways companies try to manipulate people. Talking to your child about how and why advertisements work can help them understand a lot that is confusing about their world, and why their parents aren’t as thrilled about the free new pony as they are.

  22. anime_runs_my_life says:

    Big whoop. The largest bank in my area is also donates a huge sum of money to the county library every year. Without that donation, no new books would be purchased, nor would they have funding for other items that are needed to be purchased, like computers for public use or to pay for the internet service, or to pay for the service and supplies on those copiers.

    Does that mean I want to bank there? No, because I had account there and it was a massive clustermess to get anything done. I closed the account just a few months after opening it because they screwed up my accounts so badly (apparently asking to have your middle initial removed from your account leads to a massive near FBI inquisition). It took me 4 hours just to close my account because they refused to believe I would even want to leave their wonderful bank.

    Okay..ranting aside, I don’t care that the bank donates money to the county library. They can use the funds to purchase books and other much needed equipment. Would E have such an issue if it were another local company? I’m sure she probably would. That being the case, if she really has an issue, perhaps she needs to either take it up with whoever runs the library or the bank itself to voice her concerns.

  23. JHDarkLeg says:

    Aren’t book fairs advertising and held often at libraries?

  24. Costner says:

    Wow people reall overreact to this type of thing. It isn’t like they only gave our toys to those kids who were thinking about how to finance their college edcation. They gave away FREE stuffed animals to little kids, and E needs to get a frickin’ life.

    Not everything is done with ulterior motives. If you know anything about those stuffed horses you would know they are more about history (each horse is designed after an original horse that pulled a Wells Fargo stagecoach) and they are less about banking. Did the people hand out fliers telling people what branch to go to in order to open an account? Did they check wallets to be sure none of the parents had Bank of America ATM cards? Did they give a lesson to kids about how to fill out a loan application? Did they require the library to switch their accounts over to Wells Fargo or to allow them to install an ATM in the lobby?

    No… it was just a simple gift. The logo on those horses is no bigger than the logo on the pair of Nike shoes or the front of a Polo sweatshirt and we are exposed to those brands DAILY. If you take an honest look at the world around you, you will soon realize we are exposed to thousands of brands each and every day including the nameplate on the bus these very same kids ride to and from school, the brand name on the water fountain, the logo on the urinal they use in the restroom, the brand of computer they use to look up por…. I mean Dora the Explorer websites, the movie studio that produces the films they can check out, the publisher who printed the books, the advertisements in the magazines and newspapers.

    Give me a break! That horse is probably one out of half a million ads found in that library and unless you pointed it out most people would just see a stuffed horse. Alert the media – there is a stuffed horse in the kids section of the local library that says “Wells Fargo” on it and I’m pretty sure there is a little tag that also lists the company who made the horse… surely we can’t allow this to stand!

    Get over yourselves.


  25. Talmonis says:

    I don’t want them donating ANYTHING to the public Library system. I want it to come solely from my taxes and from private donations. Any amount of corporate/organization “donation” can quickly become reliance on said corporation/organization (particularly as the city/state/county will then see it as it’s normal income and cut THEIR funding), and then subversion to their will. I want my library to remain free of corporate, religious and other negative influence.

  26. jojo319 says:

    I have zero problem with this. If my 5 year old wants an account at Wells Fargo, then so be it. I mean seriously, what is going to happen in this case? Is my daughter going to come home and beg me for a WF account? I don’t care if people advertise on a school bus. It means more PRIVATE dollars and less taxpayer money. As a parent I have no problem telling my kids “no”. even if she wants McDonalds soooooooooo bad. I am my kids’ parent, not anybody else. If I don’t like the advertising, I will take them somewhere else or buy used books. Give me a break.

  27. inadequatewife says:

    I am a small town library director in NY State.

    We rely almost exclusively on taxpayer based funding. Our library specifically receives funding mostly from the town’s property taxes, a little bit from the county, and a little bit from the state.

    Our total annual budget is less than $45,000 and covers absolutely everything including the salary of two part-timers (myself and one other person) for a total of 35 hours per week. Our funding also must cover heat, electric, telephone, internet, water, sewer, snow removal, lawn care, cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies, maintenance on our elevator (so we are ADA compliant in our 100-year old heritage building), fire extinguisher maintenance (so we are compliant with local codes), etc..

    We also have to pay for these things called BOOKS, plus magazine subscriptions, DVDs and all of the “stuff” required to process those items. Simple things like book covers to protect them, spine labels to help identify where they belong, plus the cataloging system maintenance which lets you surf the internet from home and find out what we have, plus do things like inter-library loan to help you borrow what you want because we cannot have everything in our own library.

    Providing things to patrons for FREE isn’t cheap – we take what we can get. You think those nice computers that provide you with free internet are cheap? No, but it’s very likely those DELL computers and those HP or Brother printers came from the Gates (ie, Microsoft) Foundation, and that, somewhere in the library, there’s a certificate on the wall indicating that fact.

    I am, in fact, not in favor of the blatant advertising, and do prefer a more subtle approach. But we do partner with other organizations to assist with our Summer Reading program, and to help with Story Time, and to donate incentives and prizes for reading. It’s only fair that those community organizations be recognized, and that means we must recognize corporations too.

    If the local mom and pop bicycle shop donates a bike for our summer reading program, they deserve credit, in the hope that local consumers will shop there rather than Wal-Mart. But if Wal-Mart donated the bike, they deserve credit too.

    We have all types of materials in the library that can be linked to commercial entities – everything from magazines from Martha Stewart to Rachael Ray which promote their television shows, bed linens and cookware.

    Harry Potter and Twilight are marketed to our youth, along with plenty of other “stuff” that perhaps started elsewhere (televisions shows with companion books/dvds), even toys like Legos that have books and movies that I know sure didn’t exist when I was a kid.

    Commercialism is around us everywhere, sometimes it is more obvious than others, but it is there if you look for it. Expecting libraries to be free from all commercialism is not very realistic.

  28. Emily says:

    Even non-corporate toys usually have a brand — the brand of the toy line itself — inherent in them.

    I think trying to snatch stuffed ponies out of the hands of little kids is kind of joyless and neurotic. Aren’t there more important things to worry about in the world? Let the kids enjoy.

  29. Cerne says:

    How dare a company give toys to children! Wells Fargo is worse than Hitler and Stalin combined!

  30. mubd says:

    Public library? You mean government-controlled library!