Whyville, edutainment and Tween marketing


Whyville is an educational virtual world for tweens and teens, ages 10-16. This world’s motto is “learning by doing.” Whyville actively engages its visitors and encourages them to participate in fun, educational events that give kids “hands-on” experience with virtual science projects

It has been around since 1999, so technically it is not a startup. Last week, it received additional funding from Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune fame. The amount was not disclosed but till last December, Whyville’s parent company had raised about $1.5M from 12 angles. Whyville has about 2.2M players with the demographics that the advertisers love.

getty_whyvilleAs an educator with special interest in high school education, I am ambivalent about the Whyville’s marketing strategy of “active brain advertising,” which according to Jay Goss, Whyville’s COO, “the company isn’t just focused on garnering impressions or eyeballs for brands. We care about eyeballs connected to brains.”

For 10-13 year old, I’d prefer a clear sponsored but separate advertising method, but this is not a social blog, it is a business blog, we will save that discussion for some other time. As far as business model is concerned, Whyville does deliver edutainment to tweens in a way that is conducive to building a long term brand loyalty, and Whyville are appropriately leveraging it.

The most interesting demographic statistics that I found was that the Whyville has 68% female participants. It might be related to the lack of first person shooter games on the site. The site has an eclectic and multifarious mix of features. Here are some of them:

  • NASA, the Getty Museum, CDC and University of Texas systems are using the platform to deliver educational content.
  • Toyota is a major sponsor, it allows the user to buy a customized Scion, and if they don’t have enough online virtual cash, they can go to Toyota office and get a loan.
  • The participants maintain a credit score which is dependent on the participants virtual job and spending habits, mimicking the real life example.
  • A nutritional program sponsored by school Nutrition Board.
  • Geodig is a geology game that takes members around the world in search of rocks, fossils and gems or The Art Treasure Hunt which transports members on worldwide art tour.
  • Penguin Books, after publishing a book version of Al Gore’s movie, tapped them for educational programs to teach climate change.
  • Whyville recently received $440,000 in grants from the Texas Workforce Commission to build Whyville Biotech and a virtual manufacturing center.

After the phenomenal success of High School musical 2, there is no doubt that the tweens have their own ecosystem and generate their own economic waves. Whyville is a great place to ride that wave.

One Response to “Whyville, edutainment and Tween marketing”

  1. By Rick on Nov 9, 2021 | Reply

    I share your concern about ‘engaging ads”. Its like Millusberry.com where everything is an ad. Thats why I don’t like product placement in a movie or TV shows, the ads are subtle and for young kids I don’t want subtle.

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