In a controversial form of stealth marketing, kids as young as seven are being paid to promote Fanta, Nintendo and other products to their Facebook friends.
In some cases, children have been offered the chance to become 'mini-marketeers' to plug brands, including Sprite and Dr Pepper, Cheestrings and a Barbie-themed MP3 player.
AdvertisementRecord labels are also using the marketing technique to promote performers such as Lady Gaga.
They are being rewarded the equivalent of 25 pounds a week for their online banter.
Multinational companies that were banned from setting up fake websites and blogs to target young customers directly are using specialist marketing firms to recruit the children.
"It's a tragedy. What should be an area where kids just hang out with each other and message each other now becomes an extension of the shopping mall," Times Online quoted Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University, as saying.
The marketing firms also suggest their young recruits to target different sets of online friends with different brands and teach them to sound "natural and unrehearsed". (ANI)
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