As we know children are significant and influential consumers, purchasing products in their own right and as any parent will appreciate, accounting for a significant amount of parental spending power.

Naturally toys contribute to the large share of parental spend, however it is important to appreciate that children also have a say in household purchases from food and toiletries, to cars and holidays.  They can also be the key determinant of the type of media that is consumed in the household.

Children’s exposure to advertisements start at an early age, and they are increasingly exposed to commercial content.  Therefore the potential for brands to gain loyalty at an early age is clearly there, albeit a challenging audience and space to work within due to the increasingly fragmented media landscape and shifting consumption habits.

Quantifying the opportunity

According to Youth TGI, there are 3.68M 7-11 year olds in the UK in 2016.  Numbers are growing year on year, and as a consequence their spending power and influence are also increasing.

Known as ‘Generation swipe’, children are increasingly consuming media through multiple screens.  Growing up with smartphones, it is not unusual for toddlers to be seen trying to swipe a TV screen.  The ownership of tablets has increased amongst kids aged 7-11 by 40% in the last three years, overtaking the ownership of laptops.

In terms of media consumption, kids viewing is radically changing year on year with technological advances providing new ways to consume TV and online content. Video-on-demand (VOD) adoption is increasing, with YouTube app viewing now at 47% amongst 7-11 year olds, rising by 10% pts year on year.

Key stats amongst kids aged 7-11: Time shifted TV
  • 7 in 10 watch recorded TV
  • Kids are likely to be watching recorded TV for 1-4 hours, averaging at 2.5 hours per week
Viewing related activities when using the internet
  • 53% watch TV
  • 41% watch videos / DVDs

Giraffe Insights are conducting their own bespoke kids online viewing report research to provide the complete picture of media consumption for kids aged 2-9 years, fuelled by the desire and importance to learn more about children’s media consumption and lack of research currently available from other providers and sources.  The research will cover video and advertising consumption, consumption across device and solus / joint viewing to provide deep audience insight, as well as facilitating activation and communication strategies.  The 1st wave launches October 2017, with the option to include client specific questions.

Any brand campaign should reflect multi-screen consumption, ensuring content resonates based on relevance and context.  Furthermore, with technology and coding being taught in schools, children are becoming increasingly tech savvy and open to innovative communication through technology.  Technological developments have also impacted the way children play, with physical toys no longer just competing with imaginary ones to be the first choice.  Play-Doh launched their The Touch app that creates digital worlds based on kids’ Play-Doh masterpieces, which can then be explored and interacted with online.  The omni-channel experience is therefore vital for marketers, specifically in how they communicate with children in online and offline environments, to drive sales.

Rules and regulation

Despite high brand recognition, children’s’ ad recognition and understanding when they are being advertised to is comparably low.  This is especially the case across online channels with sponsored content and vlogger endorsement.  Only 24% of 8-11 yr. olds and 38% of 12-15 yr. olds who use search engines correctly identified sponsored links on Google as advertising (Ofcom).

Children’s advertising is becoming increasingly regulated, most prominently by COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) in the United States and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the European Union. Marketers need to be aware of, and adhere to, these laws which allow only contextual targeting as opposed to profile based targeting. For example, cookies (tracking) are not permitted and neither is data collection without VPC (Verifiable Parental Consent).

Effective brand communication

In a world where a toddler can click through unwanted ads, it is increasingly important for the adverts to be relevant, engaging and add value.  Children can be willing to engage with brands if there is a sense of purpose, or they are incentivised (e.g. by reward points).  An example is Nestlé’s CSR arm United for Healthier Kids, who created a virtual pet whose happiness depends on the amount of water youngsters consume daily.  Excessive sugary drinks made ‘Tummyfish’ unable to play, while water makes for a happy friend who rewarded kids with toys and in-app games over time.

Brands targeting children must be increasingly agile, reacting quickly to cultural shifts, constantly experimenting and making small bets.  Successful brands will invite children in, be part of their education and treat them as brand ambassadors, less as customers.  Studies suggest that younger generations today differ from previous generations their age, not only in how they consume media, but also in their attitudes to life. They are adventurous, creative and ambitious and want to have an impact on the world.  Due to technological advancements, they also have more in common with their global peers, and see diversity in a positive light.

LEGO has also launched a social network designed specifically for children under 13, as a space where they can share their brick creations. The platform, LEGO Life, allows users to share photos of things they’ve built, browse and comment on other users’ constructions (including LEGO branded content), watch instructional videos, follow their favourite characters and participate in daily challenges and quizzes.

Considerations when exploring the children’s audience

We can often fall prey to our natural tendency to stereotype, which can exaggerate differences between audience and age groups.  It’s important to note the differences between ages and gender, especially amongst children. There is a vast difference in a 6 and 8 year old in terms of their attitudes, behaviour and media consumption. Brands should also be wary of the scaffolding effect, and the influence of the older sibling on their younger siblings, as well as external factors. Giraffe Insights have experience working on quantitative and qualitative projects, looking into segmenting children into different groups based on their attitudes, behaviour and media consumption, and investigating the role of families and friendship within this.

In summary, brands need to tread carefully when marketing to children, with the audience becoming increasingly media and tech savvy from a younger age.  Delivering the right message, at the right time and in the right context has never been so important.  If done right, the kids market provides marketers with a golden opportunity to build brand share and loyalty in competitive markets.

To read some of our other blog posts click here


Sources:  Giraffe Insights, WARC, Contagious, Ofcom, TGI Youth