Kids’ genre: New rules of engagement for advertisers & broadcasters

If you see me at a family gathering or at a social do, more often than not you will find me hanging out with children. Their curiosity, their conviction and their ability to look at things in a way that only they can, amazes me and keeps me intrigued. Spending any time with them is like a validation on the potential of the kids’ category and the multitude of opportunities it throws open. 

The last decade has seen maximum dynamism in the rules of engagement within the kids’ genre. In an era of shorter attention spans, kids are a level above. Moreover, it is far more difficult to decode the mind of a child. They question more, they observe more and are forthright when it comes to showcasing their choices. 

When I was entrusted upon the role to lead Sony Pictures Networks’ entry into the kids’ vertical, I was beyond elated. I knew herein lay a chance to create a winner for both, the network as well as the marketer/ advertiser. Stemming from my strong belief that the potential of this genre was nowhere close to being maximised, I was keen for us to play an integral role in building this winning opportunity not just for ourselves and our advertisers, but for the category at large. 

From passive participants to powerful influencers 

In the past, the role of children in any kind of decision making, including their own products, was almost negligible. They were treated as passive participants of the family. However, in the current scenario, the term “influencer” is garnering a whole new dimension, with youth and kids of the country leading the pack. Today’s kids have more autonomy and decision-making powers within the family than in previous generations, and are vocal about what they want their parents to buy. 

With the explosion of media and increased awareness among the young adults, children are emerging as the most powerful influencers in the decision-making process, be it personal or household. For a good few years now, ‘millennial’ has been the word of the decade, but marketers have now shifted their focus to a younger, more diverse, and forever evolving audience; and rightfully so. 

Targeting kids and getting their loyalty early on is like getting a consumer for a lifetime, and nowhere else can a marketer find that. 

The industry spending on advertising to children has blown up in the last two decades. The kid’s genre undoubtedly is the only one that helps a brand reach out to a ‘family audience’ in the true sense. With parents being active viewers as well, be it for observing the type of content their child is viewing or as a family bonding activity. Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing having children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids; making it highly effective for advertisers to target children and parents both through one single communication. 

And not just parents and the extended family, advertising to children also directly helps reach out to teachers – the second biggest influence in a child’s life. A teacher is always cognizant of what’s ‘trending’ for children and on the lookout for every possible offering available in the market. To keep themselves abreast, the teacher must closely follow campaigns driven towards children. Regardless to say, advertising for children automatically reaches out to every audience segment – a feat that only a kids’ genre can boast of. It has an unbeaten universal appeal. 

Building loyalty through characters 

Additionally, the kid’s genre is the only one where the viewers’ loyalty becomes so intense with the characters that it gives brands immense avenues to target kids in an innovative, effective and experiential manner. The characters aren’t limited to a television set. At the end of the day, it is the character that really forms the bond… becomes the child’s friend, role model or superhero. I believe, herein lies the tremendous opportunity for brands to deep dive into a child’s ecosystem, to integrate seamlessly into a child’s life. I would say it’s safe to claim that there is no other genre within the television industry that offers this unique opportunity. 

It’s not just the advertisers, the broadcasters also sit on a plethora of opportunities with the kids’ genre. Toons give broadcasters a huge potential to create customised integration opportunities beyond just the regular Free Commercial Time, which helps deepen the relationship with the kids and the characters, building a lasting loyalty that’s invaluable to the channel. Recently, we had our characters along with kids honour the Heroes behind the Heroes on Teachers Day. Our characters met with the likes of Anupam Kher, Shiamak Davar and more to felicitate them for their remarkable contribution in giving us real life heroes. Such an engagement with characters is a tremendous opportunity, not just to engage with children, but also to leave a lasting impact with what one is setting out to do. 

We have only scratched the surface so far. We have a long way to go to capitalise on the abundant potential of this exponentially growing genre. At Sony YAY!, we are just delighted to be a part of the growth journey of the category. 

(Leena Lele Dutta heads the business for Sony Pictures Network India’s (SPN) newly launched kids’ entertainment channel - Sony YAY! A seasoned professional in the broadcast industry, Leena brings with her a diverse experience of over 20 years. Prior to joining SPN, she was the Executive Director, Distribution at Sony Pictures Television.)


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