By David Becker, president and managing partner, Blue Plate Media Services
To quote the very clever Farmers Insurance advertising creative, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” As a media planning and buying agency immersed in the kid space for the past 20 years, we’ve seen a thing or two, too. So, what have we seen lately? What have we learned from what we’ve seen? And how do our observations translate into what you can do to drive your brand forward in what is perceived to be a very confusing market?
We’ve seen the retail landscape change drastically. This change is poking its head into the business of selling in and selling through toys. Limited shelf space, compounded by the challenge of chase/cancel, often is translating to splintered marketing budgets. This is forcing marketers to focus on price reduction, in-store merchandising, and revamped marketing spending that must continue to drive awareness, excitement, and traffic into the stores to buy your product.
In search of solutions, we are seeing some toy company marketers mistakenly plan media campaigns with reduced spending, relying on one platform over another, while expecting lighter dollars to do the heavy lifting of a more robust plan. These marketers are striving to spend less, support multiple lines, and extend messaging to more months than their budget can stretch. From our experience, sprinkling fairy dust on a problem and hoping for success does not create a solution. It exacerbates the problem.
So, what do we know?
We know that kids’ media is fragmented. Aggregating this fragmentation and driving reach requires more investment and a smarter media mix than in prior years.
We know that YouTube is a magnet for kids. However, according to eMarketer US Kids, 65% of millennial parents agreed they would “rather my kid watch TV than be online.” In a June 2018 survey by Wakefield Research, 76% of parents said their kids “are more addicted to their devices than to candy.”
An estimated 50% of kids younger than age 12 will be digital video viewers this year, with this number climbing upward to 54% by 2022. According to an annual study by Smarty Pants, kids ages 6 to 12 rank YouTube as the No. 1 recognizable brand ahead of all brands, including candy, toys, and video games. According to eMarketer, “part of YouTube’s power lies in its role as an incubator, driving worldwide crazes among kids. Just look at ‘Baby Shark’ to cite a remarkable example. Its videos have driven more than 3 billion views.”
We know that YouTube is only as brand safe as you make it. At Blue Plate Media, our Google-certified digital team steers clear from keyword targeting, as this is where the danger lies. You need your brand to live in a safe, appropriate, relevant environment within the YouTube universe.
From a cost per completed view (CPCV) reporting metric, we know that Google benchmarks a CPCV at roughly 10 cents, plus or minus. At BPMS, our internal benchmarking delivers a CPCV closer to two cents. That’s the difference between smart, working-in-the-weeds marketing and tossing away dollars.
We know TV is still relevant. While digital video complements kid’s usage of linear TV, it doesn’t replace it. Kids spend a considerable amount of time, albeit diminishing, watching TV. And, dollar for dollar, the kid networks still deliver more views. An estimated 88% of children ages 12 and younger will be TV viewers this year. Kids ages 2-11 average more than two hours of TV per day. Once kids turn 12, their viewing drops by 23 minutes per day. Beyond adults ages 18-24, TV consumption increases exponentially as the demo groups climb back up in age.
We’ve seen kids’ linear TV drop in ratings up to 50% since last January. This is not a poke at one network, as all of them are experiencing steady declines. While you’ve been hearing both sides of the argument (kids watch TV vs. kids don’t watch TV), kids are simply getting their content from multiple screens, including TV, but not limited to it.
Today, kids are in control, not the marketers who are targeting them. So, how do we turn that around? We don’t. We get into the mindset of our audience. It’s just a lot more complex than it used to be. We study their behavior and build a media campaign that reaches them where and when they are consuming their content. We develop branded content that appears as content and not as an advertising message being forced upon them.
Enter the Kids TV Upfront, the period when mid-to-large advertisers negotiate quarterly spending with the networks, leveraging their cumulative spending for price and value. What are we seeing? First, kids networks are scrambling to sell their limited inventory at a premium. It sounds crazy to get a premium when fewer kids are watching linear TV, but media is a commodity and a game of supply and demand. Companies only have X amount of inventory to sell as they guarantee their delivered impressions to their upfront buyers. This reduced inventory pool puts the available inventory at high levels of demand and creates sell-out conditions. Contrary to popular belief, kids’ TV is still commanding the time of upward of 50% of kids ages 2-11 per week. It is also the most-efficient medium when targeting kids, allowing marketers to reach the kids audience at a lower CPM than they can reach digitally. This is the underlying reason that TV is often part of the mix. The networks are scrambling to launch not only new content but new partnerships and platforms that will deliver the very audience they are losing. Exciting times! But, buyer beware: it is difficult to put media dollars behind every opportunity. We have to choose partners wisely and demand transparency and measurability.
We know that kids are not on smartphones nor are they on social media. TikTok, for instance, won’t even entertain a paid ad campaign. However, kids are influenced by social personalities. Enter influencer marketing. We know that social influencers (kids, moms, and other family influencers) are siphoning off and capturing large percentages of ad dollars. But this is an evolving medium, often represented by the talent themselves or through management companies, talent agencies, influencer networks, and agency representation. Like the old West, influencer marketing often lacks transparency. Be sure you are working with a trusted partner; otherwise, you may be paying huge markups. In today’s kid market, as is mirrored when targeting millennials, influencers can be an important part of the media mix, but often an influencer partnership is not enough to carry a brand. It requires a mix of media working in tandem to deliver the reach needed to drive national awareness and sales.
Today, we are seeing technology take center stage. While kids are not trackable, due to measures that are in place to protect them, contextual targeting allows marketers to ensure that they are in fact reaching and engaging with kids. We talk about targeting the “second screen.” This means that kids today often are watching the big screen while simultaneously devouring content on their second screen. We can now reach this second screen. While an ad message is running on the big screen, we can deliver your message through IP tracking to the second screen in real time, ensuring that the message is now garnering a frequency of two during the same sitting. We can target a household with kids ages 2-11 in that household, identify a program that they are watching, and retarget that household with relevant messaging. Data is king.
We continue to see gameplay rise, app play increase, video dominate, and TV dwindle. We see eyeballs shift and brands come alive. Product success is well within reach if you build a marketing mix based on what you know, what you’ve seen, and how you choose to leverage your new-found knowledge.