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Kids nets try to sell their older viewers

Oct 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

See those new faces gathered around the table at the kids TV party?
They belong to adult-demo-minded advertisers. The reason? The dog-eat-dog kids marketplace has been essentially flat for at least the past two years, so sellers are trying other tactics: 1) Parents are watching children’s shows and cartoons with their youngsters, so those adults are a captive audience just waiting to be wooed. And 2) At least since the late 1950s, when “Rocky and Bullwinkle” made the cartoon landscape safe for satire and irony, some kids’ fare also has appealed to hip, mostly younger adults.
One big reason for the flat kids marketplace, say the sellers, is consolidation among the toy, game and breakfast cereal companies, which are among the biggest players in kids TV advertising.
“Consolidation usually results in consolidated media budgets as well,” said Kim McQuilken, executive VP, Cartoon Network Sales and Marketing.
Because of the need to grow the advertiser base, Nick has had a “nontraditional, adult-targeted advertiser strategy … in place for two years,” said Jim Perry, VP, Nickelodeon sales and business development.
The Nick strategy is based on the fact that around 80 percent of the adults viewing the network have a child in the household; that is, overwhelmingly they are parents watching with their young kids.
Cartoon Network on the other hand has begun to reach out explicitly to those 18- to 34-year-olds with its edgier, three-hour Adult Swim cartoon block, which starts at 10 p.m.
Although the Adult Swim block has only been running since the beginning of September, the network is up approximately 40 percent in 18- to-34-year-old adult viewers overall on a year-to-year basis for the third quarter, Mr. McQuilken said. By comparison, for that same period the network increased its viewer reach by about 10 percent, he said.
So far, eight to 10 advertisers, Mr. McQuilken said, have moved part of their ad budgets into Adult Swim on a trial basis, including one software and gaming advertiser, whom he declined to identify, that is on the verge of taking approximately 35 percent of a $1 million advertising buy and moving it to the Adult Swim block. Other advertisers who are in the Swim, Mr. McQuilken said, include Kimberly-Clarke, the U.S. Navy, the Chili’s restaurant chain, Shell Oil, Gillette and Levi Strauss.
Nonetheless, advertisers targeting 18- to 34-year-olds still represent a small albeit growing part of Cartoon’s revenues. Advertisers targeting “nonkid” viewers older than 12 represent only about 20 percent of Cartoon’s revenues, Mr. McQuilken said. Those advertisers will, however, be a major target of Cartoon’s sales calls and presentations from now until next upfront, he said.
One yardstick for Cartoon’s new business direction is that last year the network had 35 advertisers primarily interested in adult or teen demos, according to a Turner ad-sales executive. This year, that number has increased to 46.
At Nick, new advertisers who have responded to the parents-watching-with-kids opportunity in the past year include Kimberly-Clarke, Kmart, Ford, American Honda, Embassy Suites, Georgia Pacific, Radio Shack and Welch’s, Mr. Perry said. In fact, most of the new advertisers coming to Nick in the past year or two are those who have responded to the parents-with-kids strategy.
Nick is “a home, a brand, a network for kids,” Mr. Perry said. But Nick’s potential advertisers are reminded that today’s kids often are a big influence on adult and family buying decisions. “That’s another reason why a lot of these adult companies are turning to kids programming,” he said.