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What Kids Watch, Want

Apr 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

In the ad business, they say kids are getting older younger.
Demographically, children are still largely defined within the 2- to 11-year-old age range. But within those age parameters, what they want and what they watch are constantly changing.
Once upon a time, girls did not play with Barbie dolls until they were 7 or 8 years old. Now at that age, many of them are moving on to older-skewing playthings. That means toymakers are spending more money to reach younger kids, while older kids are being targeted by entertainment companies spinning movies, CDs and DVDs.
By and large, all of these kids are most readily reached through animated programming, most prominently on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” delivered the most kids 2 to 11 during 2003 and was also the favorite among younger kids, 2 to 6. “SpongeBob” was second to Nick’s “Fairly OddParents” among viewers 6 to 11. The older kids, ages 9 to 11, went for “Yu-Gi-Oh!” on The WB.
Some ad buyers said the success of the noncommercial Disney network means there will likely be an increase in live-action programming for kids on the upper end of the age range. They may also choose to look for those older kids outside of traditional kidvid programming.
“I would say throughout the kids business, you will see, just generally speaking, that 2 to 11 or 6 to 11 are the two most popular demos that are purchased, by far,” said Kim McQuilken, executive VP, Cartoon Network sales and marketing, who is also responsible for selling ad time on Kids’ WB.
Run-of-Schedule
Among advertisers, the big players are in the toy and game business, packaged goods, food, quick-serve restaurants and movies. “Those have been and always will be the majority of kids spending, though the percentage they represent of the overall market is decreasing,” said Jim Perry, senior VP of ad sales at Nickelodeon.
According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, “SpongeBob” attracted $56.7 million in ad spending, while “Fairly OddParents” generated $37.6 million. “Yu-Gi-Oh!” attracted $24.8 million for its weekday runs on The WB, plus another $13.7 million on Saturday mornings. Big spenders on all three shows were Mattel, General Mills and Kellogg’s.
While the 2 to 11 demo attracts the vast majority of ad dollars, ad buyers try to reach narrower targets within those bands. That’s tricky because neither Nickelodeon nor Cartoon Network allows advertisers to buy time in individual shows. Instead they are asked to buy all of the shows on the network’s schedule within a daypart.
“I think that everybody has a propensity to want to be with the best,” Mr. McQuilken said. “But the buyers are very realistic that you just can’t crowd around the best show, and that’s why run-of-schedule exists and makes it fair and equitable for everyone.”
In fact, according to Mr. Perry of Nickelodeon, “All of our advertisers run across all dayparts.” Ad buyers say they try to adjust the age skew within the 2 to 11 bracket by altering the mix of dayparts and the mix of networks.
“There usually is a core demo, so we’re going to skew our programming. So maybe we’re buying 2 to 11, but we’re picking programming out that’s going to make sense for that core demo,” said Brooke Goldstein, senior VP and group account director at Mediacom.
Reaching the younger end is relatively simple through preschool blocks, especially on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr.
Advertisers looking to reach these younger viewers are usually selling toys and games. In addition, some of the advertisers buying that daypart are trying to reach those kids’ moms.
“If you don’t have a target that’s actually 2 to 5, what you’re looking for is the co-viewing, with the woman 18 to 49 potentially watching with the 2 to 5. That may become more appealing than the things the kids may be watching alone,” said Sam Armando, VP and director of television research for Starcom Worldwide. A client such as Kellogg will buy “some 2 to 5 if they want to get the kids and the parents watching with them,” he said.
Mr. Perry said other viewers looking to reach kids and moms together include Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark, pushing everything from household products to diapers; automakers such as Mitsubishi, Dodge and Toyota, selling family SUVs and minivans; and even travel advertisers, including the Cayman Island tourism office, Holiday Inns and Embassy Suites.
Though growing, Nick Jr. represents only about 20 percent of the network’s ad time and a smaller percentage of ad revenue because fewer commercials are slotted during that daypart, according to Mr. Perry.
Delivering Tweens
At the other end of the scale is Nickelodeon’s Teenick, which targets viewers 9 to 14, known as tweens. Teenick airs Sunday night from 6-8:30 p.m. “It’s all live-action programming, and it tends to deliver the older audience,” Mr. Perry said.
Cartoon Network attracts tweens and older viewers with its afternoon Toonami block and other action-adventure series.
As one might expect, more advertisers of more adult products are trying to reach those viewers. “You’re getting a lot of movie studio money, a lot of DVD money,” Mr. Perry said. “There’s also money from beverage makers, health and beauty products and, especially for girls, hair care money.”
A key difference between Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network is their approach to gender.
Nick seeks a balance while many of Cartoon’s shows are aimed at boys. That gives ad buyers more choices.
“If you do have individual gender needs, it mixes it up a little bit,” said Starcom’s Mr. Armando. “Nickelodeon is strong with both [boys and girls]; you’ll see WB and Cartoon Network slide in with boys; and you’ll see Disney Channel slide in with girls. It’s difficult to buy Disney Channel, of course, but then again, things like `Lizzie McGuire’ and things that pop on ABC might become an alternative.”
“We absolutely own boys,” said Mr. McQuilken of Cartoon Network, many of whose shows are popular with toymakers selling action figures, for example. Cartoon Network shows are also popular with trading card companies. Boys are attracted to shows such as “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” often buying and playing the trading card games associated with those programs. “Boys love collecting and boys like action,” Mr. McQuilken said.
Mr. Perry concedes that Cartoon does “a good job at programming to boys,” but said that strategy hamstrings Cartoon’s ratings. “There probably is some boy product out there that feels like they need to be in that sort of environment, but without question the majority of advertisers don’t feel that way. We deliver more boys than them anyway.”
Ms. Goldstein of Mediacom thinks Cartoon’s boyishness gives it an advantage with some advertisers. “When you look at the programming, the Cartoon tends to be written for a boy,” she said. “If we’ve got a product that’s going to skew more boy, we’re going to tend to put it on Cartoon first versus Nickelodeon, where the girl might get more Nickelodeon.”
Another question is whether animated programming helps advertisers sell products better than live action. At this point, Cartoon Network airs no live-action shows, but its sibling, Kids’ WB, announced plans during its upfront presentation to add live action to its lineup.
Live-Action Age Group
Most of Nickelodeon’s dayparts include both animated and live-action shows. Mr. Perry said viewers have an appetite for both genres. He detects no strong preference among advertisers.
“As long as we’re delivering the audience, I think that’s what they’re most interested in. Some of our hottest shows right now are live-action shows,” he said, pointing to “Drake and Josh” and “Romeo.”
Mr. Armando said live action does better with older kids. “As you go from 2 to 5, 6 to 11, once you start getting into 12 to 17 you’re going to see a lot of the live action pop up. `Lizzie McGuire,’ `The Amanda Show,’ `That’s So Raven,’ things like that you’ll see pop up with teens,” he said.
Mr. Armando said he hadn’t seen anything to indicate that one genre s
ells better than another. In advertising, live-action characters might be more believable and relatable to kids. “They have their CDs and they have their movies and they have their TV shows,” he said.
Ms. Goldstein said advertisers may also try to find older kids outside of the usual animated shows on the kid-oriented networks.
“We’re actually looking at opportunities outside of the cartoons,” she said. “I think that when you get into that higher age demo, when you’re looking at 8 to 11, you’re going to find that a lot of the top programs are `American Idol’ and `Malcolm in the Middle.’ Do you spend the money to go outside the cartoon blocks? It’s interesting, and I think it will become even more interesting.”