Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How hard is it to advertise to kids online?

Alex Rahaman, CEO of  NEXD, and NDA’s monthly columnist, is an adtech pioneer, founding the first mobile DSP, StrikeAd.

It’s January and you know what that means…yes, it’s time to set those new year’s resolutions! Alongside the ever present “lose weight”, “exercise more”, “eat more healthily”, any marketing strategist worth his or her salt will of course also have “perfect 2020 marketing strategy” on their list.  

Sadly, I cannot help with the first three. But I might just have some insights for your marketing strategy this year.

Ok so what’s the big thing for 2020, I hear you ask? What should I make my top priority?

Well, with an estimated global value of $1.7bn I’d say the kids digital advertising market is certainly not something to overlook.

According to stats from PwC,  170,000 kids go online for the first time every day. By the end of the month, your brand new target audience will have already swelled to over 5 million users.

Of course, kids certainly aren’t a new market for advertisers. We’ve seen years of TV advert breaks full of enticing ads showing toys, sweets and chocolate. What’s different with this generation of kids and teenagers (or Generation Z as they’re often called) is that they’re shunning the traditional (and highly expensive!) channel of TV and increasingly choosing to consume their content online.

In fact, TV viewing continues to drop between  10% to 20% a year, while kids’ digital budgets are growing  at 25%  year on year.

As expected, the traditional players like Facebook and Google have tried to get in on the act, although with varying results. Youtube has long been accused of not doing enough to protect kids from inappropriate content.

It did try to create a safer environment through the launch of Youtube Kids back in 2015 but even that has been tainted with scandal, including the memorable  Elsagate. And it wasn’t all that long ago that  Unilever  was threatening to pull its ads on Google and Facebook due to toxic content that it believed exploited children.

This is one of the reasons why kidtech company, SuperAwesome, has been doing so well. Based in the UK, they provide tools for safe digital engagement for kids including kid-safe advertising, social engagement tools, authentication and parental controls.

Dylan Collins, their CEO, explains: “Kidtech, as a category, has really just been invented in the past three or four years. No one thought they’d have to build specific technology for kids…this is the problem that we’re starting to solve.”

So if you also want to reach families online, what’s the best way to go about doing it?

Know Your Audience

The first thing to remember is that the kids and teenagers of today belong to Generation Z. They’re not millennials or Generation Xers; they were born into a time in which the digital world and the internet were already in existence. Therefore they’re much more open to it. 

We talk about now living in a mobile-first world and nothing could be more true for the kids of today.  According to a survey by Common Sense Media on media use among children in the US aged 8-18, 53% now own a smartphone by the age of 11 whilst 84% of US teenagers have their own mobile. 

The survey also reports that viewing online videos has doubled and for most children, it is their most enjoyable online activity. A report from Think by Google says 70% of teens spend more than 3 hours per day watching mobile video.

In addition, this generation of youngsters appears to be more tolerant of online advertising. 28% of Generation Zers want marketers to reach them with online ads compared to just 16% of millennials, according to a report carried out by Deep Focus.

So ads with online video integrated into them are clearly a good way to go with Generation Z.

But remember: if you want to reach this audience, you’d better capture their attention quickly. Generation Z’s average attention span is said to be about 8 seconds whilst that of a millennial’s lasts around 12 seconds. And according to Think by Google, for teens, ads can determine whether a product is cool. And for them, something is cool if it’s unique, impressive, interesting, amazing, or awesome.

Ok, no pressure then: you just need to create a highly engaging, short mobile ad which is both completely amazing and awesome, whilst maybe incorporating video.

If that sounds a little ambitious, don’t worry, with a company like Nexd, you can easily create engaging ads that will resonate with kids and teenagers.   Ideally you’re looking for something interactive and it could be something as simple as the below, with a swipe function that allows the user to scroll through the various products on offer:

If you’re looking to create something a little more special, for the kids market, I’d recommend trying an ad that involves some form of gamification as they’re a great way for the brand to interact with the user. According to Common Sense Media’s survey, almost three quarters of US boys say they enjoy playing video games a lot and that trend is certainly valid in the results I’ve seen of different game ad campaigns that have been run. 

Take’s Holiday Wish campaign  as an example. It wanted to enhance its Holiday Kids Gifting print catalogue and so developed an app with a 3D animated game-like experience in which kids could build wish lists and send completed lists to Santa. Their parents could also access the wish lists and share them, making present-buying much easier. The results speak for themselves: 75,000 app downloads and  100,000 wish lists created. More importantly 9,200 new accounts were created and there were over a million page visits to via the app.

The bottom line? Playful ads are entertaining, plus they generate higher engagement rates and they’re generally considered to be less annoying by users. I’d highly recommend giving them a try at some point this year.

So back to that resolutions list. No, you probably won’t look like Mark Wahlberg or Rihanna by the end of the year, but take heart: I’d say you’re one step closer to putting a big tick next to “perfect 2020 marketing strategy.”


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