Kids, commercials and the giggle factor…

When LiveWire went on-line this month to explore how kids feel about TV commercials, one basic tenet rang through loud and clear: Make it funny, or don't make it at all....
December 1, 1998

When LiveWire went on-line this month to explore how kids feel about TV commercials, one basic tenet rang through loud and clear: Make it funny, or don’t make it at all.

What we found:

Pepsi took the lead for producing kid faves. They love the innovative ideas behind the cola giant’s TV ads, especially the little girl who sports Joe Pesci’s voice. The Taco Bell chihuahua took a close second-kids can’t get enough of that suave little pooch. Coming in third is the inescapable ‘dancing baby’ from Edy’s ice cream spot. One similarity tying them all together? The giggle factor. Hey, kids like TV, and if their favorite show is going to be interrupted, they want to laugh and be entertained. In fact, when asked to name the most important thing about a good commercial, the number one kid response was humor.

Whether they’re watching their favorite show or not, kids still pay attention to the set. We found that while tuned in to commercials, kids watch closely for product information. TV ads tap into the never-ceasing kid-radar for new and better stuff. What do they learn from commercials? Forty two percent say they learn about specific characteristics of products. More than cinemagraphic eye candy, kids want to find out the basics-what the product looks like, what it does and where they can send their parents to get it. Of course the information should be presented with a high degree of innovation (bonus points for comedy), but kids mean business when it comes to new products-they want the facts.

In terms of product category, our respondents say their favorite commercials advertise kid-staples starting with toys, with snacks, soda and fast food finishing close behind. Out of demographic necessity, these offerings have a kid-specific target, but adult-targeted commercials are by no means out of kid-range. Most of our kids enjoy commercials aimed at adults; the Budweiser frogs and lizards (Louie the Lizard is their favorite) scored a lot of points with the younger set. When asked why, they overwhelmingly agree that adult commercials are funnier than ones for kids.

What kids said:

We asked our participants to create a new concept for a commercial that incorporates the things kids like best. Here’s what they had to say:

‘A Mr. Clean commercial with Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina The Teenage Witch). She uses it and says, `It works like magic!”

Courtney, 12, Ontario, Canada

‘A computer-generated commercial, with lots of kids blowing big bubbles with air freshener gum. The mom is walking around smelling the air, and she’s real happy because the air smells so good.’

Andy, 8, California

‘My commercial would sell athletic sportswear. I’d have an entire professional football team in the commercial playing children football players-and the kids would be winning.’

Cory, 11, Hawaii

‘I would make a commercial that advertises giving you free things for buying toys or giving you free toys for getting good grades in school.’

Christopher, 10, Washington

‘My commercial would advertise Garfield books. It would be different because I don’t see kids books advertised on TV. It would be funny because Garfield would advertise his own books and he could jump in and out of the pages.’

Caitlin, 9, California

‘I would make a new candy. It would be bubble gum licorice. It would have lots of music, lots of candy and not very much talking, and it wouldn’t last too long so you could get back to your TV program.’

Alexandria, 8, Alaska

Next month:

LiveWire will be

looking at kids’

expectations, fears

and goals for

the year 2000…

Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Kid Think talks with kids via LiveWire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 1,100 on-line families across the United States. Both Kid Think and LiveWire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York-based communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or subjects you would like Kid Think to cover, call Paul Kurnit at 212-415-2992 or e-mail

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