The traditional kid marketing spend was flat to down, non-traditional companies opened up new categories, and a more fragmented media landscape saw fewer but bigger multiplatform campaigns. That’s the kind of year it’s been in kids marketing.
Overall, those in the business say it hasn’t been a particularly eventful year, being trapped in a kind of limbo between Pokémon and Harry Potter, but kidcasters continued to build brands, kid features kept opening with great fanfare, and toy advertising remained a fixture.
On a longer-term scale, the toycos are spending a little less, with figures from Competitive Media Reporting showing annual toy industry advertising expenditures on a bi-annual oscillating downward curve from US$896 million in 1995 to US$842 million in 1999.
But Paul Kurnit, president of Griffin Bacal, says some categories in the kid market are growing and whole new categories are emerging to keep the overall spend on an even keel. These include apparel (Gap Kids, Skechers, Reebok, Kids Foot Locker), digital and instant cameras (Polaroid, Kodak, KB Gear Interactive), electronics (Cybiko, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, Radio Shack), health and beauty products (Johnson & Johnson Kids, L’Oréal Kids), automotive (General Motors, Ford, Isuzu), real estate (Century 21) and, believe it or not, financial services. In the financial sector, Salomon Smith Barney is leading the way with its Young Investors Network, and banks and credit unions across the U.S. are following suit with similar clubs.
Lori Sale, senior VP of worldwide promotions at Miramax, managed to hook up with Isuzu last spring for next year’s release of Spy Kids, but says the car company wouldn’t have been interested a couple of years ago. ‘Kids entertainment is now accessible to more brands,’ she says. ‘It’s not just the old players, there are all kinds of new players now.’
Kathy Lalley and Tina Imig, co-founders of Leo Burnett division KidLeo, agree. ‘Companies that you don’t necessarily think of as kid marketers are starting to look to kids as a target, that’s certainly something we’re seeing,’ says Lalley. ‘It hasn’t translated into much spending yet, but if you look at how many brands out there are targeting kids that didn’t before, you’ll see an increase.’
Thanks to the arrival of these new players, long-term promotional agreements, such as the Disney/McDonald’s deal and the Tricon/Pepsi deal, aren’t just for QSRs any more. ‘What you’re going to start finding is more ongoing relationships,’ says Sale. ‘Instead of one-off movie-by-movie tie-ins, you’re going to find more in-depth relationships. In automotive particularly, I think they’re all lining up for studio relationships.’
Nickelodeon senior VP of promotions marketing Pam Kaufman points to Ford’s recent signing of Blue’s Clues to promote safety features in its Winstar minivans as further evidence that kids (even tots) are now on the mainstream marketing radar. She is also finding that as these majors enter the kid market, they’re looking for continuing partnerships with major entertainment companies, which may have the side effect of shutting the small players out. ‘Non-exclusive alliances are forming,’ she says, ‘and people are getting results from their partners, so they figure why keep reinventing the wheel when we’ve got someone great here.’
For the larger congloms, such as Viacom/CBS (Nickelodeon), AOL/Time Warner (Warner Bros., Cartoon Network) and Disney/ABC, Kaufman says this means fewer but bigger promotions with bigger partners. ‘We have a Kraft relationship that’s going into its sixth year, we have Burger King, Mattel, and now we have Ford and Gateway.’
And while the giants pair off and focus on their fewer campaigns, the campaigns themselves are becoming more complex. The reason? Because the media-the vehicle for those campaigns-continues to evolve and fracture. Where once you could reach a huge chunk of kids on Saturday morning TV, now kids are all over the place-watching specialty channels, listening to kid radio, reading kid magazines and surfing the web. ‘It’s breaking down the target into smaller and smaller segments,’ says KidLeo’s Imig. ‘These highly targeted programs cover only a two-year age span. Because of all the unique and very tailored programs, marketers are finding that they have to go after very specific targets.’
The technology powering this media fracturing has also sped up the rate of delivery, meaning that not only are campaigns getting more sophisticated, but they have to be thrown together faster too. ‘We don’t have six months to build a program any more,’ says Carlin West, senior VP of marketing and communications at 4Kids Entertainment licensing division Leisure Concepts Inc. ‘We don’t even have three months. Sometimes we’ve got to shoot from the hip. The market is just faster, and kids are in and out of things quicker.’
Best integration of multiple media (tie)
Warner Bros. Halloween Scooby-Doo promo
The annual Warner Bros. blow-out for Scooby just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This October’s program featured tie-ins with Pepsi-Cola/Frito-Lay, M&M/Mars and Burger King, upping the exposure value beyond last year’s US$65 million. A Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders DTV from Warner Home Video along with in-store, on-pack, TV ads and on-line covered off most media platforms, while the natural Halloween-Scooby link kept the program timely and unified.
Kellogg’s Eet and Ern
One of the most integrated programs ever developed by Leo Burnett, Chicago and Starcom Worldwide, Kellogg’s Eet and Ern drove loyalty through a heady mix of on-pack, on-line, TV, print and in-school. The soft-sell point-collecting exercise made all of the platforms crucial to the program and was so successful that it’s already spawning imitations.
Best in- or on-pack promo
Motts/Rugrats in Paris
Motts has partnered with Nick on promos for years now, but this one marked the first-ever instant-win game for the apple juice king. The effort was highly praised for its visibility, with Rugrats characters adorning 85 million juice and apple sauce packs, along with POS, on-shelf and an FSI. In-pack sticker tattoos and a grand prize suitcase full of toys kept it colorful, creative and on-target. Not only that, but with the last tie-in delivering a 20% sales increase for Motts, chances are this promo will deliver where it counts.
Best use of on-line
Dora the Explorer
While completely on-line properties may languish in relative obscurity, Nickelodeon realized that the web is an ideal venue to preview a TV property backed by a big promotional push. Accessed via Nickjr.com, the Dora site allowed tots and moms to get aquatinted with the Latina girl character through games and educational exercises before the show hit screens. The result? Dora’s TV debut beat out Blue’s Clues with Nick’s largest ever preschool launch audience.
Best QSR tie-in
While Pokémon may now be inching toward the back of the toy drawer, Burger King was credited with making the most of a hot property with this tie-in back in July. The second Pokémon tie-in for the chain (the third is rolling out this month), this program heralded Pokémon the Movie 2000 with premiums based on some of the 150 new characters. Pokémon is probably one of the most premium-friendly properties to emerge in years, and BK was rightly praised for making the most of its natural collectibility.
Best TV campaign
Nickelodeon Nation’s blend of natural-looking kids and a catchy anthem propelled it to top-of-mind status for most of the execs polled. The spots were credited with conveying Nick’s essence and aiming straight for the heart without being cloying or saccharine. The campaign marks a move to the big leagues for New York-based specialty shop Kidvertisers.