The latest findings from four phone and on-line surveys conducted by Bethesda, Maryland-based new media research and consulting outfit Grunwald Associates last year show that kids who have both the TV and their computers on at the same time are likely to hit the mute button during commercial breaks to spend some time in chatrooms or working on their websites and blogs.
Does this mean the death of the TV commercial? Not quite, says president Peter Grunwald, but kids are starting to exercise more control over the media they’re using, even when they’re watching television. ‘From a marketer’s standpoint, this means those who rely on old formulas [i.e. TV spots alone] when allocating their media budgets are probably making a mistake.’
Grunwald says it’s time for marketers to capitalize on the behavioral pattern that sees kids turn away from TV ads to tinker on-line by creating a smooth marketing message between the TV screen and the computer monitor. Kids want to act on media, not simply be the recipients of it, and ‘over the next few years, we’re going to see a tidal wave of marketing efforts that intelligently take the Internet into account in the media mix,’ he predicts.
Given that 70% of kids say they would like to have a mechanism for skipping on-line ads, Grunwald doesn’t recommend pop-ups as an effective web marketing tool. A better strategy would be to offer branded tools that kids can use to define their on-line hangouts. Roughly two million kids in the U.S. currently run their own websites, and Grunwald expects that number to triple by 2005. From posting imports such as homepage templates and bulletin boards, to fonts and multimedia borrowing libraries, these are the kinds of efforts that empower kids to express themselves on-line, getting a brand out there to a wider audience at the same time. Grunwald warns, though, that kids should know exactly what they’re getting. ‘The branding should be non-manipulative, appropriate for the particular tool and application, and very transparent,’ he suggests.
With kids watching TV and using the computer at the same time, a multimedia marketing effort could be as simple as flashing a URL at the end of a TV spot or show. Sandra Leo, brand manager at Bandai, says her company’s dedicated Gundam gaming hub experienced an 80% jump in visits when its website address appeared at the tail end of Cartoon Network’s broadcast of the show. At www.gundampilotacademy.com, Bandai enrolls Gundam fans in a fictitious pilot school, which currently has 100,000 ‘students’ signed on. Once registered, kids use customization tools to create on-line characters who sport unique emblems and study the fine art of flying spacecraft. Those who finish the ‘course’ earn their pilot’s wings and the chance to head off to an actual Space Camp. To help spread the word, Bandai has encouraged webmasters of Gundam fan sites to come and grab free artwork and a ‘pilots wanted’ icon.