Marketing to Kids 1The reality for marketers is that media consumption and purchasing habits have shifted since the start of Covid-19, and for most brands, marketing budgets will have probably been reduced, meaning the need to deliver a successful campaign with a healthy ROI is more important than ever.  

In this article we look at the changing habits of children’s media consumption during COVID-19, and the challenges advertisers are experiencing, now in the post Covid-19 hangover, including commentary from a few brands that communicate and actively target children and parents to generate awareness and sales.

Unsurprisingly, since March 2020, the time children have spent interacting with digital media has increased significantly, particularly YouTube, TikTok & CBBC. This has meant keeping children responsibly engaged and entertained with new content flowing outside of social, video on demand, and non-commercial platforms is now the biggest challenge for brands looking to attract young audiences.

Children are a challenging demographic to market to even during ‘normal times’, largely because of parental concern, and the media often focusing on advertising and marketing to have a negative effect on children. However, by creating engaging experiences, interactive environments, and activities associated with your brand or product, companies can increase brand loyalty.

When targeting the family market, children are an important demographic owing to the fact that today, it’s more likely than ever that they will have their own bank account, card or quick access to their parents Amazon or iTunes account. In addition to their own purchasing power, it’s the influence or pester power they have over their parents’ buying decisions.

Especially those under the age of 13, where social media is off-limits because of age restrictions. There are parents who will turn the other cheek, but those who steer their children away from social platforms present the greatest challenge to businesses whose products or services are primarily for children under 13.

Developing unique content and driving users back to your own brand real-estate is one of the biggest challenges. Engaging users online and continuing the journey offline via printable resources, and fun, sticky activities they relate to and tell their friends about is the holy grail.

Influencer marketing is incredibly popular, and particularly well-suited as a route to market for larger brands. However, big ad budgets are often required to achieve cut through, and badly chosen associations, particularly with well-known influencers trying to push the boundaries can have a negative impact, meaning there is an increasing need for brands to get creative with their content, and gain exposure by drawing children back to their own space with engaging content, that's regularly updated. 


Marketing to kids 2Changing habits of how children are engaging with broadcast and digital media

It’s no surprise, when online, children are often left alone, without parental supervision, and more so during the period of lockdown. Also, a large number of parents generally won’t understand the extent to which their children are being marketed to, or the technologies used to collect information for marketing research on platforms like YouTube. It's also a reality that children under the age of 13 access YouTube, regularly and unsupervised. This article is about responsible marketing to children, and I'd never suggest using platforms that are not age appropriate as a route to market, but if you have children, or understand their actual media consumption, kids viewing 13+ platforms under age is happening.

I was particularly intrigued by this, which led me to run a few video-based focus groups with children and their parents during lockdown that fitted within this category. And although it was clear parents had a level of trust, the children themselves said they liked having the freedom of choice, and content they liked presented to them as suggestions. They also said they 'wish the adverts were not there', and a few even said they were worried that 'people can hack you'. What was also clear, was the here today, gone tomorrow mentality of who they followed, and who was cool, changed almost on a weekly basis.

The challenge is to cut through the intense advertising clutter in young people’s lives. Today’s children are bright, and savvy, but above all it is imperative that brands choose to market to children and responsibly, helping young audiences to recognise and process media messages they encounter. Whilst doing so, ensure parents also interact, and get involved.

In both online and offline media, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code states that age-restricted products can only be marketed in an environment where at least 75% of the audience is aged over the minimum age requirement. To serve advertising, or to market on a particular site a brand should be satisfied that the  site they are to serve has a target audience at or above the 75% threshold.

If you are a parent yourself, you will know that Children are increasingly shifting their screen time from TV to multiple digital devices at the same time. And it’s likely that advertising is the main reason a child chooses a specific brand or product, indicating the immense impact of commercial appeals to children.


Children’s media consumption increase during Covid-19

YouTube & TikTok: (51%)

Online/TV Streaming: (38%)

Video Games (31%)

Music Streaming (28%)

Broadcast: (24%)

Online Press: (21%)

Radio: (17%)

Source: Global Webindex (4,000 children, across UK & USA)


How to reach parents, build relationships and brand loyalty 

Parents today are more likely to buy more for their children because of factors such as a smaller family size, both parents working, or even having children later in life offering a higher disposable income. Being time-poor and guilt can also influence spending decisions with material goods substituting the time spent with their children.

More so in recent years, brands that historically had no interest in young consumers are also trying to keep their advertising relevant to them. Brand loyalties can be established at a very age, and by the time children head off to school most can recognise hundreds of brand logos. 

While fast food, toy and clothing companies have been cultivating brand recognition in children for years, adult-focused businesses such as banks and car manufacturers are also getting in on the act. If you have young children, ask them to name five car brands, I promise you, they will reel them off.

Ultimately, if a company that produces products for children can maintain a balance between the product user, the child, and the purchaser, (the parent), it can gain a stronger market presence in comparison to brands who ignore either side of the equation.

marketing to children and parentsThings to consider marketing to children

To effectively market to children, advertisers need to know what makes children tick. With the rise of advertising automation and insight, advertisers also have access to in-depth knowledge about children’s developmental, emotional and social needs at different ages. Using research that considers children’s typical behaviours, alter egos, and aspirations, companies are able to map out marketing strategies to reach young people.

Historically schools were a place where children were shielded from advertising. However, lack of funds are enticing schools to allow businesses access to their students in exchange for badly needed funding to provide costly resources.

Schools offer a targeted audience, and powerful marketing message, particularly if they are endorsements by teachers. This provides a number of ways to increase brand engagement and visibility ranging from sponsored books including advertising, competitions, incentive programs from book publishers to food manufacturers. Even sponsored football shirts, and children’s authors roadshows. My children had Henry Winkler (AKA ‘The Fonz’) come and read at their school to promote his book. He even signed my Happy Days annual, (result), but that’s another story.


Children’s marketing strategies that can produce great results

When it comes to children’s products, marketing requires a responsible, balanced approach between what children want and what schools and parents deem to be appropriate. So by appealing to both audiences, and using creative innovation, and sticky activities, alongside incentives, brands are more likely to achieve cut through.

Children are no longer watching, they are creating, so to encourage them to engage with, and advocate your brand, it’s important to give them fun, creative, original content, and opportunities to download, customise or create user-generated content. TikTok is particularly good at offering interactive, branded, user generated activities that can be shared, so if you are looking to target children under 13, you should consider creating these types of experiences in your own environment.


What challenges are you experiencing since Covid-19 marketing to children/family audiences, and how are you adapting?


Eric Marradi, Founder, Spoken Adventures

"Fortunately we’ve kind of been "Covid ready" in the sense that we were already working on educational material for kids that plays well with parents, and most importantly, that gets the kids away from the screen, as they can interact with our app without looking at it, since they're looking at print material.

I've been developing educational content since 1995, and really believe that audio is the way to go with kids, the educational part is completely dissolved in games particularly so they don't even know they're learning.

As Spoken Adventures offers professional recording, it gives a substitute to human interaction by simulating dialogues with children."


Kirsten Coughtrie, Founder, GeoVLE Limited

"As both a parent and educator, I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume of advertising for home learning platforms, resources and classes online.  My students and children dabble in many of them, but don't commit, not for lack of interest but the impossibility of finding the same link, advert or tab among the hundreds open.

Parents are desperate to make sure their children don't fall behind, are engaged and not interrupting their own remote working routine. But it's hard to make sense of it all in the panic, chaos and abundance of free resources and sponsored ads. It's frustrating having our own marketing drowned out by so many new players in this market keen to jump on the bandwagon. 

More than ever children and parents need to connect with products or service they trust and can rely on to see them through this crisis and into a new online landscape which must adapt rapidly to be both engaging and authentic."



It’s still early to understand what impact Covid-19 will have on children’s purchasing habits, and although we know media consumption is up, they’ve had time on their hands, but that’s going to change when children get back to normality with their routines. And although advertisers, certainly at this time, may be more reluctant to take risks or promote their brand with media owners that aren't offering a positive spin on the world, there is still a job at hand for brands and marketers to stay afloat.

Although it’s unlikely most children's brands will have the budget to stream the next live event, or add a new character skin on Fortnite just yet, bear in mind that parents and educational environments are crucial in the targeting to engage children with your advertising message. So for a stronger market share, let them join in on the fun, as brands can’t ignore either party, and will increase success by keeping both in mind.

Do Something Digital, is a creative marketing agency, with years of experience developing fun, innovative advertising content and digital campaigns designed to engage, entertain and connect brands with children and family audiences. Challenge us, and we’ll work with you to provide strategic direction, creative concepts and technical expertise to help accomplish your goals.


Sources & acknowledgements

House of commons Library, Advertising to Children:

IAB UK: Digital Advertising & Children (PDF):

The Children’s Media Conference: