Now That Is A Spoonful…

Cheerios Commercial

Parent, or not, spend just a few minutes with a kid and it quickly becomes obvious that children view the world very differently than adults.  This fact is no mystery to marketers who understand the impact that today’s young family members have on the buying decisions made by the adults in their family.  Kids represent an important demographic to marketers because, in addition to their own purchasing power (which is considerable), they influence their parents’ buying decisions and are the adult consumers of the future.  According to the 2008 YTV Kids and Tweens Report, kids influence the purchase of breakfast and lunch choices up to 97% of the time, clothing purchases 95% of the time, software purchases 76% of the time, computer purchases 60% of the time and family entertainment choices 98% of the time.  No wonder targeting and advertising to children has exploded over the past several decades.

Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing having children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids.  And while understanding the world through the eyes of a child has gotten much more sophisticated today, “pester power” (remember the toys in the cereal boxes) remains the staple approach to motivating parents purchasing decision.

With the joining of psychology and marketing, advertisers now have access to in-depth knowledge about children’s developmental, emotional and social needs at different ages, opening up opportunities to engage younger consumers more effectively with messages fine-tuned to attract attention and motivate kids into action.  Not surprising, technology is playing a significant role in reaching the minds of the younger generation and not just by utilizing tools and methods like  immersive “advergames“(video games made specifically to advertise a product),  popular animated characters and mobile apps but also by developing a new technological delivery vehicle to bring important messages down to kids size.

A billboard in Spain created by an organization dedicated to aiding abused children shows a different message to children and adults even if both see the ad at the same time on the same board.  The use of lenticular printing, allows different images to be seen at different vantage points.  In this case, if the billboard is seen by children who are less than 4 feet 3 inches in height, the message is different than when viewed by an average sized adult.

Even with all the science and technology, toys and tools, advertisers are learning that kids have a seemingly odd perspective on the world creating unique social and moral challenges to marketing to a diverse and complex audience.    Saatchi & Saatchi’s famous Cheerios commercial with the interracial couple has opened up the conversation once again on how differently children interpret a message and perceive the world very differently than adults, giving new credence to the fact that much of how adults view the world is dependent upon what we have learned from our family, cultural environment and our exposure to society as a whole.  When explored in a video by the Fine Brothers, kids between the ages of 7 and 13 didn’t understand why the Cheerios commercial may have been thought to be controversial.  But perhaps the best example of how kids see things is evidenced through BBDO’s new AT&T’s “Bigger; Faster; More;” commercials.  Children, and simplicity, are at the core of the classic-in-the-making “It’s not complicated” campaign for AT&T.

Unlike most adults, children often do not understand everything that is going on around them, so they make up stories and their own impressions to describe some situations in their lives like school, toys and parents.  Understanding kids perspectives and perceptions in all things in their worlds view is fundamental to effectively marketing to the younger generation.  Is the method and message controversial or just “stupid”?

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