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Griffin Bacal's Paul Kurnit finds mainstream marketers cozying up to kids

The last five years

Kid advertising in the past few years has been characterized by more change than we've seen in any period preceding it. It's been a merry-go-round of activity with more ponies to ride than we've ever seen before. What's going on?

There have been three key developments: New players, new partners and new promotions. In every case, the stakes have gotten bigger.

Once upon a time, kid advertising was the domain of breakfast cereals and toy companies. The dynamics of the youth market have changed that dramatically. With the increased spending power and influence of kids, more marketers have stepped up to the plate in recognizing youth as a powerful audience in its own right. An increasing number of marketers understand that beyond toys and food, major youth influence now exists in new household categories such as technology, cars, vacations and even the family home. Today's kids are third parents. They are seen and they are heard. They are powerful and influential. They shape behavior and purchases in the home (if not the home purchase itself). As kid business has become big business, a number of marketers have begun to embrace the kid lifestyle with partners that touch kids' lives in other venues. So we now see big product and entertainment deals: Nickelodeon with Kraft, Disney with Mattel and Hasbro. This idea of sharing brand space enables marketers to have more kid presence and traction in kids' lives. Similarly, promotions and partners are more creative, more interactive and more kid involving.

The next five years

There are two major developments that will change both kids' lifestyles and how we market to kids over the next five years: The Internet and wireless technology. Both provide a new freedom for kids. Both deliver connectedness to the world in effortless ways without the burden of travel. Both provide access to information and entertainment. Both enable access to commercial choices. Kids are already the early adopters of the Internet. They tell us they prefer the Internet to television. They like their cell phones and beepers. They will like their access to wireless Internet even more. Financial marketers, such as American Express, Visa and MasterCard, will empower them to spend. Interactive television will entertain them and-with ReplayTV or TiVo technology-enable them to spend in the middle of their favorite programs without missing a beat in the dramas they care about. Entertainment and commerce will become seamless. Regulators and moralists will be perplexed. Parents will need to become more responsible. And kids will continue to influence and shape North American life more dynamically than ever before.

Paul Kurnit is president of New York-based kid specialist Griffin Bacal, a full-service ad agency.


Paul Kurnit, Kidscreen. January 2001

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