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Paul Kurnit, President, Griffin Bacal Inc.
April 6, 2000, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern

moderator: Welcome to today's online discussion on Marketing and Advertising to Children, hosted by Paul Kurnit, President of Griffin Bacal Inc.

Paul_Kurnit: Hi everyone...Paul Kurnit here. I'm looking forward to a lively conversation.

moderator: Paul Kurnit, president of Griffin Bacal, has numerous years of experience with children's advertising.

Paul_Kurnit: Children's advertising is one of the most exciting areas in the advertising business.

Paula: What's the most fascinating aspect about advertising to children?

Paul_Kurnit: If you ask for one single most fascinating aspect, that's difficult. Probably the dynamism of it all. There is an energy, excitement and enthusiasm that goes with the territory with kids and needs to be reflected in the work we do in communicating with them.

Paula: Does children’s' advertising encompass up to 12 years or 18?

Paul_Kurnit: In our work there are six different audiences in the kids market up to the age of 18. The six children's audiences include 0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13-15, 16-18. Psychographically these audiences are baby/toddler, preschool, kids, tweens, young teens and teens.

jubdep: Do younger kids respond to advertising for older kids?

Paul_Kurnit: Good question and very rich. All kids aspire to be older. So, emulation works up...in message communication and the ways kids identify. The key is to understand the primary audience, create communication that appeals to their idealized sense of self, that they can relate to.

jubdep: So, does that mean a three-yr.-old's "idealized" sense could be six-years old?

Paul_Kurnit: Could be, but unlikely. The mind and biological development of a six year old, for the most part will be just a bit too far advanced for the three year old to relate to. Age emulation has to be within the realm of comprehension and relation for kids to reach up to.

moderator: Amanda K. asks which audience is the hardest to market to?

Paul_Kurnit: Each audience brings with it uniquely different challenges

mbower: Have agencies developed specific models regarding how kids may be attracted to products that are for older kids or are restricted to them, i.e. R-rated movies that are advertised to kids under age 17.

Paul_Kurnit: For the most part agencies have not developed specific models. There are a relatively few of us agencies who specialize in kids and embrace fundamental principles on what constitutes effective, responsible communication to kids.

The R rated movie question is interesting. Technically kids don't see them. Yet, the action adventure films rated R are often powerful within culture. More and more movie makers want to get PG or PG 13 ratings, so kids can see the film... One of the big problems with the movie Small Soldiers a couple of years ago, for example was that it got a PG 13 so it was inappropriate for some marketing partners (e.g. Burger King) to promote product tie ins to young kids.

amandak: Could you give an example of a unique challenge with young teens?

Paul_Kurnit: Unique challenges with young teens is the mind space they are occupying today. Today's young teens (i.e. tweens) used to behave like traditional kids. Today they are teen wannabes...so, what products and what appeals will best register with them? A bigger question than ever before…

mbower: What is presumed to be the most effective ways to reach teens and tweens?

Paul_Kurnit: Tweens and teens are reachable in surprisingly different ways. Tweens are more easily reached in traditional kid media, especially television. Teens are more elusive. Their lifestyle media can include appointment viewing to specific television programs, but many of the shows are expensive to buy. Print is becoming a richer medium addressing teens with a plethora of new titles...e.g. Teen People, Cosmo Girl, Twist, Jump, in addition to the old standbys Seventeen, YM etc.

pbj: How early do kids develop brand loyalty?

Paul_Kurnit: Great question. Tough to know and evolving all the time. For two reasons:

1. Kids are more aware and receptive to brands than ever before and at earlier ages. But,

2. they are more demanding of what a brand has to be, do and evolve to earn their loyalty.

pbj: When people say advertising makes kids materialistic, do you think that's true?

Paul_Kurnit: That's complicated. I think it's too easy an accusation of advertising. We live in a very commercial society...we are all exposed to hundreds of commercial messages a day...from our clock radio, our toothpaste, the breakfast foods we select from the pantry... all often before we see or hear a single commercial message. Kids want stuff. It's part of the inquiring, experimenting, learning nature that is in our DNA. Advertising informs kids about things that may be fun for their lives...it may put a brand face on fun. But, kids will invent fun even if we don't package it for them

emma: Well then, does children's advertising make kids better consumers -- meaning better informed?

Paul_Kurnit: Absolutely. We have a more informed, more critically aware and newly optimistic youth audience today. Kids have a healthy appreciation but also a healthy distrust of advertising. They hold our work to a higher standard than a generation ago. Today's tweens will offer very sophisticated critiques of advertising that doesn’t ring true, relate to them or over glamorizes products...and word of mouth (e.g. Hall Talk) will kill a bad product really quickly.

emma: Very interesting.

Paul_Kurnit: Thank you. We, in the advertising business, have a fundamental responsibility to respect kids and be responsive to their developmental needs as well as recognize opportunities to enrich their lives, whether we're selling toys or breakfast cereal, entertainment or socially important messages.

bking: I wish everyone felt that way. Some of the movies they're targeting to teens lately are really scary-bad.

Paul_Kurnit: The teen movie thing is very interesting. Most of the advertising we do that addresses kids is not to this teen movie audience. Kids are a pre car keys generation. They all aspire to have more freedom…car keys are the archetypal signal of that freedom.

Teen films have gained traction because they deal with the dualities of freedom vs. responsibility, emulation and aspiration, insecurity and empowerment and so much more. We have seen several key teen themes emanating from Hollywood. First there were Teen Screams (e.g. Scream 1, 2, 3). Lately we’re seeing new teen steam films, ugly ducklings transformed, coming of age, teenage angst etc. They're pretty formula movies, but they’ve gained a real niche at the box office with kids who are seeing their favorite stars (often from TV) dealing in subjects that consume their growing up issues.

moderator: We're out of time. Thank you, Paul. Please join us for our next online discussion Public Service advertising online, hosted by Chris Schults, Internet Manager, The Ad Council, on April 12 at 4:00 p.m.


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