The Formula For Compelling Kids Entertainment Content Hasn’t Changed In 15 Years…
We attended a pitch meeting this week where a (prospective!) client asked us how kids had changed since we conducted our first kids research back in 1998.
That’s one of those questions where you have to stop and think for a moment before answering. Because a lot of water passes under the bridge in that amount of time.
But in the end, although we could highlight revolutionary changes in terms of media and platforms, and to a degree therefore habits, the factors which make one content iteration compelling and another as dull as dishwater actually hadn’t changed significantly.
Here’s several factors which are the same now as they were back in 1998:
1. Aspirational Characters Are Essential – it’s essential that characters are aspirational for children in terms of fictional/fantasy based properties. While the more cynical reader may link this to the obvious positive impact on merchandise sales, the reality is that aspirational characters drive greater word of mouth, create more caché and positively contribute to both initial success and longevity.
2. Content Needs To Be Continually Compelling And Immersive – the moment a TV show, movie etc. lags, the more likely it is children will become distracted and switch over, off, do something else. When we first researched kids entertainment the alternatives were a little different – you’d have been likely to see children switching on the Playstation (PS1) or N64 console versus nowadays where the child might be viewing via tablet, and might switch over to games on the tablet itself. Nevertheless, content targeting children should avoid having dull periods of lag time when not much happens and attention wavers.
Way back in time when we were testing PS1 games, we noticed that the refreshments available to young respondents disappeared more/more quickly at certain points in the game where a game was basically performing well, or at all points if the game was crap. From this we developed a new tool allowing us to gauge both ongoing appeal and constancy of immersion via measuring chocolate biscuit consumption/cake eating during testing sessions!
3. Themes/Concepts Must Be Appropriate For The Target Age Group – the best example we can find of where someone got this really wrong is a project we conducted some time ago, where we tested the new TV ad for a long running kids entertainment brand. The premise of the new ad seemed very clever in a tricksy/subtle way to both the ad agency and the brand team, alas the point was completely lost/irrelevant to the target age group. In fact the message could have worked for an audience of 5 years older, but for the target market the concept of the ad was inappropriate and therefore not compelling/motivating. If only they’d tested the TVC first, they’d have saved over £100k in production budget that was wasted, and £millions in media.
Exactly the same principle applies to entertainment content – understanding the mindset and developmental stage of the target market is fundamentally important to avoid wasting £millions in production on content that misses the mark.
4. Getting The Gender Positioning Right Is Still Critical – boys will still dismiss something ‘as for girls, yuck’, same as 15 years ago. Girls will still label something as ‘for boys’ because it’s too violent. Not all boys and girls, but an overwhelming majority. We could argue ad infinitum whether this is truly how they feel or how society/parents etc. inadvertently condition them to respond but the reality is that the same gender generalisations/stereotypes offer the least risky path in commercial terms today as they did 15 years ago.
5. Kids Love Humour, And What’s Funny Hasn’t Really Changed – kids love funny TV shows, they love to laugh. Gross, disgusting things are funny, people acting silly is funny, animals can be funny, smart alec script lines are funny, kids getting one over on adults is still funny and so basically not a lot has changed in 15 years. Kids loved The Simpsons 15 years ago, and they still love The Simpsons today.
Back in 1998, future watchers predicted device ‘convergence’ and ‘mobilisation’ – well we certainly got all that in the meantime, but even though this has lead to some significant changes in terms of consumption – double/triple screening etc., the fundamentals of the formula for compelling entertainment for kids has actually not changed that significantly in the meantime.
The next blog post will look at what’s changed in toys over the past 15 years from a consumer perspective…
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P.P.S. We run ad hoc research projects for a range of clients – from TV companies to networks, movie studios, toy companies, gaming companies and more. If you’d like us to test your content/brands, just drop us a line. Research projects typically cost from £4-20k depending on the complexity of what needs to be tested/the consumer segments. We also run an ongoing Qualitative omnibus research program offering a budget entry point – for more information on that please click here: http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/kidsplaytest/