Anirban Roy Choudhury

Unilever to put lid on marketing to kids: Need broadcasters worry?

Unilever has announced that starting 2021, it will not market its foods and beverages products to kids below 12.

The biggest advertiser on television in India, Hindustan Unilever's parent company Unilever has announced that starting 2021, it will not market its foods and beverages products to kids below 12. In its new principles for marketing, it has also announced that it won't direct any point of sale communications to children below six. For television and other measurable mediums, Unilever said it won't advertise on platforms/channels where kids constitute more than 25 per cent viewership.

This casts a cloud of uncertainty over the Kids broadcast genre in India. With more than 24 channels operating, the Kids space holds seven per cent viewership share, leaving behind genres like News, Music and Infotainment. In fact, General entertainment and Movies are the only genres that fetch more viewers in India than Kids. Industry experts estimate that close to Rs 550 crore of advertising money is spent on Kids broadcast with FMCG players contributing to almost 70 per cent, followed by media networks (TV Channels, and OTT players), e-commerce and consumer durables.

Nickelodeon, which operates in India as a part of Viacom18, is the market leader followed by Turner, Disney, Sony Pictures Networks India and Discovery Communications. "We don't see this (Unilever's decision) impacting us," says Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head, Mass and Kids, Viacom18. "All of us have been hearing about the Kids pledge for many years now. As a Kids broadcaster, we are very responsible. We co-partner brands to ensure that we are not a bad influence and we have the gatekeeper's trust," she adds.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria
Nina Elavia Jaipuria

However, a senior media planner believes otherwise. On condition of anonymity, he opines that the Unilever diktat which will take all the Wall's ice-cream ads off Kids channels, will impact the revenue of some networks. "When Unilever does something, others follow. The global companies like Mondelez and Nestle have already pulled off advertising from the Kids genre. That makes Lever the most important advertiser on the genre, and in the current scenario, HUL is spending around Rs 60 crore on Kids' channels. This whole chunk could go away," says the planner.

Source: KPMG Report
Source: KPMG Report

Now, it is not that only kids consume the Motu Patlus, Guru and Bholes and Chhota Bheems (popular shows on Kids' channels). As per the Broadcast Audience Research Council India, 59 per cent of the total viewership on Kids genre comes from the 2 - 14 age group, while parents constitute the remaining 41 per cent. "Yes, we witness a lot of co-viewing on the channel, and we had brands like Nykaa advertising on Kids to target young mothers," says Leena Lele Dutta, business head, Sony YAY. She believes that in the long run, Kids' broadcasters will have the secondary audience to the advertisers.

She says, "It is not only Unilever, but most of the global brands also have a policy in place when it comes to advertising to the kids directly, it is a diktat from the headquarters that they are following in all the regions including India and one cannot do much about it but comply. But It is extremely disheartening in an environment where the category is witnessing slow growth in revenue and year on year, we see different brands taking the global pledge and not advertising."

Leena Lele Dutta
Leena Lele Dutta

She questions the way brands approach media planning on the Kids genre, "Kids today are the influencers and decision-makers not only for the products they consume but even for the high-value goods that one purchases. Then agnostic of what brands you have, why don't you target them as you would do for any other audience?"

Dutta too believes that the pester power of kids is something that the brands cannot ignore, "Kids is not a niche genre, it never was," she says. "Advertising will continue on the Kids' channels but we have to draw the line too. If some brands do not want to advertise on Kids we will have to respect that. They also respect our decisions. For example, we have never played a cola ad on Kids' channels ever and that is an understanding that we have with Pepsi and Coca Cola and Nickelodeon and Viacom18."

Apart from Hindustan Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser India and P&G are big advertisers on Kids followed by ITC, Britannia, Perfetti and others. While the broadcasters are firm that Unilever not marketing F&B products to children won't impact the Kids' broadcasting space, there are a few worried players too. It remains to be seen if new advertisers start finding interest in the Kids genre - the one that broadcasters believe is "terribly under indexed". What also remains to be seen is if the broadcasters continue to invest in Indian IPs which have, over time, surpassed the consumption of global toons. In fact, all five top programmes last week, as per BARC India were Indian IPs.

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