Benita Chacko
Media

“Kids have own devices now; influencer marketing campaigns directly targeted to them”: Viacom18’s Sonali Bhattacharya

The head – marketing, kids entertainment cluster, Viacom18, shares how the channel is promoting its new show and speaks on its different marketing initiatives.

As Nickelodeon promotes its new show ‘Chikoo aur Bunty’, the kids channel has collaborated with food chains like Belgian Waffles, Smokin’ Joe’s and New York Burrito Company. This would mean the ordered food will reach the consumer in boxes branded with Nickelodeon with show stickers on the box.

While the partnership with Belgian Waffles will allow users to order a Chikoo and Bunty combo pack, the partnership with Smokin’ Joe’s will allow them to order a special Chikoo Bunty Pizza combo. Additionally, one can order a specially curated Chikoo and Bunty meal as well from the New York Burrito Company.

“Kids have own devices now; influencer marketing campaigns directly targeted to them”: Viacom18’s Sonali Bhattacharya

In an interview with afaqs!, Sonali Bhattacharya, Head of Marketing – Kids TV Network, Viacom18, shares how the channel is promoting its new show and speaks on its different marketing initiatives.

“People are ordering in more now and cooking is reducing. People are so tired of cooking in the kitchen. They are spending family time sharing food. Home delivery has increased by 33 per cent. Children are very excited when they receive their donut box with their toon character,” she says.

Owing to online schooling, many children have access to devices. In fact Bhattacharya says now many children have their own devices in urban areas.

“With online schooling being the norm, kids need a device to log into their virtual classes. They're not necessarily sharing the phone with their parents like they did two years ago,” she says.

With this they have increased their influencer marketing efforts to reach the children. “A large part of the audience on platforms like Instagram or YouTube are kids. They are early adopters, they follow trends and soon will be the ones creating the trends. They are the first ones to adopt anything new. This TG is so dynamic and evolving. Influencer Marketing is set to only grow in the coming years,” Bhattacharya adds.

But the channel has to exercise caution while reaching out to kids on social media.

“There are a lot of safety filters we keep in mind when we collaborate with influencers. It’s most important that we choose the right platform, the right influencers to communicate in a certain tone. We make sure that the influencer’s connection will be very effective with the child and the communication will be positive and will put the child in a happy phase,” she says.

The digital world also allows children to interact with their favourite toons through games, AR filters, GIFs and stickers on social media platforms. So are these digital-age merchandise? Bhattacharya says it's an important part of their digital plan and they use it only as a creative, innovative and engaging marketing tool that a child loves to interact with. Since it's not charged it can’t be considered as merchandising.

“Yes, a lot of merchandising is now online, for example in-game purchases. But you can't take away the excitement that a kid feels when he gets a Motu Patlu t-shirt or when he rides a bicycle with Shiva written on it. That is not something that the pandemic will wipe away. This TG is very tactile,” he says.

"You can't take away the excitement that a kid feels when he gets a Motu Patlu t-shirt or when he rides a bicycle with Shiva written on it. That is not something that the pandemic will wipe away."

Kids today have a lot of choices when it comes to content- whether on television or online. Bhattacharya says it is a constant challenge to break through the clutter and get the child to choose Nick.

“Kids have a very short attention span. They get bored very quickly and want something different on a regular basis. We try to use as many platforms as possible to keep them entertained. In all the content we ensure that the messaging, the tonality and the language is very lighthearted and playful,” she says.

In FY21, Nickelodeon’s viewership grew by 39 per cent. But with schools reopening and kids going back to their usual routine there has been a decline of over 10 per cent and now it is stabilising. But that will also open another avenue to market the channel- through on-ground activations. Bhattacharya says they can start the activation the way they used to.

“It would be interesting to watch the cultural shifts that take place once kids return to schools. We hope that in the next few months vaccines for kids will be rolled out. Once that happens, a lot of things that we hold back on can continue. As the market leader we don't want to do anything that will jeopardise the kids’ safety. Brands that do not cater to children are already doing some amount of below-the-line marketing. But we would be the last one to go there,” she says.

"We hope that in the next few months vaccines for kids will be rolled out. Once that happens, a lot of things that we hold back on can continue."

Summer is the most crucial time for kids’ entertainment channels due to their vacations. However that was completely washed out in the last two years due to the Covid19 pandemic.

But unlike the first wave, this time they got a lot more time to plan the activities. They brought out many digital initiatives like Watch Parties, mobile games with cartoon characters like Ludo, Snakes & Ladders and Carrom.

“But the morale was so much lower, we had to do things that were far more interesting to keep the kids happier. We did a lot of curation of content purely for the online platform, because we realised that content was becoming more and more platform agnostic. on on on a lot of curated content to influencers to micro bloggers, which would keep kids engaged with them,” she adds.

With the lockdown limiting the kids physical activity, the channel felt it important to ensure that the children don’t get used to a sedentary lifestyle. So they conducted dance-along videos and fun yoga sessions for kids in association with the Ministry of Ayush on their social media handles. They also had a lot of DIY workshops. “We try to keep them engaged. And try to make their screen time and the virtual sessions as meaningful as possible. These were on YouTube or Instagram, because with social media it is a two-way communication,” she said.

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