Kid Generated Content: The New Kid on the Marketing Block

When I was a child, the internet (much less smartphones), didn’t exist, and it wasn’t fully commercialized until I was graduating high school (hashtag 80’s Kid). It was while I was watching The Facts of Life or syndicated reruns of the Brady Bunch where I was served traditional TV ads, which included ones for the Cabbage Patch Kid doll that eventually made its way to my Christmas list and under my tree when I was 8 years old.

In contrast, a 2017 Common Sense Media report found that children up to age 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes every day using on-screen media, with 72% of that time occupied by TV and video viewing alone. In the teen category, a 2018 Pew Research Center report found that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and 45% are online constantly with the most popular platforms being YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

Fast forward a few years to business school, where I distinctly remember learning the laws about marketing and advertising to children, which evolved as e-commerce and digital media exploded. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was put into law in the year 2000 over concerns about the data collected of children ages 13 and under. The law not only specifies what must be included in a brand’s privacy policy on their website, but it also details when and how to get accurate consent from a parent or guardian, the responsibilities the brand must take to protect children’s privacy and safety online and the rules for marketing to children under 13.

Today, I’m the proud mother to a 6-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl and while they both get limited screen time (30 minutes a day), they choose to spend every scarce minute of it watching YouTube Kids, the kid friendly version of the popular platform. It’s there that my LEGO obsessed son watches LEGO’s Beyond the Instructions and my bubbly daughter takes over my dining room table with slime ingredients while watching Gillian Bower’s How to Make Slime. It’s no surprise that their 2018 Christmas list consisted of LEGO sets and slime making supplies. You’re welcome LEGO and Elmer’s Glue.

However, major brands targeting children, like Gator Group, Ltd (creator of Kids GPS Gator Watch)and Vtech have recently become victims to violating COPPA, some of them not even being aware they were in violation in the first place. In the case of Vtech, a hacker stole personal information about kids and parents who used the company’s products, shedding light on a whole host of COPPA violations by the brand.

So, in this day and age where digital media rules and content is king, what are brands targeting kids to do? Enter Kid Generated Content.

Influencer marketing is nothing new and with as much media as kids are consuming today, they are very much part of the influencer game—giving brands a creative way to work around the regulatory limitations that come with COPPA. Case in point: 7-year-old Ryan, creator of YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview.

We don’t know much about Ryan because for safety reasons, his parents keep his full identity private, but you see and hear them and his twin little sisters throughout all his videos. Ryan’s YouTube channel consists of your typical child-like antics combined with unpacking new toys. His video series titled “Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge”, comprised of mostly Disney branded toys, garnered 1.7 billion views as of January 2019. According to Forbes’ magazine, in 2016-2017 Ryan was the 8th highest paid YouTube entrepreneur, generating $11 million in revenue during that timeframe and in 2018, he was listed as the highest paid YouTuber bringing in $22 million in revenue from his videos and his product line at Walmart.

Brands targeting kids, take note. Kid generated content is the path to a successful future.

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