Category first & insight-driven: Viacom18 kids cluster’s approach to marketing explained

Viacom18 kids cluster head of marketing Sonali Bhattacharya speaks to

Mumbai: Viacom18 kids cluster's month-long campaign around Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards (KCA) is culminating on 27 March. Last year, when the broadcaster hosted the event virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, it saw a remarkable level of engagement with 1.5 million votes. This year, the network has taken category innovation a step further by launching a metaverse experience in ‘Decentraland’ where a screening of KCA will take place.

The multi-platform event will be broadcasted across 14 channels including TV (Nick and Sonic), social media handles, and OTT platforms (Voot, Voot Kids, JioTV, and JioTV+). Viacom18 has also partnered with DTH operator Tata Play to air the event via its service Tata Play Fun Learn.  

Talking about the category-first move and metaverse experience, Viacom18 head of marketing kids’ entertainment cluster Sonali Bhattacharya shares, "Users can either rent or buy virtual land there and use it as they see fit. We’re the first to launch a metaverse experience that is desktop friendly. So, you don’t need a piece of hardware like an Oculus VR headset to be a part of the screening.”

"Events such as KCA were an opportunity for the network to interact with kids on the ground, however, even as we come out of the pandemic, parents still reserve concerns regarding the safety of their children. In Decentraland, kids would be able to engage in social activities they couldn’t on the ground such as jumping a trampoline or playing in a ball pit albeit virtually," Bhattacharya adds.

Since last year, Viacom18 kids cluster has been very active when it comes to social and digital engagement with kids, remarks Bhattacharya. “A whole lot of engagement is happening on YouTube and there’s a surge in influencer marketing that is happening on platforms such as Instagram and MX Takatak. We are regularly engaging with kids and are in touch with the best and safest influencers in the category. As a responsible kids’ brand, we take the choice of influencers and bloggers very seriously as there is a lot of content out there that is not ideal for kids’ consumption,” she tells.

The network collaborates with influencers like Siddharth Nigam, a former child artist who played the lead in “Aladdin – Naam Toh Suna Hoga,” who creates peppy dance videos that attract a lot of viewership from their desired audiences i.e., 8–12-year-olds. During the pandemic, Nickelodeon conceptualised campaigns such as ‘Nick Says Dance,’ “Nick Jr Creatively Yours,’ and ‘Sonic School of Cool’ to engage kids getting bored at home.

Talking about the insight behind the campaigns, Bhattacharya says, “Kids love one-upmanship and we should foster that in a safe and healthy manner. We realised that the biggest space that a child could exercise this was in school which was snatched away from them because of coronavirus. We said let’s do ‘School of Cool’ virtually where our influencers would engage kids as teachers would in classrooms and teach them lifehacks in a fun way. That campaign really struck a chord with kids and even now that it has ended, you see a certain amount of organic engagement with it.”

The network also partnered with food brands such as 99pancakes, Smokin Joe’s, and Belgian Waffles which displayed the network’s popular IPs on their packaging. “What happened was that family time increased with both parents and kids staying indoors during the pandemic. There was a surge in cooking and home delivery in homes. We thought why not tie-up with food brands, who were more than happy to have our characters on their packs, and it gave us a channel to reach parents and their kids meaningfully," states Bhattacharya.

"We have a big tie-up in the North that we’re trying to scale. The challenge in a country like India is that one size doesn’t fit all. You have to approach every market differently,” she further says.

For an audience that is easily distractible and a challenge to reach, category innovations such as these are the heart and soul of kids’ channels. Despite being aware that there is a massive audience of kids on social media platforms, Bhattarchaya claims that it is difficult to attribute and measure their engagement with the target group. “Kids cannot even be on social media platforms until they’ve crossed the age of 13 but we all know that a very large part of consumption on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram is completely driven by kids. Whenever we do a tentpole, it is a 360-degree marketing approach where we harness the power of our channels that reach 52 million kids every day. We leave no stone unturned and use our handles on YouTube to the fullest for online engagement. Unfortunately, we still don’t have a tool that can carve out how much of that reach has come from a nine-year-old, or whether the engagement is coming from Instagram versus another digital platform. I’m sure it is a matter of time before the code is cracked.”

The summer months are a critical time for kids’ entertainment channels who see some of the highest viewership during the quarter. Viacom18 kids’ cluster is planning to release new episodes of its tentpole shows “Bhoot Bandhus,” “Chikoo Aur Bunty,” “Motu Patlu,” “Rudra,” and “Shiva” accompanied by high decibel marketing campaigns. It also has a series of made-for-television movies lined up that work really well with kids, according to Bhattacharya.

When queried whether the network is looking to resume ground initiatives once again, Bhattacharya replies in the affirmative. She says, “We do wish to incorporate some on-ground activity in the summer months. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that nothing crazy happens. Today in Bombay, Delhi, and tier-II cities things are looking relatively safer and we’re hoping to come back with the entire touch-feel-play experience.”  

“It’s been an exciting journey and Nick has remained the top kids’ channel for eight years in a row,” she concludes.

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