The Secret To Advertising That Wins Over Moms AND Kids

When marketing budgets were booming with no end in sight, advertisers ran dedicated ads for kids as well as for parents. After all, children need to want and love your brand, while parents need to be convinced that your brand is right for them. 

Nowadays, money is tight, particularly in CPG. The pressure is on brands to minimize non-working dollars, eliminate effort seen as duplication, and justify every penny. Marketers largely believe they’ve got to choose: advertise either to kids or to parents, but no more specific ads for each segment. The underlying assumption of that belief is that it’s hard to justify two separate lots of ad spend to encourage a single sale. 

But, as is often the case in marketing, that assumption is based on an inaccurate read of the situation. The reality is that there is another way, and it pleases everyone.

First, it’s crucial to understand four scenarios playing out in the typical household prior to any kid-related purchases. One of these will happen regardless of whether the prospective acquisition is for toys, food, electronic devices, or anything else: 

  • Kid requests, parent says no.
  • Kid requests, parent says yes.
  • Parent buys (without kid request), kids hates it.
  • Parent buys (without kid request), kid loves it.



The trick is to build both the child’s desire for the item as well as the parent’s confidence that it’s something their child should have. More than that, parents want their little ones to be happy, they want to minimize family strife, and they need to balance those with responsibility. Parents need to feel good about making that purchase for the child, whatever it is. 

 There are two components to achieving these ideal circumstances. Both need to be in place.

1. Media buying for optimum co-viewing.

There are some shows kids and parents watch together, as well as child-oriented programming during which parents are often watching over-the-shoulder (or, more frequently these days, over-the-mobile-screen). Focus your ad spend on content of either description for maximum attention overlap.

2. Creative that surprises and delights parents as well as kids.

While The Simpsons is one of the most prominent examples of programming filled with adult references that fly straight over young heads, this trend has dominated kids’ films for years. These Easter eggs not only make it tolerable for parents to watch along with their children, but actually make them more likely to pay attention.

Further, creative that encourages co-viewing creates a shared experience. When both parent and child are engaged, deciding on a future purchase together carries more meaning. That shared experience yields lasting benefits, including a positive feeling about the brand that sticks in the brain’s subconscious (often referred to as System 1). For the child, such positive childhood memories related to the brand often lead to a lifetime of customer loyalty, which can mean future purchases for generations.

While movie studios like Pixar have mastered co-viewing-friendly creative, there are regrettably few examples of commercials playing to this dual audience so masterfully. Progressive Insurance is a standout, placing their familiar character Flo in a mischief-filled “Prank Protection” plot and a basketball-centric, animated “Air Flo” spot. (Sports, music, and superheroes are all devices with broad appeal among kids and parents.)

What’s more, Progressive is airing these ads on Nickelodeon and Disney, clearly with more than just a youthful audience in mind. 

Marketers should take note. We know when you build your brand among kids and among their parents simultaneously, the request/buy and buy/accept cycles are intensified. The parent is happy, the child is happy, and the brand advertising team is happy. 

In terms of bang for buck, there’s no better investment than advertising that captures the attention of more than one valuable audience. When each segment has such a strong influence on the other, and that influence can have impact lasting generations, the return on creative that resonates with kids and parents is the best-kept secret in advertising to parents and kids.

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