Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards is back with its second virtual edition. The channel is constantly evolving and making it’s core more kids friendly. “The Kids Choice Awards is an iconic property and owing to its concept it continues to garner a lot of love from young audiences year on year making it a successful property for Nickelodeon.” Says Sonali Bhattacharya, Head of Marketing, Kids Entertainment Cluster, Viacom18 in an exclusive interview with MI.
Sonali opens up about the marketing strategy, particularly after the pandemic. She also talks about the challenges and how the channel is overcoming them. Excerpts here:
Q) What are the challenges in the kid’s category? How are you strategizing to overcome them?
Sonali: We managed to turn a lot of challenges into opportunities for ourselves. The pandemic is proof that we always stayed ahead of the curve. We innovated to introduce a lot of digital disruptive initiatives like Nicks Dance, Creatively Yours, Yoga se hi Hoga, and more. We effectively connected with the audience through these digital mediums. One of the enormous challenges for us lies in the fact that our target group grows in and out of the category. But this encourages us to stay even more creative because our TG grows bored quickly; they like new and different things with very little attention. So as brand custodians, we need to push ourselves hard. We need to innovate and think out of the box. We are also facing massive competition as every genre wants to communicate with kids, be it general entertainment, digital, OTT, or other Kids’ channels. Our TG is the youngest, and we can’t do anything that would compromise their mental well-being, safety, and health. We have to do things carefully and at lightning speed, simultaneously. Also, we can’t forget about the gatekeepers – the parents, as they are very much involved in what the kid consumes.
Q) How is the digital spectrum helping the brand because the role of technology has increased tremendously in the past two years?
Sonali: Technology has been a great enabler. It is an excellent leveller in India, where every market behaves differently from each other. What would work in the HSM market would not work for the South Asian market, and vice-versa. However it is because of technology, especially during the last two years, we have had access to everything on a screen of our choice. Kids had access to social media, and Instagram reels, to watch their favourite show if watching on Nick wasn’t a possibility, then it happened on YouTube. Technology has only enabled brands to communicate more efficiently with their audience in a country like ours. It helped us curate better content and messaging.
Q) These days, kids are keener towards digital. What tech-driven strategies are you adopting to engage with kids?
Sonali: Kids Choice Award and Metaverse are purely tech-driven strategies. Gamification is another inbound step that has a prominent role these days. It is a stem that arose from the pandemic when things and games around nostalgia saw a boom. We gamified traditional games like Ludo, and Snakes and Ladder with cartoon characters like Motu Patlu, Happy Pinaki, and Bhoot Bandhus, and it received a great response. We launched games with AR filters and AR-based mobile games with our recent Holi initiative. Nickelodeon has also considered the intelligent use of influencers. We have put out platform-agnostic content by partnering with many like-minded influencers who helped us curate and customize content carefully for our young audience.
Q) How do you recognize the right influencer for your brand?
Sonali: Each platform has its own set of influencers. Some work for us, and some don’t. As a leading brand, we take responsibility towards kids very seriously. We don’t collaborate with anyone and everyone. We filter our influencers basis safety, tonality, messaging, and their overall persona.
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Q) Is there a way to determine the authentic influencer?
Sonali: Influencers are online celebrities you are using to engage for your brand. This aspect of brand communication is qualitative and will remain so in the future. On our part, we thoroughly research. It serves as a guiding roadmap for us. We also keep a tab on some of the popular influencers in various markets. We take a close watch on the influencer’s following and engagement on a particular platform.
Q) How is the channel planning to strategize marketing as parents are very involved in kids’ activities?
Sonali: Being a leader in the kid’s category, Nickelodeon has always kept the interest of our young audience at the core of our hearts. We always keep track of the pulse of the kid. We have continued to dialogue with them even during the lockdown. We introduced initiatives that struck a strong chord with kids; for instance, Nick Dance, Creatively Yours, etc. Our marketing strategy is based on sound research and insights. Most of our initiatives run on the back of our popular IPs and characters such as Motu Patlu, Rudra, Chikoo aur Bunty. We keep our toons at the forefront of all our communication and messaging. It is because of all these initiatives that there lies a strong bond between our toons and kids.
Q) 1st virtual edition saw 1.5 million votes. What is the response this year?
Sonali: We have garnered similar success this year too. We have already touched the same figure in terms of online voting. The Kids Choice Awards is an iconic property and owing to its concept it continues to garner a lot of love from young audiences year on year making it a successful property for Nickelodeon.
Q) What are the latest offering in terms of engaging young audiences and parents?
Sonali: Our summer campaigns are taking shape and will go live over the next few weeks. The April-May-June quarter is a crucial one for us. We have a lot of engagement lined up along with our tentpoles IP, which includes episodes of our toon characters. As the nation unlocks and things are gradually moving back to normal, we are hoping to do some on-ground activities to make them experience all that they missed in the past two years. We have the Kids Choice Awards culminating on 27th March which will be available for them across multiple screens. We will telecast the whole episode on the channel, across social media, and OTT. This edition also marks our foray into the Metaverse, where the audience will get a chance to have an immersive experience of the Kids Choice Awards. It is something that’s never been done before in the category in India or even globally.