The Good, the Bad & the Evil in Kids Advertising

By December 16, 2018 No Comments

Eldad Ben Tora, CEO and Co-Founder, KIDOZ

The advertising space for kids is being redefined after the meteoric hit it took from mobile devices and is now poised to offer better clarity and improved performance. Here’s why.

Even if you don’t have kids, you have likely been witness to the two biggest trends in media consumption for kids, which have led to a massive move away from television to mobile screens.

Conventional linear TV with kid-targeted shows has lost half of its audience over the last 5 years. The image of a group of kids looking at one screen together in the living room is over.

Advertisers that used to catch kids’ attention via shows from Cartoon Network, Disney and Nick during weekend viewing have lost the ability to ramp up sales in the same volume, as kids turn more and more to online content providers like Netflix or YouTube for on-demand viewing.

From: Bloomberg

The second and complimentary trend is the move to mobile. Kids are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before, with 95% of kids in the US having access to mobile devices and 42% possessing their own tablet.

From: The Common Sense Report

Even kids under eight are reportedly spending an average of over two hours a day looking at screens, with roughly 30 percent of that time on mobile devices, and this number is growing every year. 

What does this mean for kids’ brands?

In its first few years, the mobile space looked like a messy jungle of apps, and brands have been hard-pressed to understand how they can drive sales from this medium. From our conversations, we have understood that they want to go mobile, but fear to spend with no clear return.

Thinking in terms of how things worked in the good ole’ days of linear TV, brands generally preferred advertising during kids’ prime-time, when they’d find the biggest audience. In the digital world, prime time makes less sense. Advertisers need to aggregate and build an audience from scratch, with kids now scattered across tens of thousands of apps. 


Where have all the children gone?

Using stats collected by KIDOZ, when we look at the most popular activities of kids under 13 on mobile, we see that the two most dominant activities of kids are downloadable games (apps kids install via the apps stores) and watching videos (mostly on YouTube).


However, these two platforms have tons of issues with kids’ traffic as they were not built for them in the first place, and yet they still enjoy a huge portion of their activity coming from users under 13.
To be honest, who else besides a kid has so many free hours during the day to spend on YouTube and games? Consequently, their overall weight in media consumption is much higher than their portion in the population.

Restrictions and new regulations are forcing both YouTube and Google Play to adjust their services to comply, but that basically translates to a warning, leaving parents to supervise – a “use at your own risk” philosophy – which doesn’t offer any solution for kids’ brands looking for a safe and clean mobile “prime-time.”

Let’s talk about YouTube.

YouTube is officially NOT for kids. They state this in all their documentation and use that to distance themselves from any responsibility, even though they know that a huge percentage of their users are in fact kids. While it is a huge destination for kids, the content is not manually filtered and there is no technical way to prevent younger audiences from accessing general content.

And even when kids do limit themselves to characters they love, the chances of them bumping into inappropriate content is enormous, as some content creators are intentionally producing videos with branded characters that will catch kids’ attention but will be full of bad language and horrifying scenes.

From: BBC and CNBC

In terms of privacy, YouTube collects information from end users and creates profiles without really knowing if the current user is a kid or not. The common case scenario is where a family tablet is being used by all family members, and YouTube will recommend items of content based on the history of each user, which will create a very messy experience.
A quick look at my family tablet brought a messy collection of recommendations:
fidget spinner videos for my ten-year-old son, some Jimmy Kimmel for me, but I wasn’t quite sure who the video “One night stands casually explained” was targeting. I sure hope it wasn’t for my teenage daughter :-).

No wonder many kids’ brands have taken their advertising budgets last year out of YouTube from brand safety concerns. The ones that stay, are staying because they assume there is no scalable alternative. luckily, they are wrong.

Are apps the alternative?

In the case of apps, the main regulators are the app stores themselves; it is their job to ensure the apps they include are monetizing their traffic properly and that they are sensitive enough when it comes to kids. But the reality is that to date, enforcement has been relatively weak.

From: Gizmodo

There are numerous cases of charges against app developers who have been acting in a deceptive way, for example by implementing a reward mechanism within their app to get kids to watch ads, or manipulating kids into making in-app purchases as part of gameplay, even though the app is supposed to be free.

So, what IS changing?

With the passing of the EU’s GDPR data security act, and with pushback from parents as well as advertisers who now understand their budgets are being poured into kids’ games, we are witnessing a much stronger enforcement of policies on kids’ apps.

For example, apps on Google Play that target kids must comply with their Designed for Families program, and cannot use non-COPPA ads. Apps that do not comply are banned and removed from the store.

KIDOZ is witnessing a huge demand for a COPPA-compliant monetization SDK, as the generic SDK’s are either bringing ads that put publishers at risk, or just embarrass them in front of their users.

While most developers have walked the gray line until now showing generic ads, the fill rate they are getting from the ad networks is constantly dropping, as brands are becoming smarter and more careful, and avoid running their ads on kids’ apps. As policies become more strictly enforced, some developers have begun taking an active approach as well and are adding tools that allow them to see exactly which ads each SDK brings (like SafeDK).

Kids’ app developers: the future looks promising, finally

The kids’ advertising space is being recreated and reshaped in front of our eyes.
Kids’ brands finally understand they need to go mobile, as this is where the kids are, and budgets are shifting aggressively from TV to mobile these days.
By the end of 2018, nearly 1 Billion dollars will have been spent by kids’ brands on digital platforms, and this number is expected to grow 25% year over year.

App publishers also understand they must comply and show only kid-related ads; they are now being extra careful to exclude generic ad networks that may risk their operations and are focusing instead on platforms like KIDOZ and SuperAwesome to monetize and get the highest earnings for their apps traffic, which are finally giving returns that are comparable with campaigns for adults.

Bottom line:

If you are a publisher of kids’ content and struggling to comply with regulations and grow your business, know that the times are changing and being kid friendly is finally paying off.
Top brands for kids are looking for popular kids’ apps on which to run their promotions, while also making sure the apps cater to the exact audience they are looking for (by age, gender and even theme of app).
As advertising within kids’ apps is becoming the most common way to monetize, and the experience provided to kids is becoming nearly as good as in paid apps – when done right – the future indeed belongs to kids

Reach out to us on to get started.