Media: Double Standards - Giving children what they want from their media

Toni Round and Howard Litton discuss how TV and magazines are teaching children to be healthy and climate aware, as well as have a whole lot of fun into the bargain.

TONI ROUND - managing director, children's titles, BBC Magazines

- How have children's media habits changed in recent years?

Children are spending much more time online than they used to - often choosing their computer ahead of television. Some years ago, we saw a big change in the way teens consumed media, with a huge shift towards online and mobile technology and, in more recent years, we have started to see pre-teens doing the same - using digital media more, regularly visiting sites such as YouTube and with increasing numbers getting their own mobile phones.

- How beneficial is your content for children?

In our pre-school titles, the content is designed to educate children, to support the Government's early years foundation stage. The focus is on making learning fun and the content is designed to engage the children in creative ways, meaning they don't realise they are learning. In pre-teen, the focus is more on entertainment; however, we still ensure that our content is informative and enriches the readers' enjoyment of a brand.

- How do you persuade mums to invest in your brand?

The BBC brand is a key reason for mums to purchase our titles. They know that the content can be trusted and will be appropriate for their children, whether they are pre-schoolers or young teenagers - and we always deliver on this. Our titles have high editorial and production values and we ensure readers are entertained so parents can see that their children are getting real value from our magazines.

- What are you doing outside your core channel/products to keep children interested?

We have an electronic newsletter for each of our older titles, which goes out to readers on a regular basis to keep them up to date with the brand. This carries exclusive information, competitions and facts that help keep readers engaged when the magazine is off sale. With the launch of Match Of The Day magazine, we simultaneously launched the MOTD magazine website, which extends readers' enjoyment of the brand with games, the Fantasy Football League and the latest football gossip.

- How adversely have tighter controls around advertising to children impacted your business?

Not in any significant way as we have always had our own strict internal controls governing what we publish for children. When the new rules were introduced about advertising food to children, we did see a small reduction in the amount of food advertising we carried; however, this was offset by an increase in other types of advertising, including key FMCG clients such as Procter & Gamble.

- What are your best recent innovations for advertisers?

There is an opportunity to sponsor the MOTD Fantasy Football League, giving an advertiser the chance to reach more than 46,000 highly targeted football fans.

- What magazines and TV programmes did you enjoy when you were a child?

Whizzer & Chips and then My Guy. And I loved Multi-Coloured Swap Shop - never Tiswas!

HOWARD LITTON - managing director, Nickelodeon

- Children today are hugely empowered by media How have children's media habits changed in recent years?

proliferation and choice. Channels (such as Nickelodeon) offer new and cool stuff, accessible in many varied ways - online, TV, red-button games, toys and lifestyle products. This has given rise to a generation of true multitaskers. Children decide when and how to engage with their favourite characters. In turn, broadcasters require a greater understanding of these choices and behaviours to develop an offering that reflects them.

- How beneficial is your content for children?

At Nickelodeon, we're about helping children to be healthy, happy and aware of the world around them. Nickelodeon UK's ethos is about "putting children first" - and everything we do benefits them. We're a trusted voice among UK children and from this position we can address some of the serious issues they face, such as "see something, say something", our anti-bullying campaign in partnership with ChildLine; Nick's Big Green Thing, educating children about the environment; and Nicktrition, empowering children to make healthier choices.

- How do you persuade mums to invest in your brand?

We support mums. Nick Jr (our pre-school channel) is geared towards mutual viewing with the emphasis on quality content with a distinct UK feel. For the recent launch of "Wake Up World" (Nick Jr's breakfast block), we researched families and shaped the block around their requirements. Our bedtime block features A Bedtime Story With Arnie And Barnie, where celebrities read to children. Mums and dads have told us they rely on this block as a valuable step in the "putting to bed" process.

- What are you doing outside your core channel/products to keep children interested?

As a truly multiplatform network, our aim is to be where children are - with programmes and products that children can access whenever and wherever they choose. We also run a programme of experiential activity, such as events in shopping centres and at family locations such as Gulliver's, Butlins and Camp Bestival. The Kids' Choice Awards provides that vital connection with children over a three-month period. Our marketing is always about empowering and involving children, whether it's through competitions or providing exclusive content.

- How adversely have tighter controls around advertising to children impacted your business?

Fortunately, we were fully prepared for these tighter controls and, with our sales house Viacom Brand Solutions, have sought to develop other revenue streams and commercial opportunities to recover the shortfall. It's undoubtedly challenging, but we're in good shape.

- What are your best recent innovations for advertisers?

Our Force For Good and Force For Enterprise initiatives created by VBS have been extremely successful, generating more than £1.5 million-worth of incremental revenue in the past 12 months.

- What magazines and TV programmes did you enjoy when you were a child?

I loved 2000 AD. In fact, I loved all comics and magazines as I lived in a newsagents and used to read them before putting them back on the shelf!

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).