More is the new black when it comes to the children's television marketplace. As new programming options in that marketplace surface, from multi-hour blocks on broadcast or cable to 24/7 multicast, video-on-demand and streaming services, national advertisers find themselves spending more Upfront money on existing services in order to compensate for continued fragmentation of their audiences.
Enter media sales company Cadent Network, the ad sales powerhouse side of Cross MediaWorks (see MediaVillage coverage on Cross MediaWorks, its Chief Executive Officer Nick Troiano and other units - addressable ad company one2one Media and TCA/The Cross Agency). Cadent leverages its core business of selling local ads on a national scale to offer kidvid advertisers an efficiently priced TV complement during the "Hard 10" Upfront sales cycle. Their positioning is as a complement for children's programming network advertisers when national buys are priced at their highest level. The complementary pathway is the two-minute breaks many cable networks carve out each hour for their local affiliates.
Using local avails from more than 200 MVPDs, including Comcast, Charter Spectrum, Suddenlink, Mediacom and Cox -- all together reaching more than 85 million households nationwide -- Cadent pitched coast-to-coast advertising at a discount to the top kidvid Upfront rate. That pricing strategy involves two critical time periods when kids and their families make their most important buying decisions: The "Hard 10," the so-defined insider term for October through late December (culminating with Christmas), and the four weeks before Easter. "That's when the majority of [kids-targeted] advertiser money runs," explains Jim Tricarico, Cadent's Chief Revenue Officer (pictured below). "It's a price of entry that continues to climb. We go into this marketplace as a solution to this challenge."
Cadent's multichannel affiliates supply local avail time on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney XD, Boomerang, Universal Kids and other channels for this Upfront push, the second time around with this class of advertisers in mind, Tricarico disclosed. Until the company came along with this initiative, MVPDs were generally using their two-minute pods for local or regional advertising sales, program promotion or community outreach. Sales for their just-concluded 2017 kidvid drive increased four-fold over their first kidvid push last late spring/early summer. Cadent calls the outcome bullish because for Tricarico and his colleagues, "we're delivering efficient quality."
In return, Cadent has become a critical component of the advertising strategy for a number of toy companies. A marketing executive within that industry who is a repeat customer notes that Cadent "provides competitive costs per GRP (gross rating points) during key time frames that are not otherwise available within the market. Using these GRPs is essential to the development of an integrated strategic advertising approach that maximizes the effectiveness of our advertising investment."
Several additional toy and video game manufacturers hooked up with Cadent for the first time through this Upfront campaign as well. Other satisfied customers include restaurant/game parlor chain Chuck E. Cheese and several clients rep'd by agency Blue Plate.
Tricarico believes the value of local avails used in this fashion will rise in the years to come for a growing assortment of sponsors interested in kidvid network campaigns. He's clear that this patch of television is no longer just for toy, cereal, board game and video game companies. Moreover, he's observed that even as ratings for even the most popular kid-attracting programs decline, ad rates keep climbing. "Look at Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards," he suggests. "A few years ago, that special had a 12 rating.* This spring, the program earned a 4 rating ... and the price to be there rose. Many kids now stream this special and watch on their smartphones and laptops. Ratings go down; people pay more. Flat seems to be the new bar for success on TV."
To Cadent's thinking, taking their route can provide benefits beyond just a lower cost per-spot or campaign. With universal coverage comprised of local avails, audiences can be pinpointed beyond the standard Designated Market Area format. That allows for more accurate and efficient viewer and viewing data, handled in a transparent manner, while still on a national scale.
Tricarico foresees more companies organizing campaigns to connect with both kids and adults, offering Chuck E. Cheese as an example. Family-centric restaurants and retailers ultimately will enter the kidvid marketplace and, in time, become Cadent clients, he says. "It will take them out of their comfort zone," he acknowledges, "but ultimately, they'll recognize this as an important long-term strategy."
What Cadent also predicts is more viewer fragmentation of all programming genres. Result: an ongoing tendency among networks to inflate upfront and scatter rates year after year, and an increased search by veteran and new advertiser alike for low-cost entrances into national sponsorship. For Tricarico, more programming options lead to more complementary opportunities. He looks forward to expanding this kidvid option to as many local avail-providing services as possible. NBCUniversal's transformation of Sprout into Universal Kids this fall is a possibility, Tricarico says. Another avenue to tap in the near term: multicast services catering to kids and teenagers.
At some point, avails supplied by alternative original program distributors like Hulu, Crackle and Fullscreen will get in this game, Tricarico asserts with a high level of certainty. Further down the road, Cadent may sell spots going direct to households via smart TV sets and devices like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Shield or Chromecast. And while executives there are already at work over how to realize that possibility, Cadent is poised for both near and long term. "We see the kids' environment as a prototype or barometer for what will happen in the non-kids marketplace," Tricarico explains. "These kids will become adults, and along the way, their viewing habits will change, quicker than you think. That's why we're evolving our services and offerings -- including our sister company, one2one Media -- to go wherever this world is going."
*Source: Nielsen, Live, K6-11 National Ratings for the 8pm EST premiere telecast of the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards in 2009 (03/28/2009) and 2017 (03/11/2017).
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