How Ads Are Shaping Kids' Perspectives and How Brands Can Repair This Fraught Relationship

By Jaret Posmentier, Director, Partner Solutions at Nativo

I love when work life and home life intersect. It happens more often now that my daughters have tablets full of ad-supported apps. I’m fascinated by how savvy my 8 and 5-year-olds are about how brands market to them and their hot takes on which ads they enjoy and which are blocking their enjoyment. I’m also concerned thinking about the future and how their relationship with advertising will impact brands’ ability to get their attention and persuade them to act. Here are a few reasons why:

Ads as the Villain

In many casual games, zombies aren’t the scariest thing to avoid. The ads are far worse. My kids are constantly held at ransom unless they watch an ad: 

  • You fell into lava. Watch this ad to continue or start all over…
  • Want to unlock the rainbow unicorn lip gloss? You’re just 6 ads away…

This has positioned the ad as a one-way transaction where watching is a form of payment, and the ad itself doesn’t provide any value to the viewer. At best, it’s a means to an end. At worst, a nuisance to avoid.

My kids just about any day of the week

Irrelevant Ads

This anti-ad attitude is only reinforced by the irrelevant content that makes up nearly all of the ads they are served. My daughters will note how silly it is when they get an ad to download an app they already own or question: why would we get a dog food ad when we don’t have a dog? 

Most ads they are served are so off-target or interruptive that they’ve trained their tiny index finger to hover above the glowing screen at the exact coordinates where the “x” will appear. And when it does, BAM, they’re back to their game, which mostly involves accessorizing LOL Dolls with high heels and long eyelashes (don’t get me started). 

So, what can brands do to change this fraught relationship?

Re-balance the transactional nature of ads by creating content, not ads. While rare, there have been some ads that my kids will happily watch, such as an influencer unboxing a new toy. Sponsored content, when placed in front of the right audience at the right time, doesn’t feel like a chore - it resonates by addressing a key opportunity or challenge, feels organic and provides value.

This applies to B2C or B2B audiences. If you’re a bank trying to attract a small business owner, don’t talk about why your checking account is so great. Instead, provide valuable advice on how to save on taxes or find new customers.

The brands that respect these digital-savvy generations by showing up naturally and not disrupting will be rewarded with their attention and loyalty. If we create content that people want to engage with, not ads that they have to avoid, they might listen to what we have to say. And for that, the least we can do is unlock their rainbow unicorn lip gloss.

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