Content marketing through the eyes of a five-year-old

When his five-year-old complained about an ad break during a product review YouTube video, Justin Laing realised he was looking at the future of advertising.

Like any Dad, I love watching my kids experience those first milestones. It’s their first steps, it’s riding the bike without training wheels, and it’s learning Mum’s iPhone passcode so they can help themselves to the Peppa Pig app.

As a marketer and a bit of a digital nerd, I’m fascinated by the way technology is shaping their world and creating a generation of digital natives like we’ve never seen before.

I remember watching my daughter Maddi trying to swipe left on a timber photo frame when she was about six months old. It blew my mind, but at the same time it made complete sense.

The next one of those moments came just last weekend. My five-year-old son Billy was watching a toy review on YouTube. It was literally a little American kid talking about the latest Batman figurine and explaining what happens when you “push this button” and what shoots out if you “pull this lever.”

Five minutes into the review, a very well-produced 30-second ad came on with perfect looking kids, exciting music and expensive sound effects. Their targeting was perfect, but the content didn’t cut it with their five-year-old target. Billy turned around to me frustrated.

“Dad, why do we have to watch these ads, they’re so annoying.”

I hear ya Bill!

He knew the ad was an ad, but he had no idea that the review he had been watching was also the work of some clever micro-marketer. I’m sure a brand manager somewhere in the US was incentivising the young toy reviewer (or his parents), but it came across as authentic, useful content.

And it had a five-year-old Aussie kid mesmerised on the couch, which is no small feat.

I thought it was a beautiful example of why old-school marketing just doesn’t cut it these days, especially for younger audiences.

While the traditional TVC style ads still have their place, particularly for brand campaigns, I think a good piece of content, regardless of the budget, trumps it every time.

Consumer expectations have changed, and they’re holding advertisers to a higher standard.

Simply connecting a product (Batman) with a relevant audience (five-year-old boy) is no longer good enough. We have to go beyond relevancy and aim to enhance the consumer’s experience rather than interrupt their moment. A five-year-old consumer could tell you that!

Our aim should be to genuinely engage and enhance the viewing experience by being real and offering some form of utility. That’ll ultimately build trust and maybe one day, lead to a purchase.

There’s no doubt about it: advertising these days is tough, and while I certainly don’t confess to have all the answers, I am learning a thing or two from the mini-consumers in my lounge room.

That’s enough from me, the toy aisle at Target is calling. Well played, toy reviewer, well played.

Justin Laing is senior manager, strategic marketing and communications at the University of Queensland.


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