Next: What Kids Want

Kids want what they want when they want it. The little centers-of-our-universe can beg and plead for their essentials—toys, snacks and TV shows—with unfettered determination. Turns out that parents, television networks and marketers are working double time to oblige.

In our first special issue on kids, we illustrate how companies are advancing their offerings to further get this young consumer demographic to pull harder on their family purse strings.

The “if you build it they will come mentality” is making for an interesting kids upfront season. Cartoon Network unveiled about 25 new shows to media buyers last week, many of which feature a shift from traditional animation-centric shows to live-action adventure programs.
The Turner network, like top-seeded Viacom and Disney, is striving to tweak traditional offerings, bring kids more of what they want, boost ratings and subsequently, sell more of the merchandise that goes along with the shows. New entities, like The Hub, are increasing the competition, forcing all involved to up their games.
Marketers too are seeking to box out competitors by altering food products to reduce the dreaded salt, sugar and fat content in kids snacks. Are they doing too little too late to make an impact on kids health? Are their efforts just a smoke and mirrors move aimed at duping parents and kids to buy more bad food? Depends who you ask.

One thing is certain: Recession-weary parents have helped the toy industry stay alive and thrive in a challenging environment. While they have made cuts in some areas and spent less on themselves, they haven’t nixed adding new dolls and action figures to their kids’ toy chests. Low-end toys were the rage last year, but pricey items still worked for marketers like Mattel, whose $80 Mindflex, a brainwave-reading game, and its $120 D-Rex interactive dinosaur (with a personality) sold out during the holidays.

Here’s a look at what’s next on the kids frontier.