Marketing to children: Millennials were tough enough, but what about their kids?

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As the first digital generation, Millennials threw themselves into social media and selfies, but what media are their children, the ‘digital native’, now engaging with and who are their influencers?

We released a research report looking at what impact the digital culture has had on how Millennials are raising their kids in the online world. The findings came from in-house, qualitative research with 50 culturally representative children across the UK, alongside wider industry research from the likes of Ofcom, Mumsnet and the Harvard Business School.

The report identified ten main insights about targeting kids, including:

  1. Passion points
  2. The consumption shift from the BBC to user generated content
  3. The role of influencers
  4. Fake news
  5. Who children’s ultimate heroes are
  6. The role of real-world experiences
  7. The concept and validity of ‘digital natives’
  8. Their relationship with technology
  9. Opportunities for marketing to parents
  10. The need to market responsibly

Millennial parents relaxed approach to YouTube

Although they never turn away from the TV set completely (which always remains the dominant device from a total usage point of view), when it comes to content providers, YouTube beats them all. Backed up by a study from Kelton, YouTube is the most recognised and preferred channel, and still growing. Having accessed it for many years, and at a relatively young age, Millennial parents are increasingly relaxed about YouTube, permitting access on a scale that older parents do not allow. This can be seen in Ofcom 2017 data, with YouTube continuing to grow, despite being a well-established content provider (see chart below).

Production quality does not impact viewing

Getting into the detail of the content, production quality is clearly low on the list of priorities. Much of the most loved YouTube content can be somewhat ‘Button Moon-esque’; but this is absolutely no barrier for kids. Regionality, nationality and even language do not hinder. Children are accessing global YouTubers and do not distinguish between them and their UK peers. The parents of younger children even claim their child happily watches UGC content in languages they don’t actually speak.

The access and guidance gap

There is also a noticeable gap that exists between access and guidance when it comes to kids’ consumption of YouTube. The specific YouTube Kids app, for example, is not actually used by the majority of children. According to Ofcom, 51% of 3-4s who are on YouTube and close to three-quarters (72%) of 5-7s are watching the standard version, designed for a 13+ audience. This explains why just under one in five 8-11 year olds has claimed to see something that worried them online. Brands clearly need to take a position of responsibility in terms of the content they are providing, but also recognise that there is still education and advice needed for children and their parents.

The role for brands

The popular concept of ‘digital natives’ implies a predisposed ability to operate in the digital world, but this is simply not the case. The kids of today are cognitive learners, just like their parents and grandparents… and every other human before that. They may have tech in their lives far earlier, but this does not mean they understand it. So, as well as thinking about the content they create, brands could play a higher and more valuable role in thinking about how they partner with families to improve children’s overall online experience.

Jo Hudson, planning director, PrettyGreen. For the full details of the family research study please contact

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