Shailesh Kapoor: Is Children’s Day losing media significance

14 Nov,2014

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Today is Children’s Day. Unlike many other branded days – such as Mother’s Day, Daughter’s Day, Father’s Day and, of course, Valentine’s Day – Children’s Day is an indigenous event, observed on the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

But like most festivals and special days, the genesis becomes less important over time, than the actual celebration. Children’s Day, however, suffers from both genesis and celebration issues.

 

Have you seen any significant TV commercial or print ad around Children’s Day? Or any special episodes of TV shows themed around this day? Some kids channels have planned specials of their existing shows, but those are destinations where every day is Children’s Day anyway.

 

We have all seen the media exploitation of Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and the likes over the last two decades. Brands have used these specials to peddle offers or simply communicate their brand message in a more contextual environment.

 

But with Children’s Day, very few such efforts are visible. There are at least 50 top brands in the country that target children actively. And the parent-child bond (especially the mother-child) is a part of many brand messages. Yet, Children’s Day finds no resonance.

 

Is it because over time, the awareness of this occasion has reduced amongst the children themselves? That, indeed, is one of the reasons. But it also begs the question, because if media can create awareness of non-existent properties (where was Father’s Day a decade ago?), it can surely revive a traditionally strong one.

 

I suspect this has something to do with the indigenous vs. foreign difference. In MNCs, brand plans are often made globally and then adapted for local execution. Children’s Day would never feature in such a plan. And if some key brands choose to ignore it, the momentum will never build enough to create the threshold the day needs to become ‘marketable’.

 

But there’s another aspect that could also be leading to this, and that’s the one that bothers me more. Indian entertainment businesses (both television and films) have always treated the children segment with a sense of tentativeness. It’s been the orphaned target group, left to find its entertainment in cartoons, while all the content innovation happens for the adults.

 

In India, a kid can watch animation content till the age of 12, and then graduate straight to a Saathiya or a Roadies. There is no in-between, barring an odd show like CID or Taarak Mehta. The only channels we research kids for are the kids channels. Everyone else is happy catering to 15+.

 

Much as this may seem ‘correct’, it creates an impact that is extremely worrying. Kids channels are heavily under-indexed on advertising revenues and hence cannot afford original live-action productions with any sense of scale. As a result, over the last two decades, Indian kids have little content variety on offer. Even as a housewife tries and balances as many as 10-12 shows in a day, her child has adjusted himself to just one or two shows, which he will now watch for the next three years, if not more. You don’t need to be a child psychologist to know that the long-term damage here can be fairly substantive in nature.

 

It’s time for the top GECs and film studios to challenges themselves. There is immense commercial opportunity too. But is there enough will to dip into it?

 

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