Kids’ Brands Go Where Kids Play

NEW YORK Kids’ brands, like others, are shifting dollars into their digital ad buckets, say industry insiders — good news for entrenched category leaders Nick.com, Disney.com and CartoonNetwork.com.

At the same time, according to buyers, that space is far more competitive than just a few years ago, when TV-tied brands ruled. Virtual worlds and kids-oriented ad nets are attempting to steal market share, while non-ad-supported digital media outlets iPhone and the Nintendo Wii siphon more of kids’ time.

According to sources, as much as 50 to 75 percent of dollars being spent on kids’ Web properties are not part of integrated TV packages, up significantly from recent years. This is a result, most believe, of kids’ heavier-than-adults’ usage of digital media.

But that usage, noted Jeff Malmad, director of digital media at Mediacom, is “extremely fragmented.” He pointed to the popularity of kid-friendly virtual worlds, gaming properties and even newer media options like the Wii and iPhone.

Also, competition is increasing on the Web. For example, Disney just rolled out DisneyXD.com to correspond with the relaunch of cable net Toon Disney.

Of course, the economy makes things tougher. “There is definite pricing pressure,” said Brad Davis, senior vp, online ad sales, Disney Online. But kids’ sites, he added, are less reliant on display ads than they are on video and gaming.

Nonetheless, said Nelson Boyce, senior vp of digital ad sales, Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group, “there are more players fighting for the same pool of dollars.”