Online Advertisers Targeting Parents to Reach Kids

Online advertising by businesses targeting families and chidden grew steadily through the first quarter of this year, but advertisers wanting to reach kids online are shifting their focus away from children and on to families, according to a report by AdRelevance.

Online advertising by businesses targeting families grew 96 percent between May 2000 and August 2000, while advertising by companies targeting children declined 56 percent in the same period. AdRelevance analyzed standard 468×60 banner ad campaigns of 183 child and family-focused online advertisers between January 2000 and August 2000. Among the findings:

Top Sites Hosting
Kid & Family Ads

May to July 2000
Kids Ads
Site Percent of
MSN 13.62%
Netscape 12.97%
Yahoo 8.43%
MaMaMedia 7.13%
Disney 5.45%
Lycos 5.32% 5.25% 4.28%
Cartoon Network 3.57%
Go 3.44%
Family Ads
Site Percent of
Yahoo 27.07%
AOL 12.28%
Disney 10.39%
Go 6.92%
AltaVista 5.35%
Blue Mountain Arts 5.35% 4.41%
BabyCenter 2.11%
Discovery Channel 1.70%
Excite 1.61%
Source: AdRelevance
  • A majority of ad impressions for child and family-focused online advertisers run on relatively few types of sites — portals, kids, and family-focused sites.
  • With only 4.6 fewer online ad impressions, child and family sites are almost as popular as portals for child-focused advertisers. Among family-focused advertisers, however, the child and family genre is a distant second to portals, hosting 22.5 percent fewer banner impressions. These findings suggest that child-focused advertisers concentrate their impressions on fewer sites than advertisers targeting the family audience.
  • While the most popular portals for child-focused advertisers are MSN (13.62 percent share of impressions); Netscape (12.97); and Yahoo (8.43 percent), family-focused advertisers prefer Yahoo (27.07 percent share of impressions; AOL (12.28 percent), (6.92 percent), and AltaVista (5.35).
  • Television, entertainment, and movie advertisers account for 30 percent of all impressions on kids and family Web sites, while department stores pet supply vendors, and toy retailers account for 19 percent of impressions, suggesting that building retail opportunities among the child and family audiences is important to advertisers.

“The shift that we’re seeing in child and family advertising online might be tied in part to the recent FTC privacy guidelines. It’s safe to say that companies have learned to tread lightly as they seek to target younger generations,” said Charlie Buchwalter, VP of media research for AdRelevance. “Clearly, the AdRelevance data suggest a reallocation of online ad dollars from the child to the parent.”

While the overall industry trend is to target parents, not all advertisers are switching all impressions to fully target the parental audience. In fact, Fleet Bank recently ran a banner campaign to reach both parents and children, hoping to drive traffic to While the banners focus in building the Fleet Brand as a source of knowledge for children to learn financial responsibility, the campaign also helps parents educate their children.

The AdRelevance report found that advertisers are going to great lengths to protect children by ensuring that advertising content is distinguishable from editorial. “We’re seeing more and more ads on these sites flagged with text or graphics to make it clear to both parents and kids that banners are paid advertisements,” Buchwalter said.

Research by Nielsen//NetRatings found that kids age 2 to 11 click on Web ads more than any other other age group, while teens age 12 to 17 click at a lower rate than the other age groups. In June of 2000, kids averaged a click rate of 0.87 percent, while the average click rate for the overall audience for the month was 0.45, according to the research.

“The strategy of leveraging strong offline brand loyalty with interactive elements online, such as game playing or contests, is working to reach kids,” said Kate Maddox, director of Internet advertising strategies at NetRatings. “The challenge will be to keep reaching this short-attention-span audience with new and creative advertising to break out of the clutter. Although the click rate is higher for kids, it continues to decline at a steep rate, meaning advertisers will have to know what’s working and what’s not when it comes to reaching this segment.”

The click rate for the teenage market, age 12 to 17, was 0.19 in June. Nielsen//NetRatings found that despite the low click rate, teens are clicking on ads that are highly targeted to their interests, such as ads that offer free goods and useful information.

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