With families around the world staying home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, children are tuning in to online content for both education and play at an incredible rate. Publishers of kids’ content and games have had to respond quickly to increasing viewership to ensure they’re monetizing content in a safe and appropriate manner for young audiences.
To learn more about these trends, SpotX’s Alex Anthony, Manager of Platform Services, spoke with Anthony Alexander, EVP of Global Sales at Playwire, a revenue amplification platform that works with some of the world’s most influential gaming, entertainment, and kids’ content publishers.
Anthony has an inside view into how content engagement has shifted over the past several weeks and how publishers are consequently adjusting their approach to monetization. In this interview, he shares the latest viewership and engagement trends Playwire has seen amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how publishers can best monetize their content.
Alex Anthony, SpotX: Can you begin by telling us more about Playwire and how you’re working with publishers?
Anthony Alexander, Playwire: First, heck of a name – shouldn’t be confusing at all!
Playwire is a revenue amplification company specializing in maximizing returns for digital businesses and content creators. We give our partners a suite of publisher tools and custom technologies that help them drive revenue and make more informed decisions about their business. Using our all-inclusive solution to manage the entire ad ecosystem, online businesses can focus on content and audience development, while ensuring their platforms are optimized for success.
As a leading ad tech company, and one of only two companies in 2020 to become a Google Certified Publisher Partner, we proudly manage over 450 websites, serve 6 billion video and display ads, and stream 1 billion minutes of video each month. The exclusive nature of our partnerships allows Playwire to develop highly customized media executions for our advertising partners that drive engagement and time spent.
SpotX: How does Playwire help publishers navigate COPPA and monetize kids’ content?
Playwire: First, it’s important to understand that navigating COPPA is truly a two-way street. It takes compliance from both publishers and advertisers to ensure safety for everyone. When Playwire onboards a new COPPA kids partner, we start with an extensive audit from our Playwire Partner Success Team, ensuring that partner is compliant with the many rules around data integrity and security procedures, parental access, and advertising placements. Playwire also carries a kidSafe+ certification, meaning that we require third-party auditing and compliance with an FTC-approved “safe harbor” partner who checks that a site is properly following COPPA rules, as well as auditing the site’s content to ensure it is appropriate for kids under 13.
Next, we work with our advertising partners to consult and educate on the rules and regulations around COPPA, while developing brand-safe media strategies and best practices for engaging with kids. With segmentation in a kid’s day, it’s important that brands use fun and engaging creative that boosts time spent and brand affinity.
Logically, the goal of advertising is to capture a user’s attention, and a person who doesn’t see an ad doesn’t have a chance to interact with it. Ironically, things like viewability don’t necessarily equal ad recall. Attention does increase with viewability, but it doesn’t guarantee consumers are internalizing the advertisement. While we do help publishers optimize for viewability, the real value comes from the fun and memorable experiences we develop to ensure that people don’t just see the advertisement, but they also internalize it and engage in a safe way. This is great for the advertiser, but it’s also great for the publisher because it drives up pageview CPMs – truly a win-win for everyone.
SpotX: What increase have you seen in traffic as children spend more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Playwire: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen record-breaking increases in traffic in the kids’ education, premium streaming, gaming, and esports sectors. Something that has always been a differentiator in our COPPA inventory is our ability to help brands connect with kids during the school day. Many of our partners develop educational games that align with our education systems’ Common Core State Standards, so parents and educators are turning to our kid-safe educational platforms to keep their kids learning during COVID-19. Our kids education partners have seen increases in the range of over 250%, and these platforms were massive even before the COVID-19 pandemic!
If we consider what kids are doing when they aren’t learning, it’s gaming and OTT platforms that have explosive growth potential. Kids are spending even more time playing the top mobile, PC, and console games like Minecraft, Poptropica, and Fortnite. Engaging with popular gaming influencers and streamers so they can perfect their favorite pastime is a trend and lifestyle that will only increase. Our in-game inventory has also seen massive growth of 150% or more in most cases.
SpotX: With your clear interest in protecting children, what actions do you recommend publishers take to safely monetize their content as they respond to increased traffic?
Playwire: Safely monetizing content isn’t just one step that a publisher can take; it’s a combination of several technologies and services working harmoniously together. That’s why partnering with a company like Playwire is so valuable. Every day our focus is on compliance, safety, and monetization, so publishers can keep their focus on content development and growing their audience.
Here are a few key points we drive home with our publishing partners:
- Make sure to avoid affiliate deals. With the increase of traffic, more nefarious actors are coming out of the woodwork trying to take advantage of it.
- Triple check cookie policies and always err on the side of caution.
- Live in Google and review your ads as they come in.
Whether it’s during COVID-19 or preparing for the future, something we are keeping an eye on is COPPA 2.0 legislation. Introduced by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, COPPA 2.0 would expand the current COPPA age from 13 to 15, and would give parents more control over their kids’ online experience. Being proactive now in abiding by new regulations will ensure that your revenue is set up for sustained growth.
SpotX: With not just children home but whole families in tight spaces, who are you advertising to? The children? The adults?
Playwire: We advise having a communication strategy for reaching both the decision influencers (kids) and the decision-makers (parents) within the household. It’s not just the kid’s daily routine that was affected, but the daily routine of everyone in the household. Brand strategies need to consider the value different platforms provide to various family members throughout the day to efficiently communicate with both sides.
Where kids’ educational content is best during working hours to reach kids learning at home, brands will be more successful using kids education partners for reaching a co-viewing audience during homework hours, or using OTT and connected TV (CTV) platforms to reach co-viewing audiences during the day and during leisure hours. Interestingly enough, more co-viewing happens on OTT and CTV for ages 2-17 than on TV.
Why is it important to reach both? I can remember grocery shopping with my parents growing up, and trying to sneak my favorite snacks into the shopping cart to avoid having to explain some of my questionable nutritional choices. Now, the family conversation that takes place is to ensure our favorite items make it into the delivery-based shopping carts we use like Shipt, Amazon Prime, and Instacart. Brands have always needed to convince kids to champion their products, but prioritizing communication with the parents is as important as ever for driving purchase intent.
SpotX: Do you foresee habits continuing beyond social distancing? What are you doing now to prepare for the future?
Playwire: The vast majority of kids are home for the foreseeable future. Trends that were starting to emerge in the family media landscape are being accelerated to happen in the next few months instead of the next few years.
I expect ed tech to continue to mature to meet the new demand for at-home learning. K-12 educators have now turned to these types of platforms to keep students engaged during a time of crisis. If this remote learning experiment proves to be successful, then it could be adopted for the long term.
The explosive growth of OTT and CTV devices was already rising, but families are looking for more home entertainment options and are flocking to various outlets to keep their content fresh. If you ask a kid, Netflix is by far the most popular streaming platform, but they are also doing the best job producing original content that caters to both kids and parents. We expect natural growth and diversification when services like Disney+ and Apple start to roll out their originals, and new platforms like Kidoodle.TV attract content-hungry viewers looking for something new.
Trolls World Tour just broke home rental records, becoming the first major film to go straight to digital, and it will be held up as a case study for the rest of Hollywood when they plan their theatrical slates. This is especially true with the likelihood that moviegoers will have crowd-adverse tendencies post epidemic. I am very curious to see how week-to-week revenue compares between digital and traditional theatrical releases.
Gaming is getting its moment in the limelight, and social distancing is putting esports front and center to help make up for the losses of professional sports and the Olympics. We have been pioneering in-game advertising for several years, and we see several new publishers looking for new, non-intrusive ways to monetize their games. Nearly all kids spend several hours a week gaming, but their interaction doesn’t end when they put down the controller — 4 in 5 kids under age 13 watch gaming content online to master their favorite game or engage with the popular personalities in the space.
These creators are influencing what games pre-teens play, how they talk, what they wear — I even read an article about a teen who asked his date to prom on Fortnite. We see this first-hand with our partners at Misfits Gaming Group, who are activating brands within their Fornite team. We are helping COPPA brands get into esports safely, and find the most success partnering with relatable influencers or other activations amplify their campaigns with a trusted voice. Expect esports and professional gaming to really hit the main stage in an age of social distancing.
Want to learn more? Join Playwire, SpotX, and 21st Century Fox on April 29 for a fireside chat to discuss the pivotal publisher and advertiser relationship during these changing times. Register here.
About the author
Alex Anthony is a Manager of Platform Services at SpotX, consulting with media owners, broadcasters, and programmers to drive growth in the complicated online video and OTT/CTV ecosystem. Alex is based in New York City and has spent the last four years in programmatic, previously working for Sovrn, a display SSP headquartered in Colorado.