Sonali Bhattacharya is currently serving as the Head of Marketing – Kids TV Network, Viacom18. She’s known to be a determined leader and with her marketing skills, she has played a decisive role in devising the growth story of the kids’ entertainment category in India. In an illustrious career spanning over a decade, Sonali has spearheaded numerous campaigns, marketing plans, strategic business innovations and initiatives. With an inspired and talented team under her aegis, she aims to drive industry trends through innovation and build a vibrant eco-system in the kids cluster. It is with a strong understanding of the broadcast industry and the pioneering vision of Sonali
that has led to her repeat the success story for the network’s kids’ entertainment cluster. She engages in a detailed conversation with IWMBuzz about Kids Choice Awards, future of kids’ entertainment, incorporation of metaverse in future Nick IPs and more. Read to find out

It has been 6 years since the Kids Choice Awards were introduced, how has the journey been for the IP?

To put it simply, it’s been a very wonderful ride. The IP has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 6 years. We launched with all the Bollywood glamour and mindfully pivoted to virtual to ensure that our viewers were empowered by casting their vote. Whether it’s an on-ground or virtual event, it is our promise to kids to empower them that really matters. We introduced the virtual edition in an all-new look and feel. Our promise to always stand by kids no matter what is happening outside has really paid off. We saw a high level of engagement and excitement last year and are experiencing the same this year as well.

With 6 successful years of Kids’ Choice Awards, what are some of the major changes that you have witnessed since the first edition?

Kids Choice Awards is the marquee brand property of Nickelodeon and a well-established global property. India is one of the few countries which has its very own version of the Kids Choice Award. This by itself is a testimony to the success of Kids Choice Awards in our country. The biggest reason that it does so well is that it keeps kids at the core of the messaging, communication and it actually gives children the freedom to choose their favourite, make decisions and cast their vote to their favourite celebrity, actor, dance, video games, rapper, etc. We have been increasing the number of categories each year. The level of engagement has increased and so has the number of brand integrations. Overall the property has evolved to keep up to the needs of the current generation since a new set of kids enter the TG each year. We have seen more interest from celebrities wanting to be a part of the awards given how hit it is with their kids and their friends.

This is your second year of virtual Kids Choice Awards. How was the transition from physical to virtual awards? What was the response garnered for the first virtual edition?

We have had to re-imagine and rethink the manner in which we bring this property to live to our audiences and that’s when we decided to completely pivot, go virtual and multiscreen since the pandemic. We adopted a 100% multiscreen approach. We stayed true to our promise of always being there for kids. We took this leap of scope and transferred everything from on the ground to the multiscreen, virtually, and I must say it has done very well for us. We garnered the highest number of votes last year which was 1.5 billion, we have also garnered a similar number this year which is a very big win for us.

What are some platform specific engagement tools that Nickelodeon has used to reach its target audience on social media?

The interesting part of technology is that it creates a level playing field for our consumers across any number of cities. All of them have access to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube today and the penetration of the internet across the country has also deepened. This has given kids across the country access to good content, no matter which part of the country they may live in. We regularly launch filters on Instagram. We recently launched one for Holi. We have partnered with food brands to offer character and show related food items. We did it for the launch of Chikoo aur Bunty and it worked fabulously. We continue to be across multiple touch points to captivate our young audiences’ attention.

Captivating the attention in the kids’ category is a very challenging task. What tried and tested marketing strategies have proven successful for the kids cluster?

It is challenging when marketing to a category where there are new entrants each year and a set that exits the category the same year. We have ensured we have had an omnipresent approach. So whether they are buying a toy, would want to eat a pizza or a burger, we have tried to be present at every touch-point beyond the screen. We have also always allowed our characters to do the communication and this has worked wonders since these characters are so loved by kids. For instance, in our latest edition of the Together for Good Campaign, we have Chikoo and Bunty in their element doing the communication. This campaign particularly touches upon a topic that is a need of the hour and yet not so openly spoken about. Kids need that honesty and empathy and we have always ensured that they can turn to us in their time of need.

What are the do’s and don’ts one should keep in mind when marketing to kids?

We need to never forget that our TG is a child at the end of the day. Hence, keep communication light-hearted and relevant. Do it meaningfully and with a purpose. Respect them and their opinions. Kids appreciate honesty and are ever aware about all that happens around them. Don’t talk down to them or be preachy with messaging. Communicate to them as equals.

Lastly, how will metaverse be incorporated in future Nick IPs?

Kids Choice Awards is our first step into the metaverse. We thought what better way than to give audiences the chance to view KCA in the metaverse. It’s a very dynamic live format where you have celebrities accepting their awards, and performing. Kids are the first movers and early adopters and we see growth in the manner of interaction with this group. We will aim to incorporate and integrate with metaverse in any big campaign that we do in the future and wherever we see a good fit.