Dialogue with kids needs to be honest: Benjamin Grubbs

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Benjamin Grubbs, Executive Director Interactive Media, Turner Broadcasting System (Asia Pacific)

While it would be easier to market a tangible product to kids, but getting an intangible product like a TV programme across to kids would be a challenge. Considering that kids today have a wide array of technology available to them – they are now using tablets and smart phones, and reaching out to them through multi-platforms is making the job of marketers, brand developers and product producers more difficult. But Benjamin Grubbs, Executive Director for Interactive Media, Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, finds the times quite “exciting”.

He feels that it was more challenging five years back as brand managers needed to learn and understand about this whole segment. “But it has also been fun for me and the team, because we are also parents,” he says.

Grubbs was called in from eBay in 2008, where he was the Marketing Director, to set up the network’s interactive business unit, and take Turner’s brands across genres – kids, animation and entertainment, online for increased consumer engagement and commercial opportunities. Grubbs has also worked with Yahoo.

One of the multi feathers in his cap added in the past fours years or so, is launch of the online Pogo ‘Cricket Club’, last year, which Grubbs claims has enabled Pogo achieve 150 per cent growth in the number of its online users.

In an exclusive interview with Suraj Ramnath, Grubbs speaks about the network’s online plans. Excerpts:

Why do you think is there a need for popular channels like Cartoon Network and Pogo to be online?
One thesis is that since we have our own TV channels, how do we become effective mar-keters on the digital platform through the TV channel route, which any agency would do for its client. We should be on par, if not better, than others. Second thesis is – kids are online and searching for content on search engines, consuming content from Facebook, smart phones and other devices. Hence, we need to be available anytime, anywhere. If others have a good penetration on other platforms, then we too need to be active and need to study if it is effective for us on that platform. We need to know the business models and how to get financial returns on that.

So what are some your major initiatives online – PC and mobile?
The Pogo ‘Cricket Club’ was a market insight which drove part of the strategy and has done very well. We have a catalogue of over 250 casual flash games and will continue to add to this. Over the years, the focus has been on game development, and this year the focus is more on multi-player games. Currently, the multi-player games segment is small in size, but we are coming out with several games this year related to sports, action, ad-venture and some strategy games. These can be interconnected across platforms – tablets, PC and mobile and people can play together.

How different is the Indian market from the West as far as kids are concerned?
The commonalities are the games. Our game plan for America and Asia might differ due to communication layers. For example, in the Philippines, Argentina and Brazil, there is a lot of social communication that is done. If there are platforms like smart phones in Asia, in other markets, the adoption rate might be different, but in the broader trend, it is the same.

What are the commonalities in these markets as far as TV content is concerned?
Some of the comedy programmes in the US are actually comparable to what we do in India. For example, ‘Ben 10’ has done as well in India as it has done in the US. New shows like ‘Gum Ball’ have joined our comedy franchise, which have done equally well in the US and in India.

Additionally, in India, we are developing more animated content for Pogo. So, it is finding a balance between what we make globally and what we get to different markets. In India, we can afford to get local content as we get good returns on that. We might not have the same opportunity in every market in Asia.

Since your platforms are used by marketers to reach out to kids, what are the pre-cautions any marketer should take?

The dialogue with kids needs to be honest. We cannot push them around with brands and tell them buy this or do that. I think we have entertaining content and we find there is a connection there. This helps build trust with the users.

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