British-kids media brand and comic book Beano Studios is ramping up its branded content chops by launching kids-focused consultancy Bean no for Brands, after client demand.
Increasingly, clients, which have included Stella McCartney, Ted Baker and Harper Collins, are asking the company to create content, particularly short-form video, that sits outside the Beano ecosystem. The appeal for brands is Beano’s rich data on its audience — kids between the age of 6 and 12 — which is hard to reach for legislative reasons.
“It’s not an agency, it’s a consultancy,” clarifies Iain Sawbridge, Beano Studios’ chief content and digital officer, who is leading Beano for Brands. “We’re not singularly client services; we are living this every day in our consumer business. We’re engaged in the process of engaging audiences every day; we’re not waiting for briefs. It’s in an area that is little understood and even less serviced.”
Beano for Brands is hiring across insight, creative, content production and design, although the company was unwilling to share how many people are on the books. The division will draw on expertise within Beano Studio, which has 55 employees. It also creates TV shows, one running on BBC’s kids channel CBBC, and another launching soon on pay-TV operator Sky.
The consultancy will work as a way for Beano Studios to upsell more services to clients. This summer, a campaign with mental health charity YoungMinds focused on the time when kids get their first cell phone at 11 years old. Beano Studios, in turn, created a new character for the 80th edition of its comic. The campaign was extended to a series of short-form videos and comedy sketches about starting a new school. This was followed by a Facebook Live video led by comedian Romesh Ranganathan aimed at parents around the subject of their kids starting school.
Beano Studios content, and the consultancy, is shaped by its a panel of 20 children, who are each paid £20 ($28) a month for a weekly 15-minute chat. It also runs Skype user testing sessions every six weeks with kids from its target demographic. These focus on a particular element of the site or app to understand how audiences respond to navigation or content types.
“They have made some good progress in getting their shows on TV and producing games,” said John Thomson, head of media at Dentsu Aegis agency 360i, “but looking at their YouTube presence (21,000 subscribers) it doesn’t look like they have a big audience to tap, and for brands, that matters.” Beano claims a monthly audience of 5 million. According to Tubular Labs, Kids Entertainment and Animation content on YouTube in the U.K. is rising fast in popularity, with the first 30-day views for videos in October up by 35 percent compared with April’s figures.
Beano has a clutch of strong characters, this brand heritage plays a role in why it’s appealing to work with. Beano for Brands will create more content that is white labeled but to get the attention of agencies Beano needs to prove it’s better qualified than production studios and creative agencies at creating content.
“I would use a white label solution for a specific audience piece, but it is limited in how they can travel at speed of market,” said Nick Wright, managing director at Jump, part of Havas Group Media. “I understand the client enough to create the content but fuel it through Beano’s rich audience data.”
The number of media owners creating content that sits outside of their media channels will only grow as many have made investments in content teams. Only distributing within their media channels can be limiting. Although it’s media owners in a defined audience or sector, like Beano Studios, that are the most attractive. In June, CNN launched its consultancy Reach and has been clear this doesn’t nudge out agencies.
However, media owners moving into the white labeling space face difficulties. Long-term relationships and deep strategic knowledge of the client is needed, as well as efficiency.
“There’s no one-stop shop that can fulfill everything, no matter who the audience is,” said Wright.
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