Ad Nut
Nov 29, 2019

Hey, kids: Play with this ball to earn screen time

NZ telco Spark and Colenso BBDO created a tech-enabled rugby ball that translates physical activity into a screen-time allowance. Clever. But our pal Ad Nut has thoughts about the war on device time.

Hey, kids: Play with this ball to earn screen time

With Colenso BBDO, the New Zealand telco Spark has created a prototype rugby ball that uses tech to track activity, which it reports to an app via Bluetooth. The aim of the setup is to encourgage kids to get some exercise—by rewarding them for activity minutes with screentime minutes. 

The partnership also involves Gilbert Rugby, Nakatomi, and child psychologist Emma Woodward. A trial is underway with local families, and data from the trial will inform the future development of the Play by Spark concept, according to the companies.

There's also a fun TV spot, directed by Mark Albiston of Sweetshop, in which a kid and a friend have a difficult conversation about spending a bit less time together:

Ad Nut has in the past complained about ads that preach about screen time (see "Oh look, another brand advocating less device time"). So Ad Nut sort of has to commend this effort for at least involving some professionals and attempting to make a real, potentially useful thing—instead of merely giving us a lecture.

That said, you probably won't be surprised that Ad Nut has further thoughts about efforts to control kids' screen time. Put simply, not all screen time is created equal. But unfortunately, most efforts to manage the issue (including this one) don't bother to make distinctions.

Technical literacy is an absolute requirement for kids, as is learning to navigate the many delights and dangers of the internet in general. A certain amount of gaming and silly online interaction is socially important for kids these days. Moreover, tech-centred play is essential to creating a small human who will grow up to excel and even innovate in a tech-enabled environment. We must stop acting like screen time per se is a bad thing. But we do need parental strategies (and sure, perhaps tech-enabled tools) to help steer our young ones toward the ability to make the best use of their screen time.

A related point: Ad Nut wonders how many parents would be willing to accept an exercise-for-device-time deal like the one Spark is suggesting here. Can you imagine the howling? Parents would argue that their devices are necessary for life in this modern world. And they'd be correct.

But the same is true for their kids.


Client: Spark
Agency: Colenso BBDO
Partners: Gilbert Rugby, Nakatomi, Dr Emma Woodward
Production Partner: Sweetshop
Director: Mark Albiston
Executive Producers: Kate Roydhouse, Ben Dailey
Animation: Pete Circuit
Post Production: Creature
Sound: Franklin Rd
Photography: Troy Goodall
Media: PHD

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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