Seen+Noted: Spark improves kids’ relationship with tech with launch of Play by Spark via Colenso BBDO

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Kiwi children are facing an upbringing that is increasingly dominated by technology – the struggle to find balance in today’s fast-paced environment is an ongoing challenge for New Zealand families.


In partnership with Gilbert Rugby, Nakatomi, child psychologist Dr Emma Woodward and Colenso BBDO, Spark is developing a Bluetooth-enabled smart rugby ball to help families achieve a healthy balance of screen time and active playtime. The product is currently a prototype, with a New Zealand trial underway with local families.

Seen+Noted: Spark improves kids’ relationship with tech with launch of Play by Spark via Colenso BBDO

Says Dr Woodward: “Technology is not bad, it’s how we use it that might be corrosive. Play by Spark aims to help Kiwi families teach their children important self-regulation skills from a young age and become more mindful with their technology use.”

Custom built techware inside the ball – including a gyroscope and accelerometer -tracks minutes of active playtime. The ball connects to an App that converts this to a screen time allowance, sending an alert to parents when this time runs out.

Says Sarah Williams, brand experience tribe lead, Spark: “Technology is part of everyday life and we want to help children grow up developing positive digital habits. At Spark, we’re working to equip parents with the right tools – like this smart ball and app – so that technology is part of the solution.”

Over a trial period, selected New Zealand families are putting the prototype ball to the test by taking on a series of challenges designed by Dr Woodward. The ball data captured during the trial will teach Spark even more about playtime, and inform the development of Play by Spark.

Seen+Noted: Spark improves kids’ relationship with tech with launch of Play by Spark via Colenso BBDO

Says Dr Woodward: “Our children are facing a very different future to what we thought we would face so it’s important that we teach them the skills that they need in order for them to thrive and fulfil their potential. Spark are keen to support families so children develop healthy tech habits.”

Play by Spark launched with a TV spot that sees young Toby approach the conversation of balance with his favourite computer game character.

Says Dan Wright, executive creative director, Colenso BBDO: “It was important for us to look at this from a child’s point of view. It’s a big deal for kids. They care about the characters in their games, but they also get the need for balance. We love the idea that Play by Spark can actually give kids more control over their screen time, even while it’s doing the same for their parents.”

Says Mark Albiston, director at Sweetshop: “There is a level of love for gaming kids have that is undeniable. I was keen not to trivialise this in the film. Kids have an affinity with games that us adults – like me who haven’t grown up with – often underestimate. Kids breaking up with their avatar carries more weight than we realise and I wanted to make sure we empathised with them.”

The campaign will also appear across OOH, social and digital. Future plans, including any potential release to the public, will be determined once the results of the trial come in next year.

Client: Spark
Agency: Colenso BBDO
Partners: Gilbert Rugby, Nakatomi, Dr Emma Woodward
Production company: Sweetshop
Director: Mark Albiston
Executive Producers: Kate Roydhouse, Ben Dailey
Editor: Luke Haigh
Sound Design: Franklin Rd
Composition: TBC
Animation: Studio Local / Pete Circuitt
Colourist: Pete Ritchie

Post Production: Creature
Photography: Troy Goodall
Media: PHD