Nick Nation Brand Campaign Hits Air

Nickelodeon launched a multimillion-dollar advertisingcampaign dubbed "Nick Nation" last week, targeted to kids, parents andadvertisers.

The branding campaign -- which launched with TV spots inNew York and Los Angeles, expanding to 15 more markets next Monday (Nov. 1) -- aims toreinforce the network's philosophy of putting kids first.

"We set out to get the most magnificent footage ofkids everywhere," senior vice president of brand and franchise marketing Ruth Sarlinsaid.

The splashy spots incorporate a mix of differentdirectorial styles for a collage effect, showing "every kind of kid doing every kindof thing in every kind of place," she said. The ads also feature popular cartooncharacters from Nick hits Catdog, Blue's Clues and Rugrats.

New York-based ad agency Kidvertisers created the NickNation concept and campaign. The network had worked with Kidvertisers in the past onbranding efforts for Nick Jr.

The network's investment in the Nick Nation brandingeffort "far surpasses anything we've done in the past," Sarlin said, addingthat the fall campaign alone boasts a media value of $30 million. A spokeswoman for thenetwork estimated that outside media buys for the eight-week campaign cost $12 million.

The network will carry the Nick Nation branding at leastthrough the year 2000, then re-evaluate it to see whether it will be extended.

"We believe this idea has legs that will take us asfar as we want to go," Sarlin said.

As a backdrop to the Nick Nation campaign, the networkcreated a theme song, with new lyrics set to traditional Cajun children's tune"Iko Iko."

Nickelodeon will create a number of versions of the anthemfor use in different spots. For its on-air spot, for example, percussion group Stompdeveloped its own adaptation of the song. And for phase two of the Nick Nation campaign,Nickelodeon's recently organized house band -- led by David Letterman cohort PaulShaffer -- will perform its rendition.

The first TV spots will run during Major LeagueBaseball's World Series, as well as top-rated primetime shows such as ER, AllyMcBeal, Friends and The Practice, plus talk shows including Today,The Rosie O'Donnell Show and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Nickelodeon will also back the branding efforts with printand outdoor ads, plus cross-channel spots on other Viacom Inc. networks and tie-ins withBlockbuster Video.

When Nickelodeon was created 20 years ago, the cablechannel's lineup didn't include much competition for a network devoted tochildren. While Sarlin admitted that the growing competitive landscape played a role inNickelodeon's strategic thinking, she said it wasn't the driving factor behindthe new branding campaign.

Sarlin said one of the long-term goals of the Nick Nationbranding effort is to remind potential business partners that Nickelodeon has grown beyondjust the cable network. It already offers its larger advertisers packages that encompassmultiple outlets, such as the Nickelodeon-branded magazines.