'Adult' Brands Get Parents Where The Kids Are
By Constantine von Hoffman
BOSTON -- If you're a marketer looking for a TV property
to help you connect with adults, then you're probably
thinking Lost, 24, Heroes or House. But when State Farm
unveiled its one-year, multimillion-dollar marketing and
promotional alliance with Nickelodeon last week, it
became the latest purveyor of products for grown-ups to
go after adults via kids' TV.
"Companies see this as a sneak attack, a way to get to
parents when they might not expect it," said Rob
Beltran, managing director of advertising at
Burson-Marsteller, New York. "But you want to make sure
the numbers are right. Because at least on the surface
it doesn't seem like an efficient way to reach the right
While this pairing of car insurance and preschoolers
"might seem odd at first blush," as Mark Gibson,
assistant vp-advertising at State Farm, Bloomington,
Ill., put it, he said it is actually a prime example of
putting your bait where the fish are. "In the current
environment it's crucial to reach consumers where they
are," he said. "It's a surprisingly good venue for
In fact, the Nick Jr. daily block of shows for
preschoolers has a co-viewing rate of 33% among adults
18-49 with kids under 6, far outdistancing the
competition, per NPower stats from Nielsen Media
Research, New York. One reason: Nickelodeon is nearly 30
years old, and many of these grownups watched the
network when they were kids, are comfortable with the
brand and don't mind joining their young’uns in front of
Using kid-targeted channels is perhaps more
understandable for hotel and auto companies. Indeed,
Nickelodeon has partnered with car companies since 2000.
Why? Because those are industries where children are key
influencers on purchasing decisions. Among such
alliances, GM partnered with Nick last year to promote
its Uplander SUV; Holiday Inn has done many promotions
with SpongeBob SquarePants and in 2005 opened a
Nickelodeon-themed Holiday Inn in Orlando, Fla. Dodge
did a campaign for its minivans in 2002 featuring the
characters from Monsters Inc. and followed that up a
year later with a tie-in between the Caravan and a
re-release of The Lion King on DVD. Last year State Farm
did a tie-in with the hit animated movie Cars.
According to a 2005 survey from J.D. Power and
Associates, 78% of parents said they had conversations
with their kids about cars while shopping for a vehicle.
And 74% said children shared their opinions with them as
to what type of car they wanted. Numbers like that led
Toyota to craft a series of ads in 2005 showing what
kids like about their cars.
Here's yet another reason why it pays to market to
youths and on kids’ shows: American children are exposed
on average to an estimated 40,000 TV commercials a year,
and kids ages 12-17 will ask their parents for products
they have seen advertised an average of nine times until
the parents finally give in, according to the Center for
a New American Dream, Takoma Park, Md., a nonprofit
environmental and social organization.
Beltran said kids' TV and big screen ventures also are
capturing more interest from adult marketers because
they are both simple and smart enough to be enjoyed by
everyone in the family. "Some of these programs—like
SpongeBob—work on a lot of different levels and have an
appeal that goes beyond just kids," said Beltran.
Buying against the expected demographic isn't just
limited to products for adults. Hasbro, for example, has
started to advertise its board games on such shows as
Lost, 24, Heroes, Grey's Anatomy and CSI.
In addition to advertising during the Nick Jr. preschool
programming block, State Farm also will have ads in Nick
Jr. Family Magazine, on NickJr.com, and will be the
presenting sponsor of a nationwide tour that starts next
month, officially known as Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great
Jaguar Rescue presented by State Farm Insurance.
Moving forward, Jim Perry, Nickelodeon's evp-brand
sales, New York, said the network is "looking to partner
with a financial services company to promote [college]
savings plans and also as part of a campaign to increase
financial literacy among kids." And while the State Farm
deal is the first national partnership the network has
done with an insurance company, Perry also expects to be
working with more "adult" companies in this and related
areas in the coming year.
"We've also received a lot of advertising from consumer
electronic companies and retailers," said Perry. "Kids
know the difference between Wal-Mart and Target, and
they aren't hesitant to express their preference."