On the one hand, having each territory’s marketing department working in isolation would mean repeating prior mistakes and losing the chance to adapt successful campaigns from other territories. On the other hand, Schupack says that cookie-cutter campaigns shipped out to the territories wouldn’t work either. Apart from the obvious language barriers, each service has a distinct programming schedule, and each territory has its own likes and dislikes.
Mary Curran, head of marketing for Nickelodeon UK, describes Nickelodeon International as, ‘like a filter,’ allowing ideas and resources to flow between the various territories. She points to ‘The Red Hot Lobster Roadshow’ touring promotion, which borrowed from Nickelodeon’s Game Lab in Orlando, Florida, as well as from Australia’s ‘Moby Nick’ touring bus and from Nickelodeon Latin America’s ‘Nick en Vivo’ touring show.
As with most shared promotions, although the core idea was lifted from elsewhere, the hosts, the activities and even the name had to be localized. ‘The reason we call it the Red Hot Lobster Roadshow is because typical British weather is not necessarily as good as in the U.S.,’ says Curran, ‘so as soon as the sun comes out, all the British folks just strip off and you get all of this white skin suddenly getting scorched by the blazing sun, so everybody walks around looking like a lobster.’
Following its recent launch on June 26, the tour will hit 14 to 16 summer festivals in villages around the U.K., presenting kids with a 45-minute show hosted by on-air talent from the channel. Most of the show consists of messy competitions involving slime, water balloons and custard pies, with the winner walking away with the Golden Claw.
Over at Nickelodeon Latin America, VP of marketing and communications Valerie McCarty re-emphasizes the need to balance shared resources with local needs. She says she relies on extensive research and traveling through the 19 countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean (which are served by the channel) to find out what suits the area. For instance, she notes that while much of the channel’s programming is from the U.S. library, not all the U.S. shows work in the region. Ren and Stimpy is popular on Nick in the States, but in Latin America, McCarty found a sensitivity to its ‘burps and bodily functions’ in focus groups, so they didn’t program the show. Renford Rejects, a Nick UK production centered around soccer, which is an incredibly popular sport in Latin America, proved to be a more than adequate replacement.
Similarly, McCarty found that Nickelodeon’s annual Kids Choice awards, an awards show broadcast out of Hollywood where kids mail in ballots to elect their faves in various categories, needed some local adaptation.
‘We have aired it in Latin America for the last couple of years, but after doing research and holding focus groups we realized that they didn’t really understand what it was,’ McCarty says. ‘So we took that property, which began as a U.S. property, and we figured out how to make it relevant for our audiences.’ To do this, live telecast-viewing parties were arranged in key markets throughout Latin America, and a Latin American category was established at the awards. McCarty put together a list of about 30 local and international celebrities and conducted a phone survey to narrow the nominees down to Tia and Tamara (the twin stars of Sister, Sister), Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican singer), Tommy Pickles (of Rugrats), Shakira (Mexican movie star) and The Backstreet Boys. The ploy worked, drawing in 23,000 ballots and over 2,000 kids to each viewing party. And the winner? The Backstreet Boys which McCarty says just goes to show that kids can take an international phenomenon and effectively make it their own.
This is, in fact, what the local marketing efforts are all about, and Schupack stresses that while from the U.S., the offshoot channels may be called Nick UK, Nick Japan, or Nick Hungary, from within each territory, the channels are just called Nickelodeon, and to kids in each territory, that’s the only Nickelodeon they know.