Nickelodeon, one of the largest children's entertainment companies, includes a cable TV network, magazine, movie production company and Web site. It has made cross-promotional deals with automakers for seven years.
Jim Perry, 40, Nickelodeon's senior vice president of advertising sales, discussed car companies' family marketing initiatives with Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist.
How have automakers changed their approach to marketing to families?
We've done deals with seven different automotive manufacturers, targeting kids, moms and families all together. In the last seven years, more and more automotive marketers have been targeting the family to help promote and sell their minivans and new SUVs. They are taking the kids' involvement much more seriously, and they are trying to reach parents with their kids when the messaging is put out there.
Were your automotive ad sales up in 2005?
Yes, they've been up every year for the last seven years.
Is the automotive advertising you run focused on animation?
You'll see in the creative for the (Chevrolet) Uplander, there is animation in it. The beauty of animation is that it appeals to every demographic. A lot of our characters and a lot of our programs are kid-driven and produced for the kid. But there is an adult sensibility about most of our animation. You look at SpongeBob and Fairly OddParents, it doesn't come across as kiddish at all.
I think (automakers) are using animation to be able to talk to the entire household and the entire family. They realize that kids have a say and an opinion in what kind of automobile their family is going to purchase.
Have you done research on what kind of influence kids have on the automotive purchase?
We've done research (in 2003) with J.D. Power that says that 80 percent of parents recall having conversations with their children while they are shopping for a vehicle. They have a big say. Three-quarters of those children have an opinion about what they want their parents to buy.
Automakers are seeing more families in their showrooms and realizing the involvement that their kids have in the purchase decision. Every year we have a couple more automakers coming to Nickelodeon in order to speak to the family.
What automakers advertise on your network?
Right now, Chevrolet, Dodge, Honda and Toyota.