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Accounts In Review - Nickelodeon

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Budget: $15 million
Decision date: June
Incumbent: In-House
MARKET SITUATION
Nickelodeon is in an enviable position: As the leading TV brand for kids, it reaches 73 million homes and is the highest-rated cable network in daytime for the past four years. In April, it posted a 1.5 rating, topping TBS, which had a 1.2, thanks to strong name recognition and the appeal of its original programming. Still, it needs to distinguish itself from new kids on the block Fox Family and Kids WB and stalwart Disney.
INSIDE SCOOP
Client wants a positioning that will link Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon magazine and Nick.com with its philosophy of putting kids first. There's also a trade component. "They want an idea that can work on an employee T-shirt as well as an international Web site," a source said, regardless of the size of the shop. The review is being led by two ex-agency types: Ruth Sarlin, vice president of brand and franchise marketing (Ogilvy & Mather, Ted Bates and Lintas) and Richard Loomis, director of brand and franchise marketing (Grant Jacoby, McCaffrey & McCall and Backer Spielvogel Bates). The first round of creative presentations took place last week; agencies expect a cut to two or three before a final round at the end of May. "At the end of the day, best creative wins," a source said. Media chores are also in play.
Arnold Communications, Boston
As Nick has already won the hearts and minds of kids, its next task is to convey that strength to other important audiences, such as parents and media buyers, the agency believes. Thus, the idea that "We're all kids at heart" will be a key to its presentation, led by Converse account director Lisa Unsworth and creative director Pete Favat. Arnold's new business record has been patchy of late: It won Toysmart.com, lost Bermuda Tourism, turned down UPN and exited the Navistar International review even though it was a finalist.
contenders
DiNoto Lee, New York
Agency got into the pitch on a recommendation. Although the shop is the only one here that lacks kid experience, they do understand the labor-intensive demands of working for a cable network--CNN. If DiNoto wins it would have to staff up. It was already stretched to the max last week as it pitched both Nick and the National Enquirer/Star.
Fallon McElligott, New York
This is the first significant piece of business that president Alison Burns and creative chief Jamie Barrett have pitched without assistance from Minneapolis. Shop does handle media clients--Time and Fortune--whose parent TimeWarner vies with Viacom, but that doesn't appear to pose a problem. One factor aiding the shop: a client testimonial from kid retail powerhouse FAO Schwarz.
Kidvertisers, New York
Kidvertisers, billing just $8 million, is the smallest agency here. Nick Jr.'s lead agency has a 5-year link with Sarlin, the longest of all the contenders. Co-president Deyna Vessey believes the shop's own philosophy gives it a leg up: Almost everyone on Kidvertisers' eight-person staff left a large agency to gain more time with their own children. "There are always kids in the office. They're part of our culture," said Vessey.
The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
Martin landed Nick at Nite/TV Land last year, and comes armed with new consumer ads breaking this month. Agency president and creative director Mike Hughes who led the successful pitch for TV Land wants to build on that relationship. Martin has been buoyed by two Kellogg wins and one for Kohler. It won Aruba Tourism (only to see political maneuvering overturn the decision), but lost the Discover card pitch.
Young & Rubicam, New York
The client was impressed by Y&R's knowledge of kids aged 2 through 5 --the Nick Jr. target audience--gleaned from its work on Fisher Price, which targets the same demo. As with all its clients, Y&R sees an opportunity to build on an existing relationship with the parent--in this case Viacom, for whom it already handles Showtime. Y&R's track record with Viacom's units isn't sterling; it had its Blockbuster video store chain business stolen by Doner last year.