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2014-15 Upfront

Nickelodeon's Jim Perry Is Courting More Adult Advertisers

Upfront slate features studio partnerships

Nickelodeon's Bad Seeds

Nickelodeon revealed its slate to advertisers yesterday, and while it's all squeaky-clean kids' fare (well, relatively speaking: "As you can see from the reel, bathroom humor still works," observed Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami during the presentation), the network is seeking ad partners with a greater emphasis on categories you wouldn't necessarily associate with children.

"Kindle is sponsoring the Kids' Choice Awards," said Jim Perry, head of sales for the Nickelodeon group (which includes Nick proper, Nick Jr. and Nick at Nite), "and we now have over 15 retailers on our air—everything from Target and old Navy to Stride Rite and the Burlington Coat Factory."

Obviously, that's not because kids are stealing the car and driving to Target. For many years, the rule that advertisers direct their ads at parents and not children was regarded as pro forma by clients. But in recent years, heightening standards (and parental activism) around unhealthy foods, coupled with the decline of the traditional toy market, have meant that advertisers really do have to use Nick—which controls the vast majority of saleable GRPs in the kids' market—to talk to parents themselves.

Perry is way ahead of them. "You can really build a great financial literacy campaign around saving and learning the value of a dollar whether or not you're showing a credit card ad," he said. Placements and integrations like Toyota's SpongeBob ... uh, mobile showcase grown-up brands in a way that doesn't bore kids.

And for next year, Nick has a very interesting slate of shows—new cartoons Bad Seeds and Pig Goat Banana Cricket, as well as Henry Danger from Sam & Cat creator Dan Schneider and sundry others. (And yes, worried fans who were asking on Twitter, Legend of Korra is coming back for the last two books and Sam & Cat has been renewed, per programming president Russell Hicks).

For the most part, the presentation (featuring a performance by Sara Barielles) radiated relief at the company's recovery from its ratings lag of a few years ago. "I can barely remember 2011 and 2012!" said Zarghami. "Or I choose not to."

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