Kids Do the Darnedest Things

The Martin Agency is launching a cable television push for Nickelodeon starring a band of middle school cutups.

“They told us to create a buzz,” said Martin creative director Rob Scha-piro. “We wanted a campaign where the spots were content, not ads.”

The Richmond, Va., shop developed a handful of variously timed commercials that celebrate kids performing goofy tricks, the ones they usually do when parents are not around.

A “Because we can” tag flashes through the spots that will run on Nickelodeon through September.

“We wanted to take the things that kids do to amuse their friends in the cafeteria and put them on a pedestal for the whole world to see,” said Martin art director Kevin Ragland. “Kids perform these talents because they can; Nickelodeon celebrates them because they are the only network out there who can.”

The tricks include belly rolls, eyelid inversions, syncopated farts, ear curls and facial contortions. Some performances were combined thematically and will air as 60-second spots. One-of-a-kind talents, such as the girl who walks on the knuckles of her feet and the boy who feeds a string of dental floss up one nostril and down the other, will play as single commercials. “The spots are as long as the trick takes to perform,” said Schapiro. “We’re not editing for standard times.”

Director Rohitash Rao of Moxie Media in Los Angeles used one camera trained on the kids and another panning for reaction shots. “We realized these were as funny as the tricks,” said Schapiro.

Synthesized music written by former Devo team Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh results in a raspy electronic track that drives the montages. Embedded in the soundtrack are the words, “Nick, Nick, Nick, show me what you can do.”

“We asked them to do something very compartmentalized that we could take apart to fit the action,” said Schapiro

More than 100 children between 11 and 13 were auditioned; 17 were filmed. “We casted from groups of real kids and some professionals,” Schapiro said, “but we didn’t use any of the pros.”

An interactive component of the campaign asks for new tricks and allows kids to vote for favorites. “We can keep this going a long time,” said Schapiro.

The kids’ cable TV channel is headquartered in New York.