Nickelodeon Partners With Frozen Vegetable Brand Birds Eye

'Play with your food'

Birds Eye wants to rally kids into eating veggies this summer, so it’s serving up a main course of Nickelodeon with a helping of gamification.

The frozen foods maker today will announce a cross-media partnership with Viacom’s formidable cable network, tapping Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy as its spokesperson. From July 15 through Sept. 21 in a campaign dubbed “Play With Your Food,” Birds Eye will feature the actress in four :30 spots on the children-focused channel and, while also running video vignettes and blooper reels across both brands' digital properties.

Beyond ads, Birds Eye is bringing gaming elements to the campaign, including a series of multimedia games on highlighting the brand’s vegetable products. The partners are also working together to push Nickelodeon’s 10th annual games-based Worldwide Day of Play in New York during late September.

Though Birds Eye declined comment, other industry players weighed in on Play With Your Food, a multimillion-dollar push that represents a ramped-up version of an effort the Brighton, N.Y.-based company tested with Nickelodeon last year.

“Kids have an affinity for characters and certain celebrities,” said Adam Lavelle, iCrossing’s chief strategist who has designed digital initiatives for Lego. “They like having an interaction with brands like Nickelodeon. And kids are often the primary influencers for what parents buy.”

Rob Pieper, svp of strategy and planning at The Marketing Store, said his company’s research shows that healthy food marketers who focus on moms “may discover that developing tactics to tap into the influence of kids could give them a competitive advantage.”

Moms are great. But tapping into kids' desire to play games could prove to be even more nutritional in the marketing sense, according to Darya Rose, a trained neuroscientist who writes the popular health food blog, Summer Tomato.

“Studies show that kids enjoy feeling strong while accomplishing goals through make-believe,” she said. “They’re fine with broccoli if they think they are like dinosaurs eating mini trees. And they regularly create shapes with food on their plate—they are playing a game.”

Play With Your Food complements Birds Eye’s ongoing work with nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, contributing an annual $2 million for advertising that promotes healthy eatables. For Nickelodeon, the overall initiative underscores its history of promoting veggies via cartoons such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

Also of importance, Birds Eye’s campaign complies with the Federal Trade Commission’s July 1 updates for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, per Alan Chapell, a digital privacy expert from Chapell & Associates.“They are using contextual online advertising,” he explained, “which doesn’t go against what Coppa is meant to stop.”

Lavelle from iCrossing concurred, adding, “Brands should avoid direct marketing to kids that pushes offers that are bottom of the funnel.”

Instead, Birds Eye hopes kids help push the brand to the top of mom or dad’s grocery list.

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