Branded content isn't just for grown-ups. Kids' networks are getting into the native advertising game, introducing their own branded content arms during this year's upfront presentations.
Nickelodeon is formalizing its consumer insights, partnership marketing and multi-media services under the banner Nickelodeon Inside Out Solutions. The group is designed to connect marketers to Nickelodeon's TV and digital channels, social footprint, consumer products business and on-the-ground marketing experiences.
"We have been hearing from our partners for a while that they want to bring our secret sauce to their campaigns," said Pam Kaufman, CMO and president of consumer products, Viacom Kids and Family Group, of which Nick is a part.
The division will create customized content and gaming apps as well as help clients tap into Nickelodeon's social media networks, Ms. Kaufman said.
Nickelodeon has already been doing some of this informally for clients. Based on insights that showed children influence the car that their parents purchase, Nickelodeon helped Toyota create a 3-D concept car tied to "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water."
Nickelodeon Inside Out Solutions expands on parent Viacom's branded content arm, Velocity, which formed last year.
It's become a trend among TV network groups like NBC Universal, which owns networks from NBC to USA, and Turner Broadcasting, the parent of TBS and CNN, to offer advertisers potential buys beyond the commercial break.
Nickelodeon rival Disney Channel is also formalizing its branded content arm during this year's upfront pitches to advertisers. Dubbed Disney Co-Op, the service, which started earlier this year, is tasked with creating short-form content for advertisers and pushing it out over social media. The division will predominantly focus on creating content tailored to moms rather than kids.
Nickelodeon enters the upfront marketplace as No. 2 among kids networks, behind Disney Channel. It ended 2014 with a 15% decline in viewership among kids 2 to 11 years old and a 13% drop in the 6-to-11 demo.
Nickelodeon will host its annual upfront presentation on Wednesday afternoon, where it is expected to introduce, among other things, a service offering its programming directly to consumers, circumventing cable and satellite companies.