Kaufman stage-manages Nickelodeon's global push

By Published on .

Pam Kaufman has always wanted to be a rock star, jetting to exotic locations and meeting fabulous people. Her new job at Viacom's Nickelodeon gets her two out of three.

Ms. Kaufman, an eight-year Nick veteran whose singing talents aren't exactly legendary but with a stage presence that's not too shabby, is one of several executives at the kid cable powerhouse to take on global responsibilities as part of a new strategy under Viacom's recently elevated co-president Tom Freston. She was recently promoted to exec VP-marketing and worldwide partnerships.

Ms. Kaufman has worked in promotions at the network, linking Nickelodeon's animated and live action fare with such heavy-hitting brands as Burger King, General Mills, Campbell Soup Co., Lincoln- Mercury and Kraft Foods. She broke ground by pairing marketers of adult products like cars and vacations with family-targeted properties "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Jimmy Neutron."

Three years ago, she took consumer marketing under her wing, working on campaigns to launch new shows for the network, such as "Dora the Explorer" and feature films like "Rugrats in Paris" distributed by sibling division Paramount Pictures. Her new role will involve exporting the practices that have worked in the U.S. and, with Nickelodeon executives around the world, working to grow the brand.

"We'll be looking at how to bring our tent-pole property strategy to the globe," Ms. Kaufman said. "The system here can translate to other territories."

That strategy uses the force of all the Nickelodeon media, plus co-marketers, their media and real estate, to put new properties into the marketplace. Once they're seeded and audiences build, executives start rolling out toys, party goods, clothing and other licensed merchandise. Ms. Kaufman also will concentrate on global marketing partnerships, mirroring the kind of deals she's crafted in the U.S., where brand executives say she has distinguished herself among her peers that barter similar alliances.

Corporate partners say they feel like Ms. Kaufman gives them the inside track on whatever Nickelodeon is planning and pushes them to take full advantage of the entertainment company's properties and events. But further than that, she's an advocate.

"I always feel like she has my back," said Mark Snyder, senior VP-brand management, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, who is in the middle of a two-year strategic partnership with Nickelodeon. "My biggest concern in working with a partner, particularly in entertainment, is that once they get my check, they're on to the next thing. That's absolutely not what Pam does."

The two companies are in business together for a first-of-its-kind Nickelodeon branded hotel scheduled to open this spring in Orlando, Fla. Mr. Snyder credits Ms. Kaufman with making the introduction that kicked off the deal for Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn.

off-air reach

As many marketers have done lately, Ms. Kaufman said the network is working harder to reach kids off-air, with events and niche marketing such as "house parties" where groups of kids are invited to sneak preview new shows.

"We're trying to connect with them more deeply," she said.

Marketing partners want the same from the network, Ms. Kaufman said, and are willing to make their alliances bigger and splashier, a la the giant inflatables that Burger King put on top of its restaurants for the "SpongeBob" movie.

To Ms. Kaufman's credit, she can carry a tune. But her boss, Cyma Zarghami, Nickelodeon's TV president, has more admiration for her juggling.

"She's able to balance what the clients need with what's good for the brand," Ms. Zarghami said. "And yet, she always makes sure that the audience is first."

Just Asking

Q: What she watches in her off time:

A: Nickelodeon and sibling channel The N are top of the list. But she's a "Survivor" addict, been hooked since Day One. "I wish I could go on it."

Q: If she had to pick a highlight of her life, it would be:

A: Her 20th high school reunion. Unlike the rest of the world, she didn't hate high school. A close second: meeting Bono backstage at a U2 concert six years ago.

Q: What's her favorite drink? Movie? Person?

A: Margarita, "Jaws" and Neil Young

Most Popular
In this article: