They cook and code; skateboard and sketch. They’re African American and Asian; Filipino and New Mexican. They’re vegetarian and own a pet fish. They demand inclusion. They’re not perfect, but they’re having fun.
And that’s something worth celebrating in Nickelodeon’s new multimedia, year-long brand campaign, “That’s Me” showcasing kids’ drive to be honest and authentic individuals who embrace differences and diversity.
“What matters so much to kids right now is expressing who they are,” said Kim Rosenblum, EVP and chief creative officer, Nickelodeon Group. “Maybe that’s always been true. But the idea of conformity and clicks as a way of defining themselves does not resonate with this generation at all.”
The campaign is based on the network’s research showing 0-11-year-olds are the most ethnically and racially diverse groups of kids to date in the United States. “That’s Me” explores the many things that inform their individuality and makes them who they are: their personalities, backgrounds, experiences and heritage.
It kicked off March 1 for Women’s History Month, with spots focusing on inspiring females such as Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and Michelle Obama, while highlighting a rising generation of strong, empowered girls.
It also honored Black History Month in February with videos celebrating black culture and heritage.
Throughout the year, Nickelodeon will continue to roll out iterations of the campaign across its on-air and digital platforms that focus on diversity and inclusion such as autism awareness, hispanic heritage and anti-bullying efforts.
“Honestly, it’s kind of wide open,” Rosenblum said. If something bubbles up that matters to its audience, Nickelodeon will address it.
“Nickelodeon has always stood for kids,” she said. “We don’t lean more or girl or boy, more cartoon or live action. We really are just for everyone.”
Throughout 2018, real kids, ages 6-14, will share first-person accounts of who they are, what matters to them, what inspires them, and what makes them tick, as part of the campaign.
Acceptance and Understanding
Yes, real kids.
“In the span of five days, we shot 50 kids, mostly from all over California, but we picked up some shots in New York and I think we got some cowboys in Texas,” said Terence Lee, executive creative director at creative studio Roger.
The agency sent out casting calls, collected video clips from kids all over the country, and scoured YouTube for unique and surprising talent.
“Kids are so literate with putting themselves out there on the web,” Lee said.
The crew set out to break stereotypes by finding kids from all walks of life with different personalities, interests and ethnicities.
“At the beginning of production, we started by writing down a wish list of the types of kids we wanted to get. We didn’t stick to it, but it helped guide us.”
From there, they drove around to beaches, parks and hiking trails, gathering together hockey players and hikers, beep boxers and breakdancers, in whirlwind filming sessions that started with simple conversations as the crew captured little moments where the kids laughed nervously and stuck out their tongues.
Lee remembered being blown away by a girl who did karate.
“She goes into this thing where she looks so fierce, and you forget she’s just a 13-year-old girl,” he said. “She started breaking boards with her hands.”
He also recalled one boy, probably around 7-years-old, with a ton of energy.
“And he gets on camera and starts talking about how he has ADHD, but that’s okay, I’m a good person,” Lee said. “We understand it and accept it, and he understands it and accepts it too.”
Kids These Days
It’s that overwhelming sense of inclusion that defines the up-and-coming Generation Z.
“Kids crave deep friendships with people who don’t look like them, speak their language, or share their religion,” Rosenblum said. “I believe social media has accelerated this.”
Digital communication has shrunk a geographically large world into the size of the screens of their phones, accessible from their living room. As minorities shift to become the majority of the population in America, kids look across the dinner table at multicultural non-traditional families, and that’s how they view themselves and others.
“Do they want to be doctors and surgeons? Sure,” Rosenblum said. “Guess what? They also want to be YouTube stars. They see people like themselves as makers and content creators, and that’s what makes the world for kids much smaller.”
According to Nickelodeon’s research, the definition of a “friend” has evolved to include digital peers they’ve never met as part of their social circles, especially as mobile device ownership for 3 to 11 year olds continues to rise.
Kids are also supremely confident in their own abilities, with 90 percent of them believing they can find answers to any question on their own, spurring an entrepreneurial spirit: “if it doesn’t exist, they will create it.”
And kids today feel closer to their parents than in past generations, with mom and dad viewed as top role models, and 83 percent being told they have a say in family decisions. It also means they’re more aware of their parent’s financial situation, in addition to other relatively new stresses such as cyber popularity and school safety.
“You could look at this and say kids are growing up so fast, because they’re being exposed to so much,” Rosenblum said. But it appears the opposite is actually true; because they recognize the pressure of being an adult, they value their youth—and that sentiment is front and center in Nickelodeon’s “That’s Me” campaign.
“One of the things that’s really great is kids like being kids. They’re not in a rush at all [to grow up]. That didn’t necessarily surprise me, but it really heartenend me,” Rosenblum said. “They’re happy with who they are.”