Kids get bored quickly.
For Nickelodeon, which caters to an audience of 6-to-11-year-olds, it’s a truth the network not only knows, but embraced through a brand refresh less than a year after a prior brand refresh.
“We’re constantly reinventing ourselves,” said Michael Waldron, senior vice president, creative director, art and design, Nickelodeon. “We live in a world that’s ever changing. You swipe up on Instagram, and everything is changing.”
In March 2017, Nickelodeon turned to Buenos Aires-based creative agency Superestudio for an image refresh inspired by social media that essentially plucked kids into the cartoon worlds of the network’s programming. The result focused on “unexpected fun” as children interacted with characters, such as playing with SpongeBob’s face or inventing situations that were visualized through a Cubism artistic style.
“With this mix the children became part of the channel,” “Ezequiel Rormoser, creative director at Superestudio, said at the time. “They were inside it, in a unique and playful way, interacting with the brand and with the contents.”
This latest refresh brought Superestudio back to essentially flip the script, adding a live-action component to the rebrand, and inserting animated elements into kids’ real lives. What started as an animation-heavy look with live action sprinkled in evolved into a live action-heavy look with graphics sprinkled in.
It might sound like a subtle switcheroo, but the shift in how the different mediums crossover and interact brings a new perspective to the brand’s identity.
“We just wanted to expand the visual world that we live in,” Waldron said. “Our kids live everywhere.”
He wanted to them to see their surroundings on screen, and added more of an urban tone—where an out-of-place 3D SpongeBob really pops.
“There’s something fun about seeing kids playing on a basketball court in a cityscape,” he said. “It takes it into a real-world environment and it’s a visual identity that we haven’t shown yet.”
In terms of graphical elements including bumpers, IDs and other assets, Nickelodeon kept the same color scheme, but played around with different mediums by bringing the logo into a 3D live-action world, for instance, and adding textures to the backgrounds to create more personality.
“The key is we love where we’re at,” Waldron said. “We’re not trying to change anything, but add to it.”
An Ever-Evolving Brand
The evolution of the brand stemmed from a shoot that Nickelodeon did last fall for upfronts, and at the same time decided to gather video content and still photography to use for a refresh.
They spent two days on site in Brooklyn and Westchester, N.Y.—“cool but nondescript” locations that could be “Anytown USA” and worked with a casting agency to bring in 15 to 20 kids from different walks of life.
“We don’t want it to ever feel like child actors,” Waldron said. “They have to have some sort of ability, but they’re real kids. Some have a background in acting, some don’t.”
Rather than storyboarding everything out first, as in the original refresh, Nickelodeon gathered all the content, then called Superestudio and asked the agency to come up with ideas based on what the network provided.
“We shot all of this before we even got them on the phone,” Waldron said.
“The main challenge was working with footage that wasn’t meant for this purpose,” Rormoser said. “So we had to find a way to make it interact with graphics in a cool and smart way, using the material we had.”
As Waldron later put it, “We’re not an easy client. We do so much in-house and we know exactly what we’re looking for.”
Yet having done the original brand refresh, Superestudio was familiar with the design and ready to take it to the next level.
“We were already completely immersed in the brand and the possibilities of the creative expansion of the refresh,” said Rormoser. “Going further with this creative was very fun and inspiring.”
“They’re really good at that saying ‘this is how we’re going to make this come to life,’” Waldron added.
The refresh was implemented in March 2018, and keeps coming and going based on Nickelodeon’s other brand packages that get swapped in and out for summer, and soon Halloween, Thanksgiving and the holidays.
“It’s the umbrella brand that works on the whole network for everything, but there are times that are special for kids,” Waldron said. “It keeps things super fresh. It’s fun constantly reinventing, and nothing ever feels stale.”