How ViacomCBS Pivoted to Air Culturally Conscious Campaigns During the Kids Choice Awards



To successfully pivot the KCAs, Viacom turned to partners Mattel and Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP).


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The COVID-19 crisis has caused a mass shuffle in TV advertising that’s required brand marketers to sidestep their current ad campaigns to make room for culturally sensitive content with updated messaging. When it was announced in April that the KCAs would air in early May, Velocity quickly approached the show’s sponsors with strategies to update their campaigns, where necessary, enabling the brands to continue to support the show and promote their messages.

“Everything about this year’s Kids’ Choice Awards was focused on providing an entertaining experience for kids and families in the comfort of their own homes, from the homes of all their favorite celebrities and heroes. It was much more intimate, since we were adhering to social distancing guidelines, but also lighthearted and relatable for our fans,” says April McKenzie, Vice President of Activation at Velocity. “Our advertisers wanted to ensure their campaigns provided maximum impact while aligning with the current reality. We worked swiftly to reimagine the content and adjust any creative developed for the original live show that was planned for March.”

ViacomCBS x MilkPEP

Among the partners who updated their campaigns were Mattel Barbie and Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). George Sholley, Vice President of Production at Velocity, shared, “Working with each brand, we were able to edit some of the shots or add in new pieces of content to ensure the creative reflected the current global situation while maintaining their core messages.”

“We’re nimble by nature,” adds Lisa Bull, another VP of Activation at Velocity. “For Barbie and MilkPEP specifically, we needed to adjust the creative to reflect the current environment for our audience. Together, with our partners, we were able to move quickly to deliver amazing creative with timely messages.”

MilkPEP worked with Velocity to create a custom campaign that included 2-minute and 30-second cuts. Filmed in February, they featured Olympic-hopeful skateboarder Bryce Wettstein performing choreographed tricks and dance moves with kid-dancers and professional BMX riders at a skate park. Velocity re-cut the original spots, weaving together a series of single-person shots to replace the group scenes. The final moments of the ad encouraged viewers, “Wherever you are, whatever you do…milk it.”

“Less than a month ago, you wouldn’t have to think twice about creating and airing an ad that showed kids skateboarding together and having fun. But, times have clearly changed,” explains Justin Kovics, VP and Group Creative Director at Velocity. “We had to ensure the message our partners wanted to express wasn’t tone deaf in the current climate of social distancing, especially because kids are a huge part of the Kids’ Choice Awards’ audience.”

“We are grateful for our partnership with Nickelodeon and agency Campbell Ewald,” said MilkPEP CEO Yin Woon Rani. “We were impressed with how quickly we could make changes to the spot to reflect social distancing and represent a positive example of how to reflect that behavior to this important audience.”

DJ Livia and Mattel’s Barbie

Prior to COVID-19, the in-house branded content studio created custom content for Mattel Barbie®. The initial creative centered on a young girl, showcasing her talents, and featured a group of kids dancing together to a performance by 13-year-old DJ Livia. Given that schools are currently closed and social distancing measures are in place, the content had the potential to be confusing or alarming to kids. So, Velocity used remote capture to record a message from DJ Livia in which she explained that the footage was shot previously and encouraged her fans to stay indoors.

“We’re using music to remind girls that they can be anything,” DJ Livia says in the video. She then went on to remind fans that “play is never canceled.”

“We were really able to lean in and leverage the power of DJ Livia as an influencer and a real girl realizing her passion, to send a positive message to audiences tuning into the awards show, while also making sure the brand’s original message didn’t get lost,” says Jared Elliott, VP and Group Creative Director at Velocity.

According to Mattel, the updated creative enabled the brand to reinforce its message at a critical time. “The Barbie brand believes in play, even during these difficult times,” says Aimee London, Senior Director of Marketing at Mattel. “Working with DJ Livia to pivot our approach by celebrating at home, allowed us to show girls they can be anything, while also celebrating imagination and social connection.”

Continuing the digital pivot

Nickelodeon’s 33rd Annual Kids’ Choice Awards was vastly different from any previous show. It represented a radical shift from a traditional awards ceremony filmed in front of kids, families, and celebrities alike, to one that was produced remotely with virtual celebrity cameos and at-home musical performances. In another mark of nimble production, it featured commercial creativity that reflected the current state of the world.

As brands continue to adjust to the “new normal” caused by COVID-19, Velocity continues to find creative ways to adapt and connect with audiences—even when they can’t be in the same room together. From remote production capabilities, to crafting relevant and meaningful content on the fly, the creative team continues to bring brand ideas into being.

“The shop is not closed by any stretch of the imagination,” says Sholley. “We are able to make things happen remotely, and we are especially well-equipped for this moment.”

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