Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Nick NICKELODEON!
Growing up in the 1990’s, I spent countless hours glued to a television that was seemingly stuck on one channel, Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon is a network aimed at children and preteens; its shows vary from animated, educational programs directed at younger children (2-5 y.o.), to animated, entertaining programs for the grade school child, and also to programs with teenage actors who deal with friendships, relationships, school, and other issues, primarily for the preteen/teen audience. After a few years of minimal success, Nickelodeon hit it big in the ’90s and the beginning of the 21st century. It opened an attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and created a series of animated shows, referred to as Nicktoons, that shaped pop culture for the “’90s kid” generation; my favorites included Rugrats, Doug, and Hey Arnold! (And as I got a little older, All That and Clarissa Explains It All became quick favorites.)
Nickelodeon Promo. 1996. From Youtube.com.
Because Nickelodeon was a network for kids, all of their commercials and advertisements were for the latest toys and newest kid’s meals at this and that fast-food joints. There was even a promo after every live taping of All That that told young viewers that the show was taped in front of a live studio audience at Nickelodeon Studios Orlando, Florida, somewhere I would’ve loved to visit as much as any other kid wanted to go to Disneyland. With all the time I spent watching Nick shows, I was probably exposed to just as much, if not more, commercialization. Unknowingly, I had become a child consumer.
In The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play, Chudacoff mentions Nickelodeon as a contributor to the development of children’s culture. He states that “Nickelodeon and Disney, as well as national networks, opened new opportunities for program producers, retailers, manufacturers, and, especially, marketers to shape children’s tastes and desires” (pg. 178). As a child consumer, I was completely mesmerized by all sorts of advertisements for new Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, and entertaining board games like Mouse Trap. Most, if not all, of the toys I was given as a child were a direct result of my exposure to these products via commercials seen while watching Nickelodeon. Some of the animated shows also began to promote their own products, offering “a ‘backstory’ of fantasy with [its] product to create a meaningful relationship between toy and child,” as stated by Chudacoff (pg. 180). Even today, if you were to flip to the Nickelodeon channel it would be highly obvious that all commercials are made for children exclusively.
Apart from the entertainment I found through Nickelodeon, I also had easy access to a medium that displayed objects I desired; commercials on Nickelodeon were sort of short video representations of most toys in a Toys “R” Us catalog, I even derived many of my birthday and Christmas lists from such advertisements. However, despite the excessive advertisements that were thrown my way at each and every commercial break, I fully enjoyed what I was engaging in, t.v. shows that I could relate to and discuss with my peers (even if we were all just kids).