Debating the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Chevy Traverse? You’re not alone, but in 2020 it appears that the two may no longer be direct competitors. In fact, if children’s programming network Nickelodeon has anything to say about it, the popular SUVs might be the newest amigos in town.
Cross-marketing can be a funny thing. When two separate and often unrelated properties are united, it’s usually (a) based on the presumption of synergy, or (b) intended to create greater earning potential through the illusion of synergy. Examples of both can be found quite easily within major motion picture marketing, and often overlap with the automotive industry. The former might be best exemplified by product placement within the James Bond franchise, where BMWs and Aston Martins have been promoted as established fixtures within the franchise. On the other hand, an Ironman-themed edition of the Hyundai Kona feels a bit pointless.
The potential success of a cross-marketing initiative can be influenced by three factors: the participants, the audience, and the intent. If the participants have (or are able to create) a genuine synergy, appreciable by the office, and can deliver it in a respectful manner with a clear and beneficent intent, it will most likely succeed. And that’s exactly what Ford, Chevy, and Nickelodeon seem to be banking on.
From June 1999 to August 2019, Dora the Explorer had been a staple of children’s programming on Nickelodeon (& Nick Jr). Having been aimed at a preschool-aged audience, ‘Dora’ has been a formative influence on our children since 1995. This sense of nostalgia became appreciable in late 2019, when children, preteens, teenagers, and young adults felt compelled to see the live-action film Dora and the Lost City of Gold in theaters. Praised as a self-aware and self-deprecating attempt at a moral, family-friendly comedy, DatLCoG earned $119.7 million from American audiences, nearly three times the budget, sparking rumors of a sequel almost immediately.
And now that sequel seems to be happening with both Ford and Chevy onboard as financial backers, and with both the Explorer and Traverse being featured in the film.
“It just makes sense in terms of name alone,” explains Joy Falotico, Ford’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The Explorer and Traverse nameplates speak to the promise of adventure, just like Dora herself.” Tony Cervone, GM’s Senior VP of communications, agrees, adding, “It also provides Ford and General Motors with an opportunity to stand united in the face of a common goal. Plus, both of us had kids that grew up with Dora.”
That goal: to eliminate distracted driving and cell-phone use by drivers under the age of twenty-five with a new initiative called #SwiperNoSwiping
“Here at Nickelodeon, we believe that it’s time for us to have a heart-to-heart talk with the audience who has grown up with us over the last quarter of a century,” explains Kim Rosenblum, Executive VP of Marketing and Creative at the Nickelodeon Group. “And like most discussions of importance, it might be an easy one to have, but we’re certain that we can make our point in the most effective manner possible.”
*** POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW ***
Here at The Lemon, we applaud Nickelodeon’s desire to address this problematic behavior with young drivers, and the show of unity from Ford and General Motors in support of their efforts. But we are curious… What is the ‘effective manner’ they plan to employ?
According to inside sources at Nickelodeon, it might mean a bloody demise for the Dora character who inspired the name of the initiative. That’s right, Swiper the Fox might be meeting his maker in the upcoming sequel (or in the film’s cross-marketing efforts). It remains to be seen how they plan to execute such a controversial strategy, but it appears that Swiper might attempt to “swipe” the smartphone of another character (possibly Dora or Diego) then use it while driving a getaway vehicle. The result would be a horrifying accident, transforming the cartoon fox into a very real cautionary tale of the dangers of distracted driving.
That source elaborated by sharing that Nickelodeon execs genuinely believe that killing a piece of childhood is the only way they can convince young drivers not to kill off the rest of their adulthood.