Los Angeles — When Brad Pitt and Michelle Pfeiffer appear Saturday at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, the actors will be demonstrating more than a love of children.
Such A-list celebrities at a ceremony for the pint-sized set that's decidedly lower on the glamour scale than the Academy Awards testify to the power of young consumers and Nickelodeon itself.
Kids spend big, they watch the child-oriented cable channel, and the entertainment industry knows it.
"As far as I'm concerned, kids are born saying three things: 'Feed me,' 'No' and 'Nick,' in that order. For me, Nick is the place to reach children," said Terry Press, marketing director for DreamWorks.
The studio is using the Kids' Choice Awards to begin the marketing campaign for its new animated film "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," which features the voices of Pitt and Pfeiffer.
"The kid audience for movies and music is an important one, and the talent roster shows their respect for the kid audience as they do for the adult audience at the Oscars," said Cyma Zarghami, Nickelodeon's executive vice president and general manager.
DreamWorks has found the awards show to provide a reliable kickoff for films whose target audiences include youngsters, Press said.
"We began here on 'Shrek.' We began here on 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.' For 'Chicken Run,' we had Mel Gibson on the show," she said. "We have consistently begun our marketing with this event."
In 2002, the show scored its highest rating yet with a total audience of 12.5 million viewers, including 5.6 million children aged 2 to 11. More than 20 million ballots were cast by youngsters online for favorites in movies, television, music and sports.
That's a respectable slice of young America which, according to one study of 6- to 17-year-olds cited by Nickelodeon, has a combined $70 billion in spending power.
Last year, Nickelodeon had 41 of the top 50 TV programs, on both network and cable, aimed at children 2 to 11, according to Nielsen Media Research. The channel's "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "The Fairly OddParents" were the No. 1 and 2 shows for the age group.
Taking advantage of such potency, stars with projects to pitch will spend time in a Los Angeles area auditorium filled with boisterous fans for the live awards show.
The usually freewheeling ceremony features a burp-off (the first winner was Cameron Diaz) and the chance to get covered in the show's trademark green slime (Tom Cruise was a victim in 2001).
For the seventh year, actress-comedian Rosie O'Donnell is host.