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How to succeed with SpongeBob as your boss

Dec 1, 2016
by Tom Iacuzio, ‘06

Flagler alumnus Ross Alvord talks about life as a senior director at Nickelodeon

When you’re a child, your life is filled with cartoons, from the cereal you eat to the shows you watch. For some lucky grownups like Ross Alvord, ‘94, that has never changed.

Alvord serves as the Senior Editorial Director for Nickelodeon and MTV Networks, where he has worked since 2003.

“I tell my daughter that SpongeBob is my boss, which isn’t entirely inaccurate,” jokes Alvord.

For parents, and non-parents who just still enjoy a good cartoon, you’re probably familiar with Alvord’s work. He helps to create and develop all of the on-air and online promotional campaigns for the various show launches and movie premieres seen on the Nick networks.

But how does a grownup living in a kid’s world manage to stay on their level? Alvord says it’s all about the research.

“Beyond the tons of studies our company does, I’m a shameless and voracious consumer of media in all its forms. I still read comic books, go to the movies as much as possible, listen to music constantly, and monitor most forms of social media to see what’s trending and discover emerging talent,” said Alvord. “But my own kids are a huge resource, as well. Not only do they alert me to the latest song, meme or video breaking the Internet, I often show them our own work to see if they think the message is clear or if it makes them laugh.”

Alvord says that all of that research plays an even larger role with the way media has changed in the last decade. What used to be merely a cable TV channel now finds itself as a content brand which must find a way to be wherever kids are.

“The days of having tens of millions of viewers watching a brand new SpongeBob premiere on TV are most likely over. Our audience is still very much out there, but they’ve just moved on to new ways and means of watching our stuff,” he explained.     

“The challenge is meeting them there and finding new ways to cut through the seemingly endless pop culture clutter out there.”

Social media plays a huge role in that, Alvord said. While the job used to consist of merely writing a 30-second commercial that would only air on linear television, they now have to cater to many different lengths, formats, and platforms from the Nick website and app to outlets such as YouTube, Instagram, Vine and Tumbler.

And with all of his success, Alvord is quick to share how important the foundation he built at Flagler College was to achieve it.

“My professors taught me how to  get inside the mind of a character and it turns out that trick works just as well with SpongeBob as it did with Ibsen.”

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