Elie Dekel calls Saban Entertainment’s marketing department ‘a very flat, entrepreneurial environment,’ one in which the 31-year-old vice president of marketing and promotions acts ‘as more of a team manager than big heavy boss.’
Yet, it’s a bigger, heavier environment than five years ago, when Dekel started in a company that was primarily providing programming to foreign markets. Now, as Saban has literally ballooned domestically and internationally, so have its marketing efforts. Dekel, for example, currently oversees more than 40 people handling consumer tie-in promotions, creative services, station and broadcast promotions and market support for all of Saban’s divisions and various properties. Key to Dekel’s group is George Leon, former director of sales and marketing at Camelot Licensing, where he planned programs for several Morgan Creek productions. Dekel also hired former Promax VP Lou Bortone as his senior director of marketing.
Dekel believes that Saban ‘has established itself as being a one-stop shop when it comes to kids.’ Besides programming, promoting, marketing and licensing a record 13 series for the upcoming 1996-97 season, Dekel touts his ‘arsenal of successful properties,’ like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and VR Troopers, as well as Saban’s syndication flexibility, its alliance with the Fox Kids Network and UPN, and participation in all areas of show development, including production and animation at studios in both Los Angeles and Paris. In addition, Saban Interactive is focused on releasing CD-ROM titles of its various shows.
Such diversification, Dekel says, ‘enables us to respond to trends, ratings, and the retail marketplace. It allows us to make adjustments in-house as needed to make programming and promotions relevant and vital to our audience.’ When it comes to brand marketers, Dekel adds that Saban ‘represents a very willing, flexible, open-minded partner unlimited in terms of what can be done, whether it means selling soft drinks and burgers or moving oatmeal off the shelves.’
As an example, Dekel and his crew pulled off a 1994 McDonald’s Christmas promotion that entailed the distribution of millions of Mighty Morphin Power Ranger pogs in just seven weeks, the kind of detailed program that normally takes a year to prepare. Tying into last summer’s release of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie, Saban also partnered with the fast food chain to handle a successful Happy Meal promotion.
And last fall, the company created a promotional tie-in with licensee Sega, timing the release of its VR Troopers cartridge with the debut of Sega’s Genesis platform. Besides featuring the products on millions of Post cereal products, Saban ran an on-air ‘watch and win’ campaign during the November sweeps, in which the grand prize was a trip for two and a VIP tour of the Sega headquarters. A promotion like this not only generates lots of media exposure, says Dekel, but also a positive cycle. ‘A strong on-air promotion will generate more viewers, which is good for the show, and ultimately, people will go out and buy more product, which is good for the partner. Everyone is happy.’
And Dekel says Saban can make everyone even happier. This spring, the company has big plans to reinvigorate its crown jewel, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. During February sweeps, it delivered 10 of the show’s original episodes, which culminated in a cliffhanger that will set the stage for a new phase of the show called Power Rangers Zeo. Power Rangers Zeo will debut on Fox on April 20. An upcoming ‘Ranger Rampage’ blitz will integrate the show’s new logo with in-store promotions and packaged good tie-ins timed for back to school. The show’s new music and logo, says Dekel, ‘represent an opportunity for partners to tap into the strongest kids product out there, while being involved in a fresh idea.’ Mask Rider is also in its final stages of formulating a coast-to-coast motorcycle tour, with retail stops, school and hospital visits scheduled.
The one bump in Saban’s marketing ride is in getting its message across in the major networks, which have increasingly rejected promos and campaigns from competitors. If the trend continues, says Dekel, ‘it’s likely that ABC will never clear a spot unless it promotes Disney. We need to establish consistent guidelines and parameters that networks and brands can live with and it needs to be sooner rather than later.’