WB pushes its ‘icons’

We came to the WB to do it all over again,' says Bob Bibb, co-head of marketing at the WB Network and Kids WB!. Bibb is talking about leaving the Fox Network two years ago with co-head here, there are no...
March 1, 1996

We came to the WB to do it all over again,’ says Bob Bibb, co-head of marketing at the WB Network and Kids WB!. Bibb is talking about leaving the Fox Network two years ago with co-head here, there are no formal titles Lewis Goldstein to help launch the WB and the Kids WB!, on air since last September. Both industry veterans began their careers at NBC. Bibb and Goldstein together claim, ‘even though we don’t have the big powerful machine that, say, NBC has, we have the excitement of building a network from the bottom up.’

What the pair also have is a philosophy of branding that they hope will give the WB and its partners longevity with the viewing public. ‘NBC spent millions of dollars making Johnny Carson its icon, and he’s no longer there,’ Bibb explains. ‘Our advantage is that we can integrate longtime Warner Brothers’ characters, like Bugs Bunny, into what we’re doing. WB viewers can feel a kinship that won’t go away, but will rather grow up with them in the future. That’s important in the multichannel universe.’

That advantage is heavily touted by WB’s handful of marketing executives. Just as Bibb and Goldstein saw early on Fox’s young, irreverent niche, the pair have quickly established the WB network as family-oriented, though, as Goldstein adds, ‘not warm and soft.’ Goldstein and Bibb also talk about the idea of ‘cross-pollinating’ recognizable icons such as WB’s singing ‘spokesphibian’ Michigan J. Frog, an animated cartoon figure from the fifties, from the network’s prime-time evening shows to its kids afternoon and Saturday morning programming.

Prime-time stars from the Wayan Brothers and Parenthood regularly tout kids programming on air, and last year’s first-ever New Year’s Eve special for kids, which included participants like Sega, Galoob and Kellogg’s, was also preceded by prime-time interstitials featuring the stars from Sister, Sister. Another example of cross-pollination is WB’s new fall animated series, Superman, which will kick off as a prime-time movie. ‘This isn’t the kind of branding important to major networks, but our audience needs to know where to find us,’ explains Bibb.

Among their promotional efforts, Kids WB! and Kraft staged a major contest announcing the Animaniacs switch from Fox to the WB, with on-air and print support and on-pack entries on Jello snacks and Kool-Aid. The winner was animated into a cartoon. Last November’s Animaniacs Happy Meal promotion with McDonald’s Restaurants also increased ratings.

To further aid marketers, Goldstein says they are also attempting to ‘WB-ize’ their more than 90 participating stations, suggesting they put the WB logo in front of their call letters or ‘somehow attach themseles to the frog.’ Those who have, he says, have seen average increases of up to 200 percent in the number of viewers age two to 11.

Their dream? ‘Of course, we’d like to be the sole source of Warner Brothers’ animated properites, which is unlikely because WB is a product supplier,’ says Bibb, who points to WB producing Batman for Fox, which was originally licensed when the WB Network didn’t exist. ‘So it’s really a pipe dream and not a reality.’

But in reality, Goldstein adds, ‘we’re trying to make people aware of the quality and be the glue that keeps people interested whenever we introduce a new series.’ He and Bibb are hoping that the popularity of Pinky and The Brain passes on to new fall shows like Superman, Road Rovers and Damon Wayans Project, and becomes the glue that sticks to marketers as well. ‘We want the WB logo to become a seal of good housekeeping or, in our case, good programming.’

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