Special Report: Fall TV: The Incredible Hulk

The Show...
September 1, 1996

The Show

The musclebound, green behemoth has a new television presence in the animated series The Incredible Hulk kicking off this fall on the United Paramount Network. The Hulk comes to life as the alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner after Banner is exposed to radiation when another scientist sabotages the Gamma Nuclear Reactor. Tormented by his uncontrollable transformations into the Hulk when he is angered, Banner travels the world in search of a cure to rid himself of the beast.

The half-hour show debuts on Sunday, September 8 at 10 a.m., and will run for 13 episodes. It is targeted at children five to 12, but the 34-year-old character has the potential to also draw in teen and adult fans. In the U.S., it will have 92 percent clearance. Los Angeles-based Marvel Films/New World Animation is the program’s producer.

The Marketing Concept

Marketing efforts by Marvel and UPN draw upon the Hulk’s familiarity not only with kids, but with their teen siblings and likely their parents.

‘He is one of our most recognizable and best loved characters,’ says Justin McCormack, executive vice president of consumer products with New York-based Marvel Entertainment Group. Comic books featuring the Hulk are available in 75 countries. The property made his first TV appearance in the early 1960s in a show that consisted of panels and artwork from the comics. The character’s popularity soared from 1978 to 1982 with the live-action show starring Lou Ferrigno, who will be the voice of the Hulk in the new series. That program still airs in syndication in the U.S.

The built-in audience for the show, plus the Hulk’s ‘larger-than-life’ figure and his goodness at heart, are the reasons why the character ‘will be featured predominantly’ in promotions for UPN’s new kids lineup, says J’e Passarella, senior vice president, marketing and advertising with Los Angeles-based UPN. For example, in a trade ad announcing UPN’s fall schedule earlier this year, the Hulk was holding a UPN Kids logo that contained images from its three other kids shows.

The UPN Kids block as an entity-branded with the word ‘oop-en’ based on its acronym and meaning ‘fun’ and ‘cool’-will be the big theme of any efforts, says Passarella.

The Plot

TV spots for UPN’s Sunday morning block and individual series began in late July. The seven-week television campaign leading up to the premiere will include three flights of creative. Print ads for the programming block will follow in the September issues of four or five kids magazines, including Marvel and Archie comic books, and may continue into October and November.

The network has sent Hulk costumes to its 156 affiliates for local promotions, and has been talking with companies about national tie-ins, a fairly new tactic for its kids programming.

After the premiere, UPN will continue to support The Incredible Hulk with television ads, but other plans are still undecided.

For Marvel, its biggest push will be aimed at the comic-book direct market of up to 7,000 stores in the U.S., ‘the area where we have the most influence,’ says McCormack. Marvel has its own comic-book distribution company, and therefore deals directly with these retailers.

Comic books and consumer publication Marvel Vision have already informed Hulk fans of the upcoming series. This fall, the Hulk will feature in a backlit poster program. Contests will offer a chance to win licensed merchandise.

The company also has ‘a number of tools and channels’ to promote the series in the mass-market, says McCormack, including its recent alliance with toy manufacturer Toy Biz, a Marvel Online joint venture with America Online, Fleer and Skybox trading cards and its licensees. As well, Marvel is looking to sign on retail and fast-food partners by the end of this quarter.

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