Special Report: Best promotions of the year: KidScreen’s First Annual Best Promotions of the Year

The past year has been a busy time for promotions in the kids market. Campaigns have touted everything from new flicks to meal deals. Some of these campaigns barely made an impression, others absolutely shined. KidScreen West Coast editor Virginia Robertson...
November 1, 1997

The past year has been a busy time for promotions in the kids market. Campaigns have touted everything from new flicks to meal deals. Some of these campaigns barely made an impression, others absolutely shined. KidScreen West Coast editor Virginia Robertson surveyed industry professionals to find out what campaigns did the job for our first annual Best Promotions of the Year awards.

*Best Overal Promotion Campaign

Men in Black

Men in Black’s promotions for the feature film and subsequent TV series win praise for their appeal to adults as well as kids-hitting each demo dead on. The tie-in with Ray-Ban sunglasses for adults was deemed ‘brilliant’ and extended the life of the property into all kinds of media, including outdoor. Visually striking POP and licensed products by Columbia TriStar’s retail sales and promotions team heightened awareness. Due to this comprehensive branding effort, by summer’s end, a sturdy platform had been built for the fall launch of Men in Black: The Series on Kids’ WB!. You would never know that the whole thing was a rush job-Sony Signatures was unable to bring on many of the partners until after stellar ticket sales rolled in. The industry took notice of all the hard work, making the animated series the most screened program at MIPCOM Junior.

*Honorable Mentions

Casper, A Spirited Beginning

The campaign for the video release was everywhere-’on the side of every box,’ said one judge. The strategy put together by The Harvey Entertainment Company, Saban Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment was to make the video’s US$30-million marketing campaign indistinguishable from that of a theatrical release. And by all accounts, they succeeded. Multiple packaged-goods tie-ins, lots of press coverage, splashy POP and strong retail support all made this video release seem ubiquitous.

Nickelodeon’s 10th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards

Who said kids entertainment can’t have glitz? Nickelodeon’s 10th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards-heavily bolstered by partners Kraft Foods and McDonald’s-was one promotion that proved kids entertainment can be glamorous. On-air spots, QSR and packaged-goods promotions urged kids to vote for their favorite movie actor, actress, television show or musical group. A slew of celebrity hosts on a specially created set on the site of L.A.’s Grand Olympic Auditorium made presentations, and the marketing budget of US$12.5 million was evident throughout the show. Alliances-such as the one with Post, which included phone cards in cereal boxes so that more kids could vote-covered every base.

*Best QSR Promotion

The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Burger King

The Lost World: Jurassic Park’s QSR promotion at Burger King had the distinction of promoting two Universal properties at the same time: the movie and the dinosaur-based video series The Land Before Time, which attracted younger children, thereby effectively hitting three different demos at the same time (including adults). The two properties were a natural fit.

*Best Coup in Landing a Sponsor

Kratts’ Creatures and Wendy’s

The PBS show Kratts’ Creatures scored when it landed Wendy’s for its summer QSR promotion. Wendy’s produced eight million kids meal bags with premiums highlighting the show. The campaign also coincided with the launch of the first Kratts’ Creatures licensed products.

*Quirkiest Promotional Tie-in

Lost in Space and Altoids

The tie-in between the sci-fi pic and the popular peppermint product was definitely offbeat. The ad, showing a robot from the original series with the simple line ‘Danger, Will Robinson!,’ kicked off practically a year before the film’s release. The sci-fi pic and Altoids have one thing in common: they’re in tune with trends-the movie tapping into interest in sci-fi and Altoids into bizarre and unconventional advertising.

*Promotion that Provided the Best Brand Extension

Hallmark Home Entertainment’s partnering with Crayola for the video lines Crayola Presents Animated Tales and Crayola Kids Adventures

When these two recognized brands allied to create two original sell-through video lines, retailers took notice. Binney & Smith’s Crayola gained from becoming attached to a highly regarded entertainment producer, and Hallmark was able to skew younger than usual by tying in with a kids brand that parents trust.

*Happy Deal: Most Impressive Corporate Catch

Big Bad Beetleborgs and McDonald’s

The Saban show landed one of the last non-Disney Happy Meal programs with McDonald’s. The rest of the non-Disney promotional community was green with envy.

*Most Creative Family Promotion

The Simpsons’ House

This contest gave viewers a chance to win a life-size copy of the animated family’s home. The house, which was built by a real estate developer in Las Vegas, was not only striking, it was bizarre. But ask anyone about Twentieth Century Fox/Kaufman & Broad/Pepsi’s ‘Simpsons’ House,’ and they’ll tell you that it certainly caught their attention.

*One-of-a-kind Promotion

Universal’s Real Monsters Postal Stamps

It was quite an honor when Universal’s Real Monsters were chosen to appear on U.S. postal stamps. ‘These actors and their monsters created a whole new genre in American film,’ says postmaster general Marvin Runyon. It’s rare that U.S. stamps bear a licensed animated character, and needless to say, the promotion delivered.

*Honorable Mention

Fox Kids and Totally Fox Kids Magazine’s ‘once in a lifetime’ promotion

The six summer promotions that gave kids a chance to win a ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences really scored. The Major League Baseball tie-in offered winning kids the chance to throw a pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game or an afternoon with L.A. Dodger Mike Piazza. The handful of kid-friendly, experiential promotions was supported in the magazine, on-air, on the Web site and on the radio countdown.

*Best Use of a Spokesperson

Will Smith for Men in Black

Will Smith followed up his starring role in Men in Black with a great performance as spokesperson for the promotional campaign. The actor had great kid and adult appeal.

*Best Sweepstakes

Fox Kids Power Rangers Turbo launch

Real motored go-carts were the prizes for the contest promoting the launch of the show. It was a breakaway hit with kids. Best of all, it conveyed the new title for the revamped series.

*Best Premium

McDonald’s Beanie Babies

McDonald’s premium of a miniature version of the ultra-hot-selling Beanie Babies toys sold out completely within a few days of the start of the promotion. It was simply an extremely popular premium with kids.

*Best overall branding

Kids’ WB! Network

Kids’ WB! has done an excellent job of creating an identity very separate from the rest of the WB Network. Excellent promos, logos, slogans (‘everybody DUBBA’) and network promotion ideas, including wrapping water towers in various cities with WB banners, were created by the original launchers of the Fox Network, Bob Bibb and Lewis Goldstein. The creation and promo of the superhero block (Batman and Superman) was so strong that Kids’ WB! sometimes beat out Fox in that time slot.

*Best Follow-up Promotion

The video release Elmo Saves Christmas

A plethora of partners, including Sony Wonder, Children’s Television Workshop, Planet Hollywood, PBS, Applause Plush Toys, Sony Theaters, Grolier Collectible Ornaments and Sesame Street Live, joined to reposition and relaunch the Sesame Street character in its small-screen debut. Unique features of the campaign included a national science tour at shopping centers and tie-ins with local TV stations. A strong distribution campaign backed up the promotion with expanded sell-through.

*Best Point-of-purchase Display

Hallmark Home Entertainment’s Crayola Presents Animated Tales and Crayola Kids Adventures

This video line’s state-of-the-art POP display features products from all of the promotional partners, including Mott’s and IBM, along with the videos and crayons. Particularly relevant to the video is the presence of IBM’s Color a Story CD-ROM, and a special ‘power wing’ that displays 96 boxes of crayons. How did they get retailers to devote this kind of space? ‘Brand equity,’ replied one savvy marketer.

*Honorable Mention

Men in Black

The consensus among promo industry players was that Men in Black’s retail execution was great. MiB’s artwork features a strong, instantly recognizable brand identity and a catchy slogan. Graphically striking displays and signage with equal appeal to adults and kids made the POP sing.

*Best Promotion Designed to Reposition a Brand

The Busy World of Richard Scarry

The Busy World of Richard Scarry aimed to shift the focus of the property away from the central character to the show’s theme-’being busy.’ Viacom Consumer Products’ activity-oriented product lines, featuring painting, frame-making and working with sand art and clay, drove home the activity theme.

*Best Value-Added Promotion

Universal’s The Land Before Time Sing Along Songs

This video release included an ‘unlocking’ CD-ROM, which allowed consumers to call in to receive a code that unlocks additional games on the free CD-ROM. Prominently featured in the packaging, it was one of the first straight-to-video titles that incorporated a CD-ROM.

*Best Media Coverage

Casper, A Spirited Beginning

The video release got glowing reviews and buckets of ink, overall. You’d have thought the property was a theatrical release for all the media attention it garnered-and that was precisely the strategy of partners Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, The Harvey Entertainment Company and Saban Entertainment.

*Best ‘Event-centered’ Promotion

Cartoon Network’s NASCAR promotion

This promotion was one of the most visible kids events this year. The subsequent competition to grab race events was intense. TV and press coverage was excellent. The ‘Wacky Racing Team’ contest brought an adult-oriented event into the kids realm by offering kids a chance to devise ways to help the team beat opponents.

*Best Retail Event

USA High mall tour

The tour lured teens with the prospect of seeing the show’s hunky stars in the flesh, and the chance to be ‘discovered’ through on-site screen tests that offered the winners a walk-on role on the show. Promoted in conjunction with on-line and movie theater sweepstakes, the campaign’s focus on teen hangouts enabled promoters to track down teens.

*Best Toy Promotion

Galoob and Hasbro’s Star Wars lines

By selling out week after week, these lines made marketers elated. A battle ensued over the licenses for upcoming Star Wars trilogy toy lines-bids were said to be as high as US$1 billion.

*Best Coupon Offer

Walt Disney Home Video’s Mary Poppins

A tie-in with the video offered a US$5-off coupon-towards umbrellas.

*Most Impressionable

Hallmark Home Entertainment’s Annabelle’s Wish campaign

This campaign promises impressive share of mind-over a billion consumer impressions, according to estimates-thanks to the home video’s tie-in with the hugely popular charity Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sponsors anxious to generate holiday good will are going all-out. Credit card conglomerate NOVUS Services is offering retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, among others, co-op incentives to make their holiday mailers ‘Annabelle-specific.’ The Santa Claus-hosted mall tour will visit 144 malls, and tractor-trailer delivery trucks emblazoned with Annabelle artwork will traverse U.S. highways coast to coast. Sales of the video are estimated to reach four million units by Christmas.

*Best Logo

Disney Channel

Disney Channel’s visually arresting redesigned logo is built to be customized to fortify the branding of each show. Characters pop out of the television screen ‘window’ of the icon, making it particularly effective in promoting each property’s individual characters and personalities. For instance, for D3: The Mighty Ducks, hockey players burst from the center of the logo in a riotous pack.

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