Special Report: KidScreen presents the top kids marketers

You start with the right product-a kids property or packaged good or toy line or network that parents can get behind, too. You give it the best visibilty you can on that ubiquitous kid medium, the television. You spin it off...
March 1, 1998

You start with the right product-a kids property or packaged good or toy line or network that parents can get behind, too. You give it the best visibilty you can on that ubiquitous kid medium, the television. You spin it off into other media, aiming for the best fit for the unique personality of the product. And last but not least, you launch the most well-rounded, thorough and comprehensive promotions you can surrounding it. Tie-in partners are courted like spouses as you search for quality, long-term potential and similar brand values. No effort is spared to bring the product you’re marketing into the world with every advantage. After all, by now, it’s your baby.

After your marketing efforts are under way, you hold your breath. Because you know that if you’ve done everything right, it will be a hit. All of this is called kids marketing, and the field is getting more exhaustive in its scope every day-whether you’re a major corporate contender or a savvy small player.

For this report, KidScreen cast about in entertainment and beyond to find a consensus on who the movers and shakers in kids marketing are, and what they’re up to. If they’re not on your company’s roster, you had better make sure they’re in your radar.

Top Kids Marketer

of the Year

Craig McAnsh, senior vice president of marketing, Cartoon Network, Atlanta, Georgia

It’s hard to say whether Craig McAnsh owes the past year’s marketing success to his dogged attention to small details or to his big-picture commitment to maintain the brand’s strong emotional connection with kids. McAnsh notes that being a smaller player has allowed his marketing team to be creative and responsive. ‘We don’t want to get comfortable,’ he says.

McAnsh was not always swimming in this relatively small pond. He came to Cartoon Network fresh from 10 years at McDonald’s Corporation, where his award-winning national entertainment promotions sparked a unique kids marketing philosophy. ‘With kids, there has to be instant gratification, like winning a crate full of toys or going to Warner [Bros.] Studio Store to get Dexter magnets,’ he says. ‘You don’t talk down to them, but you need to be extremely straightforward.’

McAnsh made waves in the kids programming business with his fresh approach to marketing Cartoon’s original animated shows, which were launched in prime time: Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory. The launch was unprecedented in the small world of toons programming-as was its success. The new shows doubled audience ratings for their time slots, while measurably raising the network’s profile as a 24-hour children’s programmer. McAnsh’s contribution to the launch included developing a plethora of cross-promotional tie-ins, including seeing to it that sample clips of the new shows ran as ‘movie trailers’ in General Cinemas nationwide. Another national ‘eye-candy’ event began weeks before the launch date of July 14. The summer ‘Dive-In Theater’ promotional tour featured swimming pool premiere parties across the country where 12-foot-high video screens aired trailers of the shows. ‘We were able to get good media pickup because of these kinds of events,’ says McAnsh.

Marketing efforts for the launch also exploited Turner’s merger with Time Warner in October 1996, incorporating cross-over promotions with Warner Home Video, which included trailers for the shows on videos and in Warner Bros. Studio Stores, where nine-foot-high video walls also aired the trailers. ‘We coordinated the step-by-step rollout keeping in mind that kids watch less TV [in the summer] and taking advantage of where they were,’ says McAnsh.

Audiences weren’t the only ones to register Cartoon’s higher profile after the launch. Agency media buyers and the broadcasting community as a whole took note, thanks in part to promotions aimed specifically toward raising their awareness of Cartoon. ‘We have centralized our system, where the marketing department is responsible for not only consumer [promotions], but also to make sure that advertising, trade media and cable trade is all done together. Everything that goes out is very consistent with a high level of quality and creativity that jumps through the clutter,’ says McAnsh.

McAnsh’s leadership role in kids marketing has not gone unnoticed. In 1997 alone, he won 12 Broadcast Design Association (BDA) awards, 11 PROMAX awards, six Marketing Society of Cable & Telecommunications (CTAM) Awards and two Reggie Awards. ‘We’ve exploited every single possible opportunity to promote the network. That’s why it’s showing up much more on the [industy's] radar,’ McAnsh concludes.

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