‘We felt it was time to give kids a voice,’ says Craig McAnsh, senior vice president of marketing at Cartoon Network, describing the channel’s ‘Gimme Toons’ promotion. The campaign ran in January, March, June, July and August 1997, and was conducted primarily via America Online (AOL) in an attempt to allow kids to correspond with cable affiliates. The promotion strategy was to enable kids to contact their cable affiliates to request that Cartoon Network be launched in their area. This unique on-line strategy, targeted primarily at kids age eight to 12, was a surprising success at helping kids’ voices be heard.
According to McAnsh, similar campaigns urging cable companies to add certain channels had been successful in the past. The problem that Cartoon Network faced in designing such a campaign, however, was that previous efforts had relied on adult respondents. ‘Traditional networks do best at this because grown-ups pick up the phone and call, or write a note on their cable bill, but there’s no way to get kids to do that,’ says McAnsh. An alternative for kids was created when the ‘Gimme Toons’ campaign on the Web site added a message stating, ‘click here if you want to get Cartoon Network.’ Kids who responded were encouraged to leave only a limited amount of information, including their first name and zip code. This kid-generated information was then fed into a computer that produced letters from the kids to their local cable operators, based on the zip codes provided. An additional feature of the letters was that they specified each kid’s favorite character on Cartoon Network.
The Cartoon Network promotional team’s amazement began when 20,000 clicks were registered on the site in the first month of the promotion. While adults and even grandparents responded to the ‘click here’ message, most replies were received from the channel’s core age group of eight- to 12-year-old kids. ‘We had thought that over the course of a month, 5,000 or 6,000 clicks would come in. We registered that many clicks on the first weekend,’ notes McAnsh. The channel scored consistently high hits each time the campaign was repeated. The resulting blitz of request letters arriving at affiliate offices helped Cartoon Network marketers to surpass their sales and distribution goals far ahead of schedule. ‘`Gimme Toons’ helped raise awareness. The surprise was that so many people jumped on board,’ says McAnsh.
In a further attempt to get affiliates’ attention, special postcards depicting Cartoon Network characters were created for the kids’ messages, helping to further awareness of the programming that the channel offers. VR