What Were They Thinking?

Marketer: Cartoon Network...
June 1, 1999

Marketer: Cartoon Network

Markets: U.S. national

The idea: To persuade non- and light-watchers ages eight to 12 to tune in to Cartoon Network by branding the Cartoon Cartoon Friday block as the flagship destination. The network will get the word out using TV advertising and movie trailers with in-theater materials, as well as interstitials and a touring event (see sidebar, page 46).

You With Us (advertising campaign)

Four spots were created in 60-, 30- and 15-second formats. The ads will appear in movie trailers showing at theaters in 20 major U.S. markets from June 18 to August 19. In-theater displays will support. The same ads began airing May 24 on most Turner networks (TNT, TBS, Airport Network, CNN, Cartoon Network). They will also air on spot cable and broadcast via Fox, Nickelodeon and MTV, as well as in syndication during The Simpsons starting June 7. More ads will follow throughout the year.

In-house: Michael Ouweleen, senior VP/writer/creative director; Jennifer Davidson, network producer; Jerry Olson, VP advertising

Spot shop: Crossroads Films, Los Angeles-Bruce Hurwit, director; Tom Krueger, director of photography; Cindy Blount, producer

Post: 89 Greene, New York-Don Kleszy, editor

Audio: Bair Tracks, Atlanta

The strategy:

With less than five weeks to go before the bulk of the campaign kicks off, the weekly meetings of the 15 or so staff members involved are getting a little frenzied. Associate creative director Todd Fedell is showing off a scale model of a black obelisk in-theater standee sporting the tag line ‘You With Us?’ and the word ‘Bravoism.’ People keep pushing the little button on the side of the model, causing it to squawk ‘Oh mama!’ Tom Hunt, director of promotion marketing, is complaining that all the easy-to-remember toll free numbers have been taken, and he has to come up with 10 of them for the sweepstakes. Then VP of operations Jennifer Davidson launches into her best auctioneer’s voice in an attempt to demonstrate the on-air branding segments.

‘One of the challenges about marketing and promotion is making it look simple and attainable for the viewer, even while you’re going through complete and utter chaos trying to put it together,’ says senior VP of marketing Craig McAnsh over lunch later that day. ‘This is the first event where we are taking Cartoon Cartoon off the network and hitting people over the head with it. It is the first major destination for the network and it’s the first block that we’ve all gotten behind from a marketing standpoint as well.’

It all started in programming and research. Over the past four years, Cartoon Network has produced six shows to be slotted throughout the week and added to a growing block of original programming starting Fridays at 7:30 p.m. When the seventh show, I Am Weasel, is added on June 10, the network will have developed a 3 1/2-hour block of original programming including Dexter’s Laboratory, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Cow and Chicken, The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, and What a Cartoon! Show.

Research shows that Friday nights are among the top three viewing periods for kids ages eight to 12, with only ABC’s TGIF for competition. A study of non- to light-viewers of the network also shows there is a group of cartoon watchers out there that isn’t watching Cartoon Network, and the best way to rope this crowd in is by offering something new. That something is the Cartoon Cartoon Friday block. The name has been used to describe originals on the network before, but this summer it is being taken to new heights with the most ambitious off-channel marketing campaign the network has ever launched.

The campaign will include a touring event to help raise general awareness of the network among both watchers and non-watchers (see sidebar), but the TV and movie advertising will head up efforts to push the branded block.

‘The overall objective of this ad campaign is really to make them feel like they’re missing out on something if they’re not watching Cartoon Cartoon Fridays,’ they’re not watching Cartoon Cartoon Fridays,’ says VP of advertising Jerry Olson. To accomplish this, senior VP/creative director Michael Ouweleen came up with imaginary groups that tie in to Cartoon Cartoon shows-each group based on a real grassroots movement. Inspired by the Hare Krishnas, he came up with a religion called Bravoism, where members dress like Johnny Bravo and preach self-love. For The Powerpuff Girls, there’s The Powerpuff Patrol, a mock vigilante gang of girls with bows in their hair, based on New York’s Guardian Angels. For Dexter’s Laboratory there’s a secret organization of lab coat-wearing overachievers, and so on.

The spots will mix cartoons and live action, much like the previous Crisis Center and The Toons Are Taking Over campaigns. For instance, the first Bravoism spot shows a room full of boys sporting black T-shirts and the occasional blond pompadour, ˆ la Johnny Bravo. They are clustered around a shrine centered on a big screen showing their cartoon god. ‘Oh mama!’ says Johnny, uttering his trademark phrase. ‘Ohhhhhhh mamaaaaaaa, ohhhhhh mamaaaaaa,’ the reverent crowd intones in response.

As well as airing on TV, the spots will be incorporated into movie trailers to air via the Screenvision network of theaters. Fedell says the idea is to completely take over the theaters in an ‘unconventional way,’ to stimulate the curiosity of movie-going kids. The nine-foot-high black obelisks in theater lobbies will be mysterious at first, but as a kid approaches, a motion sensor will activate a sound chip programmed to deliver an ‘Oh mama!’ or some other catch phrase. When the intrigued kid gets close enough, she will see a small tear pad listing the names of the four movements and asking, ‘Which one’s right for you?’ If she fills out the form and mails it in, she is rewarded with a videotape featuring a 10-minute, propaganda-style message that looks as if it were put together by members of the movement.

The key here is that the network isn’t telling kids to watch the block so much as attracting them through their natural curiosity and desire to be in on whatever’s going on. By creating an imaginary world of underground, hard-core cartoon enthusiasts, the campaign creates its own story lines and prompts kids to actively move towards the campaign and, ultimately, the flagship block. McAnsh says it’s a matter of using a cartoon sensibility to create advertising and promotions exciting enough to get the kids to come to you. ‘There’s a longer-lasting relationship if they come to you-if they feel like they’ve discovered the new flavor of Jawbreaker first, or the new ice cream place down the street, or the new cartoon,’ he says. ‘That’s important to them.’

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