The Pokémon phenomenon has firmly established collectibility as a highly effective hook for engaging kid consumers, and Cartoon Network and San Francisco-based video game publisher BAM! (Bay Area Media) Entertainment are putting that tool to work this month with the launch of a really creative three-month Powerpuff Girls Game Boy push.
Three titles, each featuring a different Powerpuff Girl, are slated to roll out on a monthly basis; first out of the gate will be Bad Mojo Jojo on November 1, followed by Paint the Townsville Green on December 1 and Battle Him on January 1. What makes the games unique is that each title features 36 different hidden collectible trading cards and power-up elements that can only be accessed with special passwords.
BAM! has cleverly used this element to entice retailers to participate in an extensive in-store promo for the games by giving them exclusive access to certain codes. Thus gamers looking to excel at the Powerpuff titles are driven into the stores to snag the passwords for power-enhancing features. According to Joe Morici, VP of sales at BAM!, kid and electronic retail biggies like Toys `R’ Us, Sears, Target, Babbages and Circuit City have signed on to erect a Powerpuff Headquarters display that features the games, the codes and, eventually, a section for other Powerpuff Girls licensed merch. By virtue of the games’ release schedule, says Morici, retailers will have to keep these displays up for a full three months as each new title will have a different set of codes.
BAM! will use Cartoon Network to get the word out with a series of 23-second spots explaining the retail password system. A 30-second spot has also been produced to run at the beginning of a Powerpuff Girls episode video, a million copies of which will hit shelves this month ‘We’ll drive consumers to the stores with our TV and home video ads, and hopefully they’ll end up buying the next game once they’re there,’ says Morici. Cartoon will also have access to six codes for each title, which it will disperse to viewers on-air and on-line.
If the promo model lives up to its potential, Morici says BAM! will likely revisit it for next year’s additions to the Powerpuff Girls interactive portfolio-titles for PlayStation, N64 and the new Game Boy Advance system.
Cartoon Network is launching a similar campaign to attract kids to a new community area called Cartoon Orbit, which soft-launched late last month on the CartoonNetwork.com website. The hub will use a point system to let kids earn collectible and tradable icons called c-Toons, some of which will be produced in small enough numbers to breed the kind of scarcity that drives collectibility. Each kid that signs up will receive a chunk of initial points and a web page they can personalize with their c-Toons and various Cartoon Network show-based backscreens. Community interaction is encouraged as additional points are rewarded for each visitor your page gets, as well as for the number of pages you check out. According to Sam Register, VP and creative director of Cartoon Network Online, Orbit will house any new community-building technology that comes up in the future, including 3-D avatar-based virtual environments and multiplayer games.
Register adds that the c-Toon initiative will eventually be converted from a point- to cash-based financial model, and says the Network is also looking to ink some advertising partnership deals for Cartoon Orbit by Q1 2001. Increased traffic for their own websites could entice other companies to come on-board, as Cartoon is setting up an initiative called Orbit Outpost whereby kids will be charged with grabbing c-Toons from ad partner websites.
Borrowing from the Powerpuff Game Boy promo, Orbit will also be implementing a similar code system to shell out new c-Toons via off-line media. One hypothetical example that Register poses centers around building hype for a new Batman episode. The Network could broadcast a code that accesses a limited number of new Batman c-Toons, and the first 500 kids to get to Orbit with the code would score the c-Toon. It’s all about exploiting as many outlets as possible, according to Register. ‘Imagine that Cartoon Orbit is an island. We can’t just hope that people will come of their own initiative and hang out on the island. We need to go fishing off the island with c-Toons as bait. We can throw out c-Toons to TV, to print ads, to backs of cereal boxes and it will drive kids to the website.’
A national on-air and on-line ad campaign will introduce Orbit next spring, after initial launch bugs have been ironed out.