Media: Strategy Analysis - B-movies for the younger generation

Brand: Cartoon Network Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends
Client: Nibs Dearsley, marketing and PR director, Cartoon Network,
Cartoon Network Too, Boomerang and Toonami
Brief: Innovative way to reach children
Target audience: Children (four- to nine-year-olds core)
Budget: Undisclosed

AGENCIES
Media: MediaCom
Creative: Turner in-house

STRATEGY

The challenge was to create an innovative campaign that would strike a chord among the nation's children. Obviously, children have a low attention span and with competition in the children's TV market fierce - there are more than 30 channels in the UK alone - the campaign needed to grab their attention.

The cartoon short before the main cinema feature used to be an integral part of the cinema- going experience. Generations of adults remember them fondly, but the children of today don't get to enjoy this entertainment bonus.

MediaCom decided to take the animated short back into the cinema through the creation of a unique six-minute sample of Cartoon Network's programming content.

With 94 per cent of children going to the cinema each year, and the recent explosion of family films, it was decided that cinema offered the perfect vehicle.

EXECUTION

- Cinema: Two bespoke cartoons were created to be screened throughout 2006. Each cartoon starts and ends with the same scenario from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, one of the Cartoon Network's most popular shows.

The commercials begin with characters from the cartoon fast-talking their way into the cinema. When they sit down to enjoy the film, the cartoon begins for the watching characters and the audience in the cinema alike.

Each short ends with an animated curtain coming down, reminding the audience to watch the channel, thereby "top and tailing" the short with a subtle but effective message.

- Press, ambient and PR: Activity includes posters in cinema foyers, flyers in the cinemas, a presence in the magazines and accompanying websites from the major cinema chains.

In addition, a competition has been created for children in conjunction with the Vue and Odeon cinema chains. The activity drives participants to a URL on the Cartoon Network website, which provides opportunities to see the films again and a chance to win prizes including Foster's ringtones.

RESULTS

In the month after the first burst of activity in cinemas over the Easter Holiday, impacts on Cartoon Network increased substantially during the after- school period.

Furthermore, 89 per cent of children interviewed after film showings said they enjoyed the B feature, while 70 per cent said they planned to watch the Cartoon Network at home.

THE VERDICT - Andrew Stephens Partner, Goodstuff

Sadly, I missed out on some of the B-movie era classics, such as Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and The Incredible Shrinking Man, but talking to people who do remember them, it's clear they were an important part of the cinema experience. They eulogise about how it offered UK independent production companies a platform to show their talents and yet in a strangely fond way explain how the quality was never actually that good and was overly dominated by sci-fi and horror.

So the idea to bring back the notion of the B-movie classic is a great one, especially in a world where creating, owning and showcasing unique content is increasingly important in building consumer relationships.

What makes this idea interesting is that the planning team has created a unique platform for Cartoon Network in a crowded market, dramatised it through many consumer experiences and created a degree of consumer relationship advantage. It's well targeted, well executed and the results look pretty good too.

However, the idea would have been slightly better if the team, client and contractors were able to truly bring back the B-movie rather than simply show an edited version of what is on the main broadcaster channel. By this I mean establish creative collaborations and use the space to showcase pilot cartoons so tomorrow's talent can have a platform once again.

I also think the dramatisation could have been more reflective of the true children's cartoon experience - 100-miles-an-hour fun and madness. Some of the in-foyer flyers, posters and magazines are appropriate, but feel a bit added on and "part of the deal" rather than indicating an exciting new idea beyond the auditorium doors. Could Cartoon Network have created live performances with some of the key characters, could it have secured a slot before the main film (as old B-movies were) rather than before the ad-reel and could it have created more of a journey in some form of cartoon community?

That said, I'm nit-picking, as I think the idea is great. And I have to admit to a touch of professional jealousy. "Cinema shorts" is one of those ideas that seem to have done the rounds and now Cartoon Network and MediaCom have got the right fit and had the bravery to pull it off.

Score: 4 out of 5.

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