Game Scores ‘10’ With Cartoon Net

Mar 19, 2008  •  Post A Comment

One might think that, as youngsters spend more time with their Xboxes and PlayStations, video game companies would be the natural enemy of the kids television networks.
Instead, they’ve become important advertisers and marketing partners, and networks are creating for them the multiplatform integrated marketing campaigns likely to be an important part of this year’s kids upfront.
Last year, Cartoon Network turned one of its most important properties, a live-action movie based on its animated “Ben 10” franchise that aired in November, into a marketing platform for game publisher THQ, which was launching a game based on the Disney-Pixar movie “Ratatouille.”
Beth Goss, executive VP for ad sales at Cartoon Network, certainly doesn’t want to pull the plug on video game makers.
“Of course not,” Ms. Goss said. “It’s a vibrant category and they’re great partners, not only as an advertiser but as a promotional partner. They’re very valuable to us.”
And putting a video game in the mind of a kid doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll stop watching TV.
“What we know about kids is, first of all, they’re great multitaskers and they can do more than a couple of things at once,” she said.
Also, video games are an important part of their lives, and the network needs to acknowledge that. “Kids want this kind of content on our air, whether it’s from an advertiser or from programming,” she said.
The video game companies need it, too. TV is one of the key ways to let kids know what games are coming down the pike.
Last year, Cartoon and THQ sat down and looked at their schedules. It turned out that Cartoon’s “Ben 10: Race Against Time” movie, one of the network’s key projects, lined up with THQ’s “Ratatouille” launch.
Once they decided to do business together, Cartoon threw just about everything it had into the partnership.
“When we do these, we embrace them wholly, meaning we take a very 360-degree approach to how we market our own projects. If we can bring a partner into that approach, they get all of the extensions and tentacles of the marketing plan for their own benefit,” Ms. Goss said.
Leading up to the “Ben 10” movie premiere, Cartoon Network ran custom spots letting viewers know that the movie would feature exclusive information about the “Ratatouille” video game. The network also created billboard commercials to run within the movie.
THQ sponsored a special “Ben 10” page at CartoonNetwork.com, which included a link to the video game’s own Web site.
Also available on CartoonNetwork.com was exclusive “Ben 10” content. To view it, users had to sit through a pre-roll ad for the video game.
The movie was the most-watched telecast in Cartoon Network history, attracting more than 13 million viewers, which translated into a lot of kids getting the “Ratatouille” message.
Ms. Goss declined to discuss numbers, but said, “We got very good feedback” from THQ.
THQ said it sold 4 million copies of the “Ratatouille” game across all platforms worldwide.
The promotion is part of presentations Cartoon Network will be making going into this year’s upfront.
“It’s a big part of our upfront to show how Cartoon Network can really offer broader, deeper relationships on a partnership level,” Ms. Goss said.
While some advertisers are aware of the effectiveness of marrying multiple platforms to deliver a marketing message, “Most are still learning how many extensions or tentacles they can participate in,” she said.
“We’ve always been known to be flexible in developing real customized promotions that have greater reach than on-air,” Ms. Goss said. “I think they’re often surprised because they’re numb from having experienced the no’s from our competitors.”
Ms. Goss said she’s excited about Cartoon Network’s prospects in the upfront, although some analysts expect the kids market to be largely flat.
“I think we’re going to have a very similar upfront to last year,” she said. “Digital is going to play a more 52-weeks-of-the-year role.”
And Cartoon has something big up its sleeve this year with the new animated “Star Wars” series from George Lucas.
“There’s nothing bigger than ‘Star Wars.’ We know the advertisers are very excited that this is coming to our air,” she said.


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