Astro Boy, Arjuna or Samurai X may not be very popular with Indian kids vis-a-vis a Tom & Jerry, or Scooby-Doo, or Popeye, but this lack of popularity does not dampen the spirits of executives at Animax India.
The channel has kicked off an aggressive outdoor campaign to promote the lovable Astro Boy - the protagonist of the 6 pm-show on weekdays - to try and reinforce the character in the minds of kids and young adults.
The outdoor campaign began this month across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata Hyderabad and Pune, and will be on for at least another month-and-a-half. Alongside, the channel is scouting for merchandising and licensing opportunities to promote its characters.
The channel's plan can be gauged from what it does in allied Asian markets. As Rohit Bhandari, assistant VP, marketing & sales, Animax and AXN, (he has been promoted as director, south Asia, SPE Networks for the two channels), says, "If you pick up a parcel from McDonald's, you get a little Astro Boy toy along with it."
Bhandari says that the channel is currently identifying characters apart from Astroboy that it intends to push aggressively in the country.
Its earlier strategy at the time of launch was to ride on cricket - be it the appointment of Irfan Pathan as brand ambassador, or talking to cable operators to carry Animax on the anvil of the Amsterdam Cricket Trophy in August '04, or the ICC Champions Trophy in September '04 along with MAX. Thus, cricket was identified and used as a sure-shot route of building viewer-connect with the channel. "This way, connectivity increased and we are now available in 14-15 million homes," says Bhandari.
Parallely, the channel had kicked off a massive school contact programme involving Pathan around the months of November-December '04. Some four lakh kids in 500 schools across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata were reached through the programme, which was more of an educative exercise informing the children about the difference between anime and cartoon formats, and slowly presenting the channel to them. A contest was also organised around the activity, and the top-performing schools were rewarded with a visit by Pathan.
Taking the initiative forward, two artistically-inclined/gifted children from each of the 500 schools were invited for a two-day workshop in the five metros this month, which was conducted by an expert animator.
The channel intends keeping the concept alive by targeting an additional 100 schools this year in other cities. Alongside, it is keen on addressing its core audience of youth (in the age-group of 15-25) through college contact programmes, mobile and Internet.
Children (in the age-group of 4-14), incidentally, are a secondary TG for Animax, but the reason for reaching out to them first, says Bhandari, is because they are "early adopters".
Gaming will be one big area to tap youth, says Bhandari, and for that, the channel has plans to set up a gaming zone on the Net. "That's the vision," says Bhandari. "But it may happen next year, by mid-to-end 2006."
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