Bringing toons to life: How kids' channels go on-ground

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | January 13, 2009
TV channels catering to children regularly use on-ground activation to generate eyeballs and fan following

TV & #BANNER1 & # channels often rely on activation or below-the-line activities to promote their shows through contests and other residential and retail activities. This form of marketing becomes all the more relevant for children's channels, where a visual display of the characters of a show creates an impact on the audience's impressionable minds. The channels realise the importance of going into kids' lives by not only interacting with them, but often, also making them part of the events.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, senior vice-president and general manager, Nick India, says, "BTL activities make our brand tangible. It gives the brand a touch, feel and play, which is very important for children."

Nick usually does its activities through mall, retail and van activation, as does its tough competitor, Turner International, which owns channels such as Cartoon Network and Pogo.

Monica Tata, vice-president and deputy general manager, entertainment networks, South Asia, Turner International India, says, "We believe that BTL marketing gives us a direct link with our audience, allowing them to interact with us in real time. For example, when we launched our game show, Hole in the Wall, on Pogo, we created a virtual experience of the game show for kids, allowing them to sample the show beyond the TV screen."

For Hole in the Wall and its animated series, Chhota Bheem, Pogo created virtual games for its on-ground school contact programme. Its art workshops with Rob from the show, MAD, are also popular. Besides this, Pogo organised Fun Days Out for children to spend the day with games and on-stage activities with the characters.

Most channels create regular properties such as reality shows and talent hunts, which see strong participation from the audience.

The Pogo Amazing Kids Awards were launched in 2004 by Turner and have been held annually since then. The company claims that 3,000 children participated in 2008, showcasing their talents in singing, academics, community work, dance, art and so on. Twenty-four children were finally selected for the awards in eight categories.

Nick conducted the first Kaun Banega Toon Jockey contest, with auditions in 40 cities, to select children to host shows on its channel. In another activity, it launched the School Ka Hero contest, in which children got to party with their favourite cartoon characters. Jaipuria claims that this contest reached five lakh children in 800 schools all over India.

Meeting characters is a key activity for children's channels, a concept which may have its roots in Disneyland, which first opened in the US in 1955.

Recently, a Nick character, Dora, visited Landmark, the book store, in five cities. Apart from meeting the character, children got to play games and win prizes. During Christmas, the channel ran an initiative at various malls with characters such as Ninja Hattori and Perman joining in the festivities.

Jaipuria says, "For kids, playing with the characters they consider to be role models is another experience altogether."

Similarly, Cartoon Network promoted the major characters of its show, Shamsher Sikander Chuddie Buddie, through various on-ground activities.

Tata adds, "Kids love interacting with and meeting their favourite toon stars. These activities have helped us build a strong bond and relationship between our viewers and characters, resulting in strong brand loyalty."

Whether these activities have a direct impact on the TRPs of the channels is not clear, though all three channels claim that their TRPs have risen considerably, especially for the shows that are heavily promoted. However, it may be noted that most of the on-ground promotions are also advertised on the channel network and other media such as the Internet and OOH.

As Jaipuria puts it, "We show the character in a 360-degree manner. Yes, BTL does play a role in everything we do, but it is not the sole reason for the success of a show."

What it does help in, though, is pushing the sales of the channel's merchandise - another revenue earner. At the activities organised by the channels, children are often enticed to pick up merchandise related to the character or show being promoted.

Nick has 300 products in 12 categories, which it plans to retail online. It recently launched a special flavour of ice cream, Nick Orange flavour, with ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins. It was distributed by the channel's mascot, SpongeBob SquarePants, in Mumbai and Gurgaon.

Apart from regular merchandise such as Pogo Wheels and Ben 10, Turner has also experimented with movie merchandise for Hindi films such as Love Story 2050 and Drona.