Cartoon Network has enlisted the marketing muscle of its corporate sibling, America Online, to help launch its first original animated action-adventure series. Samurai Jack
will debut Aug. 10 with a special 90-minute movie premiere.
"We're launching this the way you would launch a theatrical movie," Cartoon Network executive vice president Tim Hall said. "We're committing all the resources of our network and AOL."
Although Hall would not disclose the budget for the "multimillion-dollar campaign," he said it was Cartoon's most aggressive launch campaign for an original series to date.
The campaign's AOL components include content exclusive to the online service's 30 million subscribers, an online sweepstakes, exclusive electronic cartoons redeemable at the Cartoonorbit.com Web site, and tune-in banner ads on various AOL screens, said Kevin Lockland, director of programming for AOL Kids and Teens.
In return for AOL's aggressive promotional push, Cartoon will co-brand a number of its Samurai Jack
print and tune-in ads with the AOL tag.
AOL 6.0 software will be distributed to Samurai Jack
target viewers by way of a promotional CD-ROM that also contains highlights of the movie premiere and a clock that counts down the days until the show launches.
"We took a page from AOL's play book," Hall said. Cartoon distributed 750,000 CD-ROMs in video-game magazines and other publications with readers that fit the profile of action-adventure fans.
Because of its sophisticated story lines and beautifully drawn animation, Samurai Jack
is expected to draw teens and adults, as well as young children.
"We think this show will appeal to a very broad range," Hall said. "The typical 9-year-old will love Samurai Jack
and want to be Samurai Jack," he predicted.
The new series will air on Monday nights in primetime to appeal to adults.
"The nice thing about Cartoon Network is we're not just a kiddie network," Hall said. About 30 percent of Cartoon's audience consists of adults, he said.
AOL will promote Samurai Jack
through its welcome screens, on its entertainment site and on its Kids Only and Teen channels, Lockland said.
Starting July 30, AOL will promote a sweepstakes for its members. Subscribers who answer five questions about the new series following the premiere will have a chance to win a trip for four to Japan. In addition, 500 winners will receive limited edition sets of Samurai Jack
The seven-inch toys "will appeal to kids and toy collectors of all ages," Hall said.
AOL is not the only AOL Time Warner division that's helping to back Samurai Jack. In November, DC Comics will launch a series of Samurai Jack
And Warner Home Video's consumer-products division is signing video-game licensees for the Samurai Jack
title and characters.
"Where synergy makes sense, we want to tap it," Hall said.
But Cartoon Network also went outside the corporate structure in partnering for the Samurai Jack
launch. It signed construction-toy maker Lego Co. as the primary advertising sponsor for its 90-minute premiere.
Lego plans to promote its new line of Bionicle action toys, which are aimed at the same group of boys, ages 9 to 12. Samurai Jack's action-adventure subject matter fits in well with the Lego promotion, said Lego assistant brand manager Colin Gillespie.
Lego's new line of toys has been featured in the same magazines that also promote Samurai Jack, Gillespie said.
Print ads for Samurai Jack
start next month in USA Today, The New York Times Magazine
and Entertainment Weekly, following ads placed earlier this month in Sports Illustrated for Kids
and other teen and children's publications.
Off-channel TV spots were set to start this past weekend on children's networks such as Nickelodeon. Outdoor ads, including bus wraps and billboards, appeared in select markets last Tuesday.
The new animated series was created and produced by Genndy Tartakovsky, who also developed Dexter's Laboratory
for Cartoon. Tartakovsky also produces and directs the network's popular series Powerpuff Girls.
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