Disney, Food Set First Branding Efforts

Two maturing cable networks, Disney Channel and Food Network, each unveiled plans last week for their first major branding campaigns.

For both networks, the efforts coincide with growing distribution and the introduction of new original programming.

Disney Channel late this month kicked off a $10 million campaign with TV ads targeted to the "tween" audience of kids between the ages of 9 and 14-a niche in which it competes with Fox Family Channel and Nickelodeon, among others.

The humorous ads are designed to encourage older kids to admit that they still watch-and enjoy-Disney Channel.

"We've proven older kids watch Disney," general manager Rich Ross said. "We want them to talk about us more."

In the TV ads, kids on the older end of the network's target audience are inexplicably drawn to televisions tuned to Disney Channel. In one ad, a 15-year-old boy races home past drinking fountains and water hoses, twitching uncontrollably all the while.

Viewers find that the boy's destination is not the bathroom, but Disney Channel. At the end of the spot, they are asked, "What did you expect?"

Disney used that unanticipated twist to appeal to the particular sensibilities of tweens, Disney/ABC Cable Networks executive vice president of marketing Eleo Hensleigh said. "We wanted to change the perception of the Disney Channel brand," she added.

Creating a strong brand for Disney Channel as a destination for original programming-concerts, movies and series-will also allow the company to promote its newer Toon Disney network as the place to go for animation, Hensleigh said.

Food Network hopes to broaden its appeal and move away from its perception as a "how-to" channel. To do so, it's relying on the strength of popular on-air personalities, including old favorites like chef Emeril Lagasse and recent additions such as Wolfgang Puck.

Featuring the tagline "Food. It goes with everything," the new TV and print ads depict the network's chefs and their ability to connect food to almost any aspect of life or popular culture.

In an ad created especially for GQ, for example, Lagasse draws a comparison between fashion and food. In an ad for women's magazine Real Simple, by contrast, chef Sara Moulton uses food in beauty and makeup tips.

The network and its advertising agency, G Whiz!, even came up with a spot to specifically for movie theaters. On-air personality Alton Brown tells filmgoers that popcorn is perfect for action movies "because it's the only food that explodes."

The print and TV ads will launch in September and run for about six months, Food Network president and general manager Judy Girard said. The campaign cost $3 million to $4 million, plus production costs.

"We've never done a branding campaign of this magnitude before," Girard added. "We've never had the talent of this magnitude to build on."

Also last week, Food Network said it hired Adam Rockmore as vice president of marketing. Rockmore said he was excited about the network's multi-platform aspects, such as its strong Web site and live events, as well as its on-air efforts.

Its foodtv.com Web site is a good complement to the network, Rockmore said, because the audience can become more involved online, in terms of recipe downloads or future electronic shopping.

For Disney Channel, the zoogdisney.com site is also a strong component of the new branding campaign. The Web address will be featured in the two new TV spots, as well as billboards, bus ads and online banner ads set to roll out later in the fall.

Last week, Disney Channel began a teaser campaign for the redesign of its online and on-air "Zoog" characters. They will reappear in their new, more "grown up" form on Sept. 8, both online and on-air, following a two-week absence, Hensleigh said.

In recent focus groups, tweens responded well to the newly-drawn Zoog characters.

"In this age group, when they say 'cool' and 'very cool,' that's high praise," Hensleigh said.

Disney Channel is in 65 million homes. Food Network recently passed the 50-million-subscriber mark.