Odyssey Launches V-Chip PSAs

Kermit the Frog met with a number of dignitaries in Washington, D.C., last week to help kick off three public-service announcements Odyssey has created to help promote family-friendly V-chip technology.

The V-chip allows parents to set ratings limits on the types of television programming that come into their homes. The technology is incorporated into new televisions.

"We have been real proponents of the V-chip in concept since the beginning," Odyssey Networks chief operating officer Lana Corbi said. "It's the right technology to give parents control over what comes into the home. It doesn't tell people what to watch; it just gives them control."

The 60-second ads-which feature Kermit singing about the merits of the V-chip and promoting a toll-free number that provides more information-started to air on Odyssey last week. The network also said it would uplink customizable 30-second spots so cable operators could tag them with their own brands.

"They can be used by cable operators whether they carry Odyssey yet or not," Corbi said. "The response from operators has been tremendous."

In addition to the ads, Odyssey plans to launch grassroots marketing efforts tied to the back-to-school season. Corbi said Odyssey would team up with cable systems in a number of markets around the country to hold V-chip workshops for parent-teacher associations, schools and libraries. Odyssey is creating posters featuring Kermit and the V-chip 800 number parents can call for an informational booklet.

Earlier this year, Odyssey partnered with consumer-electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. to distribute the V-chip booklets to new television customers. The network also produced colorful point-of-purchase displays designed to encourage consumers to ask about the technology as they were looking at televisions in the stores.

The Circuit City component was rolled out ahead of the PSAs to make sure parents knew about the technology before the school season ended, Corbi said, adding, "Kids may not be as supervised in the summer months as they are during the school year."

She stressed that Odyssey plans to run the V-chip promotion as an ongoing public-service campaign for quite some time. "We took months in the development of the spots themselves to make sure they were something people would want to watch over and over," she said.

The Jim Henson Co. chairman Brian Henson welcomed the idea of using Kermit as the spokesperson for the campaign, Corbi added.

Odyssey would not disclose its budget for the V-chip-awareness campaign, but Corbi said, "It's clearly an investment on our part."

Along with Kermit and Henson, last Tuesday's public-awareness announcement screening in Washington was attended by Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard, V-chip sponsor Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), National Cable Television Association president Robert Sachs and Odyssey president Margaret Loesch.