As Turner Broadcasting looks to expand its kids business, Boomerang has become a place where advertisers can experiment with new ways to reach young viewers. One of these early tests pairs two rodents that kids like: Jerry, from the Tom and Jerry cartoons, and the pizza-slinging Chuck E. Cheese.
Turner parent company Time Warner identified the kids business as one area it was looking to grow. As part of that effort, Turner announced in October that it would relaunch its Boomerang classic animation network as a global property aimed at young viewers, and begin to program original content. Earlier in the year, Turner said it would begin selling ads on the network.
At this point, Boomerang in the U.S. still hasn’t been formatted for a full commercial load, according to Joe Hogan, executive VP, young adult ad sales for Turner Broadcasting. “We formatted it to do some commercial and also to experiment with advertisers with shorter-form content and longerform pod-owning content.”
Turner’s Cartoon Network and Boomerang are looking to catch up with Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Disney’s myriad channels. This quarter, Turner’s networks are up in the ratings, while its larger competitors are down. “We have a lot of momentum in the kids space,” Hogan says. “We’re utilizing every platform that kids have interest in and access to today to grow our brand and share our content.”
Boomerang is designed as a channel with multigenerational appeal that attracts family members viewing together, including parents introducing their kids to classics like Looney Tunes and Scooby-Doo.
Hogan says that during the upfront, a number of Cartoon Network sponsors signed up to figure out how to reach viewers on Boomerang.
One such advertiser was Chuck E. Cheese, which entered a 15-month partnership with Turner to create custom content that’s running on Boomerang and Cartoon Network.
On Boomerang, original content began airing in October featuring Tom and Jerry. The Chuck E. Cheese character introduces Boomerang’s Tom and Jerry midday block on weekends and is also featured in spots that urge kids to stay tuned for more cat vs. mouse mayhem. A longer piece of “podbuster” content airs at the end of the block. Podbusters are designed to keep viewers from changing channels at the start of a commercial break.
When the Tom and Jerry cartoons end on Boomerang, Chuck E. Cheese introduces “Mouse Moments,” featuring Jerry surfing, sword fighting and otherwise trying to avoid Tom the cat. After the highlights, Chuck E. Cheese says, “I hope you enjoyed today’s Tom and Jerry block and the awesome Mouse Moments with Jerry. I know I did. Join us every Saturday and Sunday at 12 here on Boomerang. Until then, keep it cheesy.” The content is followed by a spot for the kiddie pizza restaurant.
Over the course of the 15-month partnership, the content will be updated eight times to keep it fresh and aligned with Chuck E. Cheese’s promotional objectives, such as encouraging kids to have their birthday parties at the restaurant.
Early next year, the custom content will be extended to Cartoon Network to promote new episodes of Tom and Jerry, which will be premiering then.
Both Cartoon Network and Boomerang are looking to engage kids on a multiplatform basis, part of an “Always On” strategy, and Turner wants advertisers to be able to reach kids wherever they’re watching.
“It’s a good thing to see how our fans react to different types of messaging,” Hogan says. “What would be optimal for us is that as fans begin to use the multiplatform options at their disposal, we want to work with advertisers to try different lengths of creative to ultimately get to what’s most appropriate for that particular platform.”
Toward that end, McDonald’s has signed on as a sponsor of Cartoon Networks’ CN Anything app, which launched in the fourth quarter. The app serves up funny content in small bites over mobile phones.
“No one else is doing that out there. And McDonald’s recognized that as an opportunity so they’re working with us,” says Hogan. “That’s a different way to be part of something that kids are excited about and they’re using. It’s not a traditional ad load or ad format, or even a traditional ad buy.”