Turning Up the Heat

With Adult Swim moving to five nights a week, Cartoon Network highlights its expanding grown-up audience

Attention: Cartoon Network is not just for kids anymore. Really. That's the message that Cartoon Network has been blaring to local cable ad sales operations for a year.

And the music is about to get louder. The all-animation channel, which has always had a significant following among grownups, wants advertisers to know that it's flexing some new ratings muscle among one of TV's most desirable audiences: young adults.

For the second straight winter, Cartoon Network and Turner Network Sales executives are crafting a local ad sales promotional drive for Adult Swim, their late-night programming block for 18-to-34 year-old viewers. With the campaign, they aim to help cable operators enlist more local advertisers for the less juvenile animated series and rake in more dough from the network's stash of local ad avails. They also want to draw attention to the early ratings success of Adult Swim, particularly among male teens and young men.

"We have strength with this demo," says Jerry Ware, vice president of local ad sales for Turner Network Sales. "We want to extend it through to our affiliates."

Slated to run Feb.17-28, the campaign will feature a heavy load of taggable, cross-channel promos for cable systems to use. Cartoon will also send out in-store point-of-purchase displays and other sales materials. Most notably, the network will hand out either a free trip for two to Hawaii or electronic scooters to affiliates, depending upon their size.

"We're going to be putting a lot of marketing behind it early in the first quarter," says Tom Alexander, vice president of trade marketing at Cartoon Network. "With the affiliates, this is our big push for the year."

The promotional drive will coincide with Cartoon's planned expansion of its Adult Swim block to five nights a week. Launched in September 2001 as a three-hour lineup of animated action and comedy series on Thursday and Sunday nights, and then switched to Saturday and Sunday nights, the block has produced big ratings increases for the network among young adults, particularly young men. "Adult Swim" will now air two hours a night from Sunday through Thursday, starting Jan. 12.

"Our goal is to meet what we did last year," Alexander says. "It's kind of a new foray for us—going so specifically against adults. It's kind of an education process as well."