Toon channels hit the ground running

Toons have smashed through the TV screens and have come out in the flesh, ummm? fur more likely.

As more and more kids? channels resort to ground events to lure kids; the kids are having a field day and are actually getting to touch and feel their favourite toons.

Toons come looking for kids

This touch and feel factor is increasingly becoming important for channels to have a direct connect with their target audience.

Indian kids have never had it better and the excitement and promise is only going to get bigger from here on. With seven kids? channels in the country, there is a wide array of entertainment options available to a child. And it?s not just the programming on the channels that we?re talking about here. Ground events and live shows have started featuring on the ?must have? lists of almost all kids? channels.


Cartoon Network has Toon Cricket and Toon Yatra, Pogo has Pogo Amazing Kids Awards, Pogo Funtakshri, M.A.D Workshops and Hungama TV has Hungamathon, Hungama Express, Hungama Captain?s Hunt and the latest to join on the field is Disney Magic. Rest assured there?s more to come as Nick too is planning to launch ground events this year.

The investment that goes in organizing these events is no child?s play for sure. Sample this: According to industry estimates, Walt Disney Television International (India) spent close to Rs 23 million - Rs 25 million (approximately $550,000) for their six city Disney Magic event that was held in India earlier this year. Out of this, Rs 5 million was spent on advertising the event through various media across the country. An event like Toon Cricket would also entail a budget of approximately Rs 25-odd million.

Doremon thronged by kids at the Hungamathon in Mumbai

On the other hand, industry analysts informed that for the Hungamathon event in Mumbai and Delhi, Hungama TV would have spent in the region of Rs 15 million (Rs 7.5 million per city). However, the actual cost of organizing just the ground event would be somewhere between Rs 7-8 million; the rest comprise marketing and advertising costs.

On completing one year of operations in the country, Walt Disney Television International (India) kicked off a huge scale on-ground event - Disney Magic - in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore. For the first time ever in India, Disney Channel presented the Disney stars in a musical extravaganza that took Indian kids on a magical journey packed with song and dance. What?s more, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy along with Chip and Dale even danced on a couple of popular Bollywood songs like ?Just Chill? and ?Dus Bahaney? from the movies Maine Pyaar Kyon Kiya and Dus respectively.

The channel took three to four months just to put the event together. The show was held in various cities over a period of three months. The result: over 100,000 people witnessed the Disney Magic show and approximately Rs 250 million ($5.5 million) worth of ad equivalent coverage in the print and electronic media spanning close to 25 hours in four weeks.

Walt Disney Television International (India) director marketing Tushar Shah says, "Events are a key ingredient to build a brand as these allows consumer interactivity and connect. This in turn strengthens the bond between the consumer and the brand. While the events? space is cluttered in India, there is a huge need-gap for kids? events as it is an undeserved category. Kids are exposed to other events, which are targeted at adults. It is difficult to put together a niche event, which will cater to kids as well as their parents. With Disney Magic, our aim was to build loyalty among our target audience."

It?s time to play Toon Cricket with Mark Waugh and the toons!

Cartoon Network has been organising a unique sporting event Toon Cricket since 1999. Last year, more than 45,000 toon and cricket lovers in Mumbai gathered for Toon Cricket 2005. Toons like Scooby Doo, Johnny Bravo, Dee Dee, Jerry, Fred, Bob the Builder, Mojo Jojo, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Tom, Dexter and Noddy had a field day playing cricket.

"Events are a window for consumer interaction with the network. They enable children and their families to experience the brands in a different environment and to become a part of their lives and culture. With Toon Cricket, we have established an inimitable and indelible association with India?s national passion and hence extended the appeal of the brand beyond television," explained Cartoon Network and Pogo India director marketing Vivek Krishnani.

Apart from this, channels also look at promoting "family time" with such events, wherein kids and parents alike can experience the excitement and fun together. "Events are an extremely important brand extension for Cartoon Network and Pogo. They are organised with dual objectives of increasing current viewer involvement with the network by enabling them to actively participate across multiple platforms - on-air, online, and on-ground, by telephone and SMS," added Krishnani.

To throw in some figures, over 65,000 people enjoyed Toon Cricket; over 5,000 entries were received for the Pogo Amazing Kids Awards and Pogo Funtakshri received 90,000 entries within the first three weeks itself.

Thousands of kids run at the Hungamathon

Hungama TV senior vice president marketing and communications Siddhartha Roy Kapur points out the objectives with which ground events are launched. "The touch and feel factor with the viewer is of immense importance in order to create a brand experience with them and also to put across what we embody. We are the only homegrown kids? channel in the country and that is our USP. With these ground events, we get to interact with our audience, learn from these experiences and put them to use," he says.

Buoyed by the response that Hungamathon received in Mumbai and Delhi, the channel also launched the event in Kolkata last month.

Look at that smile! Time for a "real" handshake with the toons

Moreover, it?s also the "awe factor" that channels look to capitalise on by bringing the toons face to face with kids. Watching toons on TV is surely different from watching them live in action? at least from the kids? perspective. We, adults, would probably want to watch a film award function in the sanctity of our drawing rooms far way from the madding crowd. But we?re talking kids here. Krishnani says, "The aim for all events and initiatives is to extend the magic of our brands beyond the confines of the TV set. It?s a platform that offers fantastic active and non-passive interaction opportunities to involve fans in a unique and fun way."

Also, most ground events have a contest tied around it and therein comes the "fame factor." Kids can win goodies and also have a chance of being featured on television and in print. Moreover, these days most parents encourage their children to be active in extra curricular activities and even more if these activities are related to the media.

But do these live ground events actually help in raking in eyeballs for the channels and strengthening the brand? While, ground events may not have a direct correlation to the increase in ratings or viewership on the channel, they do help in increasing the reach of the channel in the cities where they are being held.

"Cartoon Network and Pogo?s channel shares grew in January - December 2005 over January - December 2004 and was responsible for 22 per cent of the overall growth of the kids? channels in this period. Over 97 per cent of all transmissions that delivered 1.0 TVR or more in the whole of 2005 on all kids? channels were aired on Cartoon Network or Pogo," says Krishnani.

Hungama TV has an annual event Captain?s Hunt through which the channel selects the board of directors of the channel. The channel gives kids across the country the chance to be a part of selecting what?s right and what?s not for the channel. "Empower them" is the buzz word!

Disney India MD Rajat Jain welcomes the stars at Mumbai airport

Apart from these factors, there is this entire "dreamland proposition" that channels promise the kids. It?s all about childhood being a carefree and happy-go-lucky stage in one?s life (try telling that to kids in the big metros with their dawn to dusk schedules though). "We want to create the Disney Magic hype to bring Disney Channel and Toon Disney top of mind and to rub off on the overarching Disney brand in India. The classic Disney characters were presented as contemporary and treated like stars. This created a desire to be a part of it - ?let the magic touch everyone? proposition of Disney," says Shah.

Disney India VoluntEARS say cheese!

At the same time, ground events can also be used for a worthy cause. Disney used the Disney Magic event as a platform to launch its VoluntEARS, where every Disney employee works towards fulfilling kids? wishes across the country. In the four weeks that the Disney stars were here in India, Disney employees put in close to 500 hours of service. The company has a long standing association internationally with Make-A-Wish Foundation. In India, Walt Disney?s social service arm ?Disney Outreach? became active with Disney Magic. More than 100 children from various hospitals in Mumbai gathered at the Tata Memorial Hospital for a special visit from Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald.

Make-A-Wish Foundation India CEO Sharmistha Adyanthaya says, "We are delighted to be associating our foundation with the ?Disney Magic? Outreach initiative that has brought the first ever magical experience in India to our wish children. The number of these children in India is rapidly growing and the long-term association with various Outreach initiatives of the Disney Worldwide Outreach in India will allow us to reach many more of them. A wish fulfillment makes a sick child believe that anything is possible - even the future, making the impact of this association immeasurable."

Apollo Hospitals Group executive director (operations) and Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad managing director Sangita Reddy says, "Walt Disney created their legendary and endearing characters to bring magic into the lives of children and adults. They have shared this magic with children at a time when they needed it the most - Apollo Hospitals thanks them for this. It is our common endeavor to improve the quality of life for all and therefore this partnership is meaningful."

Ground events no doubt help in building reach and helps channels interact with their target audience and vice versa. It?s a medium that helps building brands unlike passive media like print and radio.

There are new ground initiatives that are also in the pipeline from Hungama TV and Nick. Kapur informs that Hungama TV is planning to launch a new on-air property this summer, which will have a grand on-ground component.

The time is right to hit the grounds!

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