In what has become a signature approach, Nickelodeon simmers its kid properties on-air before linking them with package goods. It's worked previously with such franchises as "Rugrats," "Wild Thornberrys" and "Dora the Explorer." Executives have nurtured "Fairly OddParents" since its launch in early 2001, also holding back toys and most other merchandise.
The time was right for a partner-enhanced promotion, Nick execs say, because the show's ratings are second only to "SpongeBob SquarePants," the biggest TV draw in kids ages 6 through 11. "Fairly OddParents" averages 2.3 million kid viewers, up 6% from last year. Its video game, "The Fairly OddParents: Breakin' Da Rules," from THQ, has become a hot seller.
"We're basically planting the flag and saying this is a tent-pole show for us," says Laura Nowatka, VP-promotions marketing. "It feels like the right time to marshal all the forces around this show."
"Fairly OddParents" revolves around a 10-year-old boy named Timmy whose wacky fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, grant his every wish. The problem is, they don't usually get it right.
The heart of the promotion is the President's Day marathon of a dozen "Fairly OddParents" episodes leading up to a special half-hour in prime time, "The Fairly OddParents' Big Superhero Wish."
Kid viewers will pick, via the Web, which 12 episodes will air during the marathon. They also can enter a contest by calling an 800 number that will flash on screen during the special. The winning kid gets a trip to New York, $1,000 and face time on the network.
P&G's Pringles brand plans to air TV ads dedicated to the promotion, built around original animation of the Fairly OddParents characters. The theme, "Every Kid Wins," reflects the show's wish-granting story line and puts codes on the packaging of Pringles' lunchbox ready Snack Stacks. Kids go to Nick.com and put in the code numbers to watch clips of the show, play games and accumulate points that can be used for Nick swag. They can also vote on their choice for the next Pringles flavor.
Adult TV critics have often cited "Fairly OddParents," created by veteran animator Butch Hartman, as a witty, multi-layered cartoon in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" vein.
"The show has a unique brand character," said Nate Lawton, Pringles' assistant brand manager. "We think Pringles lines up perfectly with it."
The Snack Stacks packaging gets a complete "Fairly OddParents" makeover, which Lawton hopes will make the products jump from their regular space in grocery stores to special displays. The timing works for the marketer because retailers usually highlight sweets in February instead of salty snacks.
"That's definitely a win for us because it gives us a reason to be merchandised during a month when we normally wouldn't be," Lawton says. Pringles, one of the few P&G brands that markets directly to kids, already is an on-air advertiser with Nickelodeon.
Burger King, a network partner for about eight years, will put 10 character toys in its kids' meals. The chain also plans dedicated TV media with footage from the show, and in-restaurant signage.
Kraft, which has worked with Nick for about a decade, will fan out the promotion on 35 million packages over a handful of brands, including Kraft Singles and Nabisco Fruit Snacks. Also in the pipeline from Kraft Foods Co. is a limited-time Post Fairly OddParents cereal, which will be at retail for about three months, and a Macaroni & Cheese line licensed with the characters. That product will become a Kraft staple, joining Nick characters like SpongeBob. Kraft will air TV spots about the promotion and will be part of Nick's on-air sweepstakes.