NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Disney Junior won't be a programming block on the Disney Channel until February, and it won't be a cable channel until 2012, but attempts to establish the brand in a crowded kids-TV market are gearing up.
Before Disney Junior can entertain young kids, the thinking behind a new effort goes, it needs to interest their mothers. So starting this week Disney is going to try to intrigue parents with a new Facebook page that will ask users to vote among eight ads for Disney Junior. The winning ad will run in People magazine's year-end double issue.
Launch of the Facebook page marks the first effort to promote Disney Junior that doesn't involve Disney's own media properties.
"The parents, the caregivers, are spending increasing amounts of time on the digital platform and, obviously, social networks -- Facebook, Twitter -- maintaining a much bigger presence in terms of communicating with other parents, looking for birthday games, sharing thoughts and ideas about their little ones," said Richard Loomis, senior VP for marketing and creative at Disney Channels Worldwide. "It's a big, big, big part of where they are spending their time and connecting with one another."
Getting parents attuned to the Disney Junior name and associated content is crucial for Disney, which faces a kids-TV field that's grown extremely crowded, with Viacom's Nick Jr., PBS's Sprout and, most recently, The Hub, a joint venture of Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, all part of the fray. But with Nickelodeon, ABC Family and Disney Channel all focused more or less on an older set of viewers, media executives see more room for outlets aimed at the preschool set. Disney Junior will aim for kids between the ages of two and seven years of age.
"We're very mindful of the competitive landscape," said Mr. Loomis. "We are not naive to the competition and what they are doing."
While mounting a Disney Junior block of programming on the Disney Channel gets the concept up and running earlier in consumers' minds, the bigger obstacle may loom in 2012. Disney Junior will take over the Disney-owned cable outlet SoapNet, which runs soap operas and other related content -- not currently part of the equation for TV-viewing that involves preschoolers.
Attracting would-be viewers to the new outlet's Facebook page helps Disney introduce people to characters that will be available via Disney Junior, and more. Each of the would-be People ads features a child set alongside Disney Junior and Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Tinkerbell and the dogs from the movie "101 Dalmatians."
Over time, however, Disney Junior's Facebook page will also roll out "sneak peeks" of new content, as well as new images form the outlet's first flagship series, "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."