The Children's Television Workshop is finally going to give its prized Sesame Street brand a starring role on the Internet.
CTW is dropping the name CTW Family Workshop from its Web site to focus on its signature brand as part of a play to snare more users and advertisers.
The site already can be reached through the SesameStreet.com domain.
The branding change during the first half of the year to SesameStreet.com is part of a strategic shift to "create more opportunities for advertisers with increased ad sales inventory by getting more people to the site," said Stephen Gass, acting group president-online at CTW.
Until now, the non-profit media company did little to promote the site, opting instead to develop content for parents and kids for internal use and for other sites. This year, however, it will boost marketing to drive traffic to its site.
"To get the message out, we need to get more eyeballs in. So we now need to move to the next level of marketing the brand," Mr. Gass said.
According to Media Metrix, CTW Family Workshop had 471,000 unique visitors in November. In comparison, Nickelodeon's Nick.com had 1.37 million; CartoonNetwork.com, 770,000; Fox Kids Network, 358,000; and MaMaMedia, 350,000.
MARKETING BUDGET RISING
While he wouldn't reveal a budget, Mr. Gass said CTW will spend more money on online advertising and promotions, such as direct e-mail marketing campaigns, this year.
CTW is seeking an interactive agency for creative and online media buying for SesameStreet.com. In2, New York, previously handled online media buying. Creative was handled in-house.
CTW also has enlisted New York marketing consultancy Middleberg & Associates' Internet strategy division to develop online marketing programs.
"Middleberg is helping SesameStreet.com reach the next phase of its development: reaching its audiences directly through one-to-one marketing, making sure parents can easily find what they are looking for and representing the child-parent experience on the Web," said Christopher Hayes, chief new-economy officer at Middleberg.
MAINSTREAM ADS WEIGHED
CTW also is considering a print and radio campaign to promote SesameStreet.com, Mr. Gass said. The company will continue to promote the site through CTW's properties such as Sesame Street Place, a theme park.
"The initial thinking (when the site launched in September 1998) was, let's put a name on the site that immediately lets us signal to the world that the CTW who brought you Sesame Street is now in this space, creating breakthrough experiences for kids and parents online," Mr. Gass said. "What we are finding is that while [offering] this breadth of content is the right idea, branding [that uses] the Sesame Street name makes more sense because it is more recognizable."
Under the SesameStreet.com brand, Mr. Gass said the company plans to introduce new programs and content, including additional interactive stories; more properties such as KidCity, its section aimed at 6-to-12-year-olds; and online content tied to the "Sesame Street" TV program.
The company also is seeking more online distribution deals such as those it has with America Online and AOL's Netscape Netcenter, as well as Excite@Home. CTW will pursue additional cross-marketing deals; it already has agreements with marketers that include Ford Motor Co., Kellogg Co. and Kraft Foods.
Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.