TELETUBBIES: KENN VISELMAN

By Published on .

Not everyone has the internal fortitude to walk away from a promotional opportunity with fast-food giant Burger King. But that's what Kenn Viselman, president-CEO of Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. almost did when the two companies clashed over this spring's Teletubbies promotion.

"I felt very strongly that if Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Dipsy and Po were to go out to eat, it would have to be at a place that would have Tubby Custard," says Mr. Viselman, 38, who forged his reputation as a children's marketer as head of sales and marketing with BAI, the company behind Thomas the Tank Engine. "Sure, it would have meant walking away from something that had huge revenue potential, but I wasn't going to go forward with something that wasn't true to the series."

Meanwhile, Itsy Bitsy is licensing the Teletubbies, with everything from computer mousepads to talking plush Teletubbies beaming out from retail shelves. Retail sales of the Teletubbies, whose sweet, half-hour TV show debuted in PBS in April 1998, hit about $600 million this last holiday season and is expected to bring in about $2 billion in the U.S. within the next 12 months.

Still think Tubbymania is over the hills and far away? Consider that Kraft Foods is now contemplating retail distribution of its Jell-O Tubby Custard, available only now at Burger King.

Although PBS and its agency, Publicis & Hal Riney, New York, introduced the Teletubbies, every facet of the marketing of Teletubbies is carefully choreographed by Mr. Viselman.

"We usually end up rewriting most of the ads, because everything that has to do with the Teletubbies has to be designed for the child; there has to be play value," he says. "When you're involved with kids this young, there's controversy."

Mr. Viselman admits he had an "uh oh" moment with the Jerry Falwell-generated homosexual flap over Tinky Winky, the purple purse-toting Tubby. "It was amazing to me to see really how people have fallen in love with the show and have

In this article:
Most Popular