Adult Swim's Agency Invasion

Tuning In: Reminding Media Buyers About Animation Block's Earlier Start

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Animated tactics: If you work for a New York media-buying agency, you may have already been invaded by a weird group of people dressed up as owls and other woodsy-themed elements.

It's not the Greater Manhattan Association of Dungeons & Dragons Aficionados. It's the latest example of a TV network promoting itself directly to ad buyers.

Time Warner's Adult Swim -- the late-night animated fare that runs on its Cartoon Network -- long ago announced it would expand to start at 9 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. But now that the change is finally scheduled to take effect on Dec. 27, the network wants to make sure buyers working on first-quarter budgets didn't forget.

To get this crowd's attention, the network has been popping in on agencies including WPP's Mediaedge: cia and Interpublic Group's Universal McCann and Initiative, with plans for Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media and WPP's Mediacom in the works.

There's a bit of warning: Cartoon Network has been sending miniature eggs to key contacts at each agency and telling them the eggs can soon be exchanged for something special. Once the costumed crowd arrives, the eggs are good for tchotchkes like wooden sunglasses and wooden calendars. (The owl has long been part of "Adult Swim" themes.)

But the gathering caused some surprise at Initiative at least. An agency employee said the Adult Swim visit was unexpected and reminiscent of a flash mob, although that concept calls upon random volunteers to assemble at once, not a coterie of cable-TV employees.

The idea of semi-surprise, costumed visits initially gave Cartoon Network "a little bit of agita," said Josh Feldman, senior VP-sales and marketing, at Adult Swim and Cartoon Network. "When you go into someone else's workplace, you've got to make sure you're respectful of that," he said. "We were very keen on that, to make sure this was a good experience and not a disruptive experience."

Will the gambit work? We'll have to track ad spending on Adult Swim in the late spring, when Kantar Media figures ought to be available for the first quarter of the year. Of course, Adult Swim's addition of the 9 p.m. hour to its purview -- a move Mr. Feldman said is being made to reach a broader audience for the offbeat animated fare -- should add dollars regardless.

Tuning In is an ongoing series of commentaries by Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg on the TV schedule, the ads it carries and changes within the industry. Follow him on Twitter.

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