Phyllis Ehrlich Pairs Marketers With the Wildly Successful 'Adult Swim'

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Who: Phyllis Ehrlich, senior VP of promotions marketing, Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network.

Why you need to know her: Marketers looking to pair their products up with Cartoon Network’s lineup of programming or characters -- from the Powerpuff Girls to Yu-Gi-Oh -- must deal with Ms. Ehrlich and her team. She oversees Cartoon Network, which reaches 88 million homes, and its "Tickle U" pre-school programming block and "Adult Swim," which targets 18- to 34-year-olds, and has developed branded entertainment projects with marketers such as Honda, Burger King, Axe and Scion.
Phyllis Ehrlich is senior VP of promotions marketing at Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network.

Credentials: Ms. Ehrlich has spent nearly 10 years at Turner, starting as a kids' expert in the global marketing solutions group before joining Cartoon Network’s sales and marketing team. Prior to that, she was editor in chief of Disney's children's magazines, including Disney Adventures. She also launched Healthy Kids, the first magazine for parents devoted to children's health, produced in association with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and wrote the cable TV special A Journey Through the First Year of Life.

In the past, Cartoon Network has primarily focused on developing promotions with marketers -- much of that due to the limitations on how advertisers can market to children. Do you see that changing anytime soon? “Our trademark at Cartoon Network Promotions Marketing is creating customized integration promotions and marketing partnerships for our key clients. We listen to our clients' marketing and sales objectives and then build the best fit for them -- on-air, online, on-pack and at retail. We don't just bring them a templated promotion that serves our own needs. First and foremost, we want to help our clients accomplish their goals, whether that's establishing a brand image or selling more products. This will always be our philosophy at Cartoon Network.”

"Adult Swim's" older audience has allowed you to develop branded entertainment concepts with advertisers. What types of projects have you launched? “We are having great fun developing 'Adult Swim' promotions because the sky's the limit for this innovative brand, which currently ranks No. 1 with young adults 18-34 and 18-24 on all ad-supported basic cable. We recently launched an integrated promotion to help Honda introduce its all-new 2006 Civic models. Called Put On Your Shorts, we are inviting 'Adult Swim' fans to submit their own original animated shorts up to five minutes on The winning short will be shown on and 'Adult Swim' VOD. In addition, this year we did a fun sweepstakes for Burger King, called 'Have It Your Way.' The winner programmed 'Adult Swim' for a night and was treated to an 'Adult Swim' viewing party with 20 of her friends. 'Adult Swim' talks to its viewers through quirky black-and-white text bumpers. We emulate this packaging in some of our custom promotions and have produced witty custom bumpers for clients including Axe, Scion, Verizon Wireless, Wrigley's Big Red, Nintendo, Coke, and many movie studios.”

Increasingly, marketers want to be integrated into entertainment content. But because Cartoon Network's programming is animated, that's not necessarily possible. So what kind of opportunities can Cartoon Network offer marketers when it come to branded entertainment? “At Cartoon Network branded entertainment means the fun, funny, fearless environment we offer our advertisers. The Cartoon Network environment is all about entertaining kids and young adults of all ages. This gives advertisers the opportunity to highlight their products while viewers are enjoying themselves, whether they're laughing at a comedy original or enjoying an adventure show.”

What are advertisers looking for when approaching Cartoon Network? “Advertisers are looking for quality programming, their key demographic audience and a sales team that values their business and is always willing to go the extra mile to build relationships and partnerships.”

How long before we see marketers producing their own animated programming to air on Cartoon Network? Would the network even air that? “Of course, our first commitment is producing and airing innovative programming for our audience. Producing animated programming is not for the faint of heart -- it's all-consuming, expensive and requires incredible skill and passion. That's what  our key clients buy when they advertise and partner with Cartoon Network.”

There is still some confusion out there on what exactly branded entertainment is. How do you define it? “There isn't a simple definition of branded entertainment -- it's still evolving and can mean different things in different environments. Ideally, it's the integration of a brand or product message into programming that enhances the viewer experience and at the same time accomplishes the marketers' goals.”

What are the best examples of branded entertainment that you've seen lately? “I admire what my sister network TNT has done in partnership with 'Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentations.' This partnership has enabled the network to produce sensational and award-winning original movies and that's a real benefit to viewers. I don't know if it fits everyone's definition of branded entertainment, but I thought that Sony Pictures' exclusive ad buy to highlight sneak peeks of their holiday movies on the season premiere of Nip/Tuck was impactful.”

And the worst? “My parents always taught me that if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything.”

What are some obstacles branded entertainment still faces? “I think the biggest obstacle is not turning off viewers by delivering something they don't want.”

How can those obstacles be overcome? “By always being true to your own brand and making sure your viewer comes first.”

How do you measure success? “One of the best measures of success is repeat business, and I'm proud that at Cartoon Network we continue to grow our promotional partnerships with key clients year after year. We constantly challenge ourselves and our partners to be innovative and ground-breaking.”

Since you're surrounded by them, who's your favorite cartoon character? “The Powerpuff Girls, because I admire their mission to save the world before bedtime!”

What's on your TiVo?Boston Legal, Everwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The O.C. and only in case of emergency, Nip/Tuck'.

What do you do on your free time? “I love spending time at my country house in Woodstock, N.Y., with my husband, Joel, my son, Andrew, and our friends and family.”
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