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"Rugrats" exploded out of the small screen Nov. 20 into a movie backed by a $100 million promotional campaign that broke records for Burger King Corp.

" 'Rugrats' was underexposed for a long time, and when we realized its promotion potential, we held back even longer to make sure we got it right," says Pam Kaufman, VP of promotions at Nickelodeon.

Launched in 1991, the show was a hit by the mid-1990s, as kids ages 2 to 11 fell in love with Tommy Pickles and his pals Chuckie Finster, Phil and Lil and even his mischevious cousin, Angelica Pickles.

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies aimed to use the film to cultivate more interest and expand the story line when it introduced Baby Dil, Tommy's little brother. The film grossed more than $100 million. When Dil debuted on the TV show two months after the film's opening, he garnered record ratings for the show, according to Ms. Kaufman.

The 35-year-old executive strove to make sure all promotional tie-ins-from cable cross-promotions to food partners to the Mercury Villager minivan-enhanced the property.

"We wanted everything to be fresh and original, even for the biggest fans, and we wanted to preserve the show's quality across all the promotions," she says.

But it was the two-phase promotional deal with Burger King that pushed "Rugrats" over the top. A teaser promotion began eight months before the film's debut offering 12 different characters as kids' meal premiums; a second promotion created a frenzy for additional "Rugrats" toys and wristwatches at Burger King when the film was released Nov. 20.

"We took a calculated risk that we could do a promotion that far in advance without hurting kids' anticipation of the film, and it worked," Ms. Kaufman says.

In fact, the success translated back into the small screen as "Rugrats"

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