Warner Bros. Online has acquired the media and merchandising rights to a new online animated character, Bozlo Beaver, which it hopes will evolve into an important vehicle for advertising messages.
Bozlo was created by New York-based software company ToggleThis, which is licensing its technology to Warner Bros. Online for use with other characters, including advertiser-created ones.
To view Bozlo, users first download the interactive character software onto their hard drives from the Togglethis site. Eventually the software will also be available from the site. Users are then sent e-mails with Bozlo episodes attached.
BOZLO `TOTALLY INTERACTIVE'
When activated by clicking on an icon, Bozlo performs across the user's computer screen. "He's entertaining, totally interactive and lots of fun," said Jim Moloshok, senior VP-Warner Bros. Online. Bozlo does interactive stunts such as hiding users' cursors.
To encourage users to download the interactive character software, Warner Bros. is creating a "Welcome to Bozlo" area as part of its Web site. Warner Bros. Online will also be doing Web advertising for Bozlo.
However, "Getting the public to take the time to download a character they've never heard of sounds to me like a difficult task," said one agency new media buyer. "The Warner folk are great marketers, so I'm not saying it can't be done," the buyer added.
No advertisers are yet signed up, and it will cost marketers a minimum of $50,000 to get involved with Bozlo.
Mr. Moloshok pointed to four ways marketers could use the interactive character technology: First, Bozlo could tell the user to click on an icon at the end of the episode that would link the user to the advertiser's site. Or, characters identified with an advertiser, like Intel's bunny people, would appear at the end of the episodes, also providing a link to sites.
Warner Bros. Online is also willing to create special episodes with the Bozlo character that can be put on an advertiser's site. Finally, Mr. Moloshok said, Warner Bros. could create interactive cartoon segments for advertisers to use on their own Web sites.
"If the engine gets downloaded in big numbers, and if the content of the episodes is compelling enough to get users to watch, I might be interested," said another interactive agency buyer.
"It sounds different and a way to break through the clutter, if all my ifs can be satisfied."
Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.