Specialties take branding to the Web

Who can resist the allure of an anthropomorphic bug? Last November, YTV teamed up with Mattel Canada and Intel on a Web promotion for one of the hottest new toys of the holiday season: the Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope. The...

Who can resist the allure of an anthropomorphic bug?

Last November, YTV teamed up with Mattel Canada and Intel on a Web promotion for one of the hottest new toys of the holiday season: the Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope.

The contest site had all the familiar hallmarks of the youth channel’s communications – the vivid colours, the kitschy characters and so on. And the host? A dapper, six-legged secret agent named James Bug (agent ‘double-oh thirteen’), who walked kids through a demo of the toy and explained to them how they could win.

YTV’s ‘The Fly Who Bugged Me’ promotion is just one recent example of the Web-based initiatives that specialty channels are undertaking as they attempt to extend their broadcast brands into the ever-expanding online universe.

Nearly all the Canadian specialties now have some form of Web presence. While most initially designed their sites simply to support their on-air programming, some channels have now begun to view them as entirely separate marketing and communications vehicles, with the power to enhance the viewer’s overall experience of the brand.

YTV and its sister station Treehouse TV (both of which are owned by Corus Entertainment) use the Web to support their programming and give viewers the opportunity to interact with them, says Steve Rolufs, director of new media at YTV. But they have also attempted to turn the sites (www.ytv.com and www.treehousetv.com) into destinations in and of themselves, by providing original content and entertainment opportunities online.

Indeed, Rolufs says, there are plans now to beef up the volume of original content online, with the addition of more games, information and streaming media.

For Treehouse TV, the point of having a site is to enhance the viewer’s experience of the channel, says Susan Ross, vice-president and general manager of Treehouse.

‘We promote the site on-air, so that when the television is turned off, we’re hopeful that parents and children will get on the computer, visit our site and be stimulated to do other activities, like printing out colouring pages or getting instructions for making crafts,’ she says.

In addition to extending the Treehouse brand, Ross says, the site can also serve to extend individual brand components, such as specific programs and characters.

Ultimately, content is what determines the value of a channel’s Web site, argues Geoff Thrasher, director of marketing and sales for CBC Newsworld.

The time restrictions inherent in television and radio limit the amount of information that can be communicated on the air, Thrasher explains. So the Newsworld site (www.newsworld.cbc.ca) affords viewers the opportunity to get more details about the stories that the network covers.

Typical of Newsworld’s online initiatives is the planned Everest 2000 Web site, which will feature background information and daily postings about Canadian climber Byron Smith’s trek to the summit of Mount Everest.

Alliance Atlantis Communications, which owns Life Network, HGTV Canada, Showcase Television and History Television, is also a strong believer in Web communications. Last June, the company established a new media operation with the goal of helping its various divisions – including the specialty channels – develop Internet strategies and create online content.

Each of the specialty channels has a clearly identifiable niche audience, defined by its particular leisure time interests, says Todd Goldsbie, vice-president, new media with Alliance Atlantis. So their companion Web sites should not only promote the programming, but provide additional – and often highly targeted – information.

‘We are a content company,’ Goldsbie says. ‘As more people migrate to the Web, there’s a tremendous opportunity for us to re-purpose our existing content and provide additional content through that alternative distribution channel. The company believes that the Internet will continue to become a more meaningful and significant distribution channel for content.’

While Alliance Atlantis has yet to roll out any Web-exclusive promotions, Goldsbie says they are developing more cross-media initiatives – such as watch-and-win contests and forced-viewing promotions – that incorporate both online and offline components. The company is also in the process of mapping out some e-commerce plans, primarily for HGTV.

For her part, Hilary Firestone, vice-president, network marketing and promotions with Teletoon, considers the Web an ‘amazing’ tool.

The animation channel uses its site (www.teletoon.com) extensively to support its many on-air promotions. Indeed, more than 90% of all contest entries that Teletoon receives now come via e-mail.

A re-evaluation of the channel’s online advertising policy is currently underway. While Teletoon does feature its promotional partners on the site, it has – so far, anyway – not welcomed banner ads. Advertisers, however, have expressed so much interest that Firestone says the channel has decided to at least explore the possibility. There are also plans to begin creating more Web-only promotions.

Like many of the specialty channels, Firestone says, Teletoon is bringing a long-term perspective to the development of its Web presence, treating it as a foundation for future initiatives in the area of interactive television.

‘It’s not simply a marketing vehicle as it was before,’ she says. ‘We are starting to make it an entity on its own, with its own content. It supports the television, and the television supports the Web. We’re certainly looking at this as part of our long-range plans.’

Specialty channels should have the coming advent of interactive television in the back of their minds as they undertake online initiatives, says Ross.

The streaming of audio and video content and the archiving of footage on the Web are all part of this process, she says, and will lead to a richer experience for viewers.

Also in this report:

- It’s a harsh realm: In today’s network television environment, the chances of a show’s success are slimmer than ever p.TV2

- Consolidation of specialties a mixed blessing: Upward pressure on price is offset by plethora of choice p.TV16

- Spotlight on…Television Creative p.TV18

- Drop the Beat busts an interactive move: Alliance Atlantis hip-hop drama invites viewers to participate via Web site and interactive TV p.TV23

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.