Cartoon Network's site generated 2 billion ad impressions this year, and brands are moving in.
Turner Broadcasting is best known for TV programming, but the media company has also had success aligning brands with a slew of online games its interactive unit pumps out weekly.
According to Benjamin Grubbs, Asia Pacific executive director of interactive media at Turner Broadcasting, the company's Cartoon Network website generated 2 billion ad impressions this year. The traffic came mainly from South Asia, with users engaging for an average of 20 to 25 minutes per visit. More importantly, digital activity is now a revenue driver for the company.
The growth didn't happen overnight. When Turner first built its site, it featured programming schedules that turned out to look more like a marketing brochure than a destination visitors would connect and engage with emotionally.
Grubbs, a former eBay and Yahoo marketing executive, was hired in 2008 to shape how Turner's interactive arm operates. As executive director based in Hong Kong, he works closely with the internal development and web teams to manage the games and mobile businesses.
Producing games comprises a large chunk of what the company does. Turner's interactive media unit releases a new casual game every week and multi-player games every two to three weeks. In addition, it plans longer-term social and mobile game projects designed to bear fruit in nine to 12 months.
Prudential Reaches Kids With Edutainment Site
In one example of Turner's advertiser integration with games, Cartoon Network partnered with Prudential to create an animated edutainment series that rolled out regionally in September.
Focused on financial literacy, the campaign is targeted at children aged seven to 12. Its presence on Turner's site for Cartoon Network showcases a series of animated musical cartoons and games that encourage entrepreneurialism and good saving habits. The videos are also broadcast on the Cartoon Network in seven Asian markets (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).
Additionally, the site features an iPhone app known as the Pocket Money Manager to help kids keep track of their weekly allowance, as well as a guide for parents.
According to Grubbs, Turner has seen interest from entertainment, FMCG, and retail categories.
Meanwhile, the company is in the process of hiring a head of digital in Australia next month, to be charged with building a local team to meet demand from advertisers. Other markets in Asia where Turner has a strong digital presence include Korea and India. For Turner, India is the biggest market for kids in the region; it has seven different businesses in the country. And in China, it recently partnered with local online games developer NetDragon to unveil 91kt.com, a web portal aimed at Chinese kids with animated products and online games.
For marketers keen to explore in-game branding opportunities, his advice is, "Be clear of the key audience that really matters to you. Know who that group is."
And when planning gaming initiatives, he said, think long term. Often when a campaign period is over, he explained, companies are no longer invested as they move on to other initiatives. But digital content will continue to live on and some consumers may still be engaged with it. "Don't get yourself into a mindset that you only run it for three months and it's done."
While Turner's interactive arm offers brands co-creating opportunities in its games, Grubbs said it has also built games for marketers without the Cartoon Network branding.
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Adaline Lau, ClickZ Asia editor, oversees day-to-day editorial operations covering digital marketing from search to social media, mobile to analytics in the region. Before ClickZ, she was senior reporter at Marketing Magazine and has worked as a journalist for The Singapore Marketer and Asia Pacific Broadcasting. Connect with her @adalinelau or Google+.
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