PainePR and BabyFirstTV: Facing the Controversy – BabyFirstTV Launches First US Dedicated Channel for Babies and Toddlers
Since its May 2006 launch, BabyFirstTV, a network dedicated to the very youngest of the diaper-and-pacifier set, has been endorsed by parents, pediatricians, and early-education experts. But much advance planning occurred to achieve the potentially controversial channel’s warm reception.
At the time of BabyFirstTV’s debut, America’s media environment was saturated with anti-TV-for-tots messaging. It was critical for the LA-based network to enter the market with widespread coverage to generate both consumer and investor awareness, and manage likely backlash from adversary pediatricians and other advocacy groups.
To prepare for its launch, BabyFirstTV tapped Irvine, CA-based PainePR to assist with everything from strategic media observation to crisis communications preparation. Well aware of its challenges, Paine began its efforts with extensive baby- and TV-focused research, including coverage analysis of Sesame Beginnings, a DVD series that had been criticized the previous year. The firm also crafted a media response manual covering more than 30 crisis scenarios, and trained corporate representatives in effective damage control centered on messages encouraging child-parent bonding and responsible parenting – messages meant to resonate with media and avoid further controversy. In addition, Paine invited parents to preview BabyFirstTV prior to its launch, so they could provide feedback on the network’s 24-hour lineup of shows.
In a campaign coup, Paine secured Dr. Edward McCabe, physician-in-chief of the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, to serve as BabyFirstTV’s official spokesperson. With the doctor’s assistance, the agency created a downloadable parents’ guide, including materials that outlined TV-viewing suggestions for infants and toddlers. This component spoke directly to criticism from organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, which asserts television can hamper the development of children under two years of age.
One day before the network’s May 11 kick-off at New York’s Union Square Barnes & Noble, Paine secured a testimonial-filled AP print exclusive. This triggered national media coverage, including launch-day stories on Good Morning America and in the New York Post, among others. These led to segments on CNN, MSNBC, and CBS. The New York Times also ran a front-page story in its Arts & Leisure section the following Sunday.
Overall, BabyFirstTV generated more than 700 balanced to positive pieces, with minimal counterattacks from press or pediatricians. And the BabyFirstTV Web site garnered 250,000 unique visitors within 48 hours of the channel’s launch. The icing on the teething toy? Withinone week, BabyFirstTV transcended into popular culture as the basis of a Saturday Night Live sketch.
Judges unanimously agreed that Paine’s strategically crafted work for BabyFirstTV displayed an outstanding effort on behalf of an emerging – and potentially challenging – media brand.
Porter Novelli and The Muppets Holding Company: One Frog. One Town. One Name.
s Kermit the Frog approached his 50th anniversary, the Muppets’ long-beloved ringleader found his popularity stagnating. It was time to introduce Kermit to a new generation, so The Muppets Holding Company teamed with Porter Novelli to send the enthusiastic amphibian on a world tour, beginning with a day of activities in Kermit, TX. Working with city leaders, PN oversaw the town’s complete transformation in honor of the Muppet ambassador: Stores were decorated in tribute, and a street was renamed “Kermit the Frog Avenue.” The water tower was painted in Kermit’s image, and after proclaiming October 14 “Kermit the Frog Day,” the mayor presented the felt frog with the key to the city. Among other inspired media ops, hundreds of green cowboy-hat-clad citizens gathered in a giant Kermit-head outline for an aerial photo. The event generated more than 700 media placements, and drew plenty of attention to Kermit’s world tour. But more than that, it reminded parents, children – and PRWeek Awards judges – that even after 50 years, everyone still loves Kermit the Frog.
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