It’s hard to imagine the sheer number of products launched over the past year around Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 and The Powerpuff Girls, and Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty.
Unless, of course, they’re meticulously laid out and arranged in the shape of the main characters’ faces.
Black T-shirts make up Buttercup’s pupils and pieces of Strawberry Smiggles cereal form the crests of Rick’s hair, as the merchandise comes together in three portraits that mark Cartoon Network Enterprises’ most ambitious trade campaign to date.
“Because we’ve seen such growth year over year, how do you translate that growth as a visual message?” asked Peter Yoder, vice president of Cartoon Network Enterprises.
The answer was inspired by photographer Jason Travis, known for capturing people’s personalities through images of their possessions. Travis was brought on board to help execute the campaign.
While the May 1 debut is just in time for the upcoming Licensing Expo conference, and designed specifically for print and digital placement across key trade outlets, the images are also geared toward consumers and celebrate fandom.
The ads showcase the network’s three main tentpoles: Rick and Morty is CNE’s top growing brand around the world. As its number one comedy of 2017, it’s one of the network’s widest reaching shows with a range of specialty retailers—from toys at Target, to high-end T-shirts at Nordstrom.
Ben 10 is its top grossing brand worldwide. The show launched in 2006, and last year saw the production of new episodes after a five-year hiatus. The series drives around $5 billion in global retail sales, and is well known internationally.
And The Powerpuff Girls is one of Cartoon Network’s the longest running brands, celebrating 20 years of girl power this year. The series relaunched with all new episodes two years ago, drawing in a whole new audience of young viewers.
The goal, Yoder said, was to create a campaign that highlights the consumer products for all three of those shows in a way that really stands out.
“I was completely on board with the theory of the campaign but until you see it laid out, it’s hard to visualize,” Yoder said. “It’s truly an art.”
Putting It All Together
Jacob Escobedo’s knees hurt from crawling around the floor, rearranging and deconstructing products to find the perfect pieces to represent the characters’ facial features. The creative director and SVP for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim led the construction of the portraits over three days of shooting—all of which was captured in time lapse videos that will be used to further highlight the campaign.
“We’re always doing that for social,” Escobedo said. “Fans get really excited about it.”
In fact, fandom is what ties the campaign together with the taglines “Transformative Fandom,” “Fandom in Every Dimension” and “20 Years of Powerful Fandom” driving that point home while being tailored to reflect each individual show.
Escobedo and his small in-house team, worked with products from the last year as well as new products that will roll out throughout 2018 as a way to offer a sneak peek of what’s coming down the line.
They began by unpacking box after box of merchandise.
“What was fun and rewarding was to see all the stuff me and my team have been working on for the last couple years,” Escobedo said. And then they started placing everything on the floor, with creative input from Travis.
“He has a process where he outlines the shape of the face, and then lays it down,” Escobedo said. “His process allowed us to play within those boundaries.”
He aimed for “something clean, bold and graphic that makes a statement” as they picked out items.
“The way we chose the product was based on the size and color of the shapes to build the heads up,” he said. Once they were complete, they pulled background colors from each of the show’s on-air palettes, working with flat tones to allow the products to pop as Travis photographed them.
“In general, it just kind of came together magically,” Escobedo said. “it just transformed in front of our faces.”
Cartoon Network Enterprises
CNE executive: Pete Yoder, Vice President
CMO: Michael Ouweleen
Campaign Development & Execution: CN/AS Creative Executive - Jacob Escobedo
Cartoon Network Producer: Eric Nelson
Cartoon Network Art Director: Brian Smith
Cartoon Network Art Directors: Brian Smith & Tyson McAdoo
Adult Swim Producer: Bridgette Kimbrough
Adult Swim Art Director: Joey Wathen
CNE Marketing: Kelsey Tate
Photographer: Jason Travis
Tags: cartoon network