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Eye hot to tot for fall blurbs

CBS skews extremely young as toddler is tapped to tout lineup

Oh, baby: The CBS promo wizards are getting a little infantile in their latest fall marketing campaign.

Eye execs have enlisted chatty child Baby Bob to serve as the net’s new on-air spokesman. Starting tonight, the 7-month-old infant — who manages to “speak” with the voice of an adult man using computer graphics — will begin appearing in CBS promotions touting the net’s new primetime lineup and its NFL coverage. He’ll also host individual nights of programming on the net.

Move comes several months before a Viacom Prods.-produced midseason laffer starring Baby Bob is scheduled to bow on CBS. The character was originally introduced in a series of ads for FreeInternet.com.

It’s rare for major networks to use any one individual (let alone a talking tyke) as a spokesman. But as CBS continues its calculated efforts to appeal to younger auds, execs hope Baby Bob will give the Eye an added dose of hipness, while also building the character into a well-known commodity in advance of his series debut.

“CBS has evolved a lot in the years (prexy and CEO Les Moonves) has been here,” said Ron Scalera, senior VP and creative director of advertising and promotion at the Eye. “This is part of our effort to keep expanding the CBS brand to attract new viewers, to show we’re progressive, inventive and want to keep people entertained.”

In the few instances where networks have had spokesmen, the person or character doing the pitching already had a widely established brand identity. Bart Simpson has long been associated with Fox, while the WB adopted the decades-old Michigan J. Frog as its croaksman.

“We figured, why wait?” Scalera said. “Let’s make him a part of the CBS image now. Hopefully, he’ll be well-received and became a franchise character that one day will start talking about his own show.”

CBS plans to use Baby Bob sparingly. “We don’t want him to be on too much. We want to create the sense that it’s an event when he’s on, a quirky little treat for people when they tune in,” Scalera said.

Another reason Baby Bob won’t be saturating the CBS airwaves: Execs are concerned that the first few times people see the character, they may be so captivated, they may not focus on the shows he’s trying to sell.

“Our primary job right now is to sell our eight new shows,” he said.

Once the Eye’s fall rollout is complete, CBS may bring back Baby Bob at other points during the season (including, of course, the midseason launch of his own series).

“It’s almost limitless what he’ll be able to do and say,” Scalera said. “He could say almost anything and you’d want to give him a hug.”

Goo-goo Eye

CBS exec VP of marketing George Schweitzer said Baby Bob will also help the Eye break through the promo clutter that fills network TV come August and September.

“In the competitive world of entertainment marketing, we feel that Bob will really connect with viewers,” he said.

Baby Bob was a product of a campaign from Siltanen/Keehn Advertising. Veteran character actor Kenny Campbell (“Herman’s Head”) supplies his voice; different tykes serve as the face of Bob, each replaced when he grows too old.

The “Baby Bob” series, from Viacom Prods. and Paramount Network Television, will star Joely Fisher (“Ellen”) and Jonathan Silverman as his parents.

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