Disney’s New Potty Pitch Turns Bathroom Run Into a Commercial Enterprise

Leave it to the folks at Walt Disney to figure out how to transform a potty break into a commercial break.

When parents and kids sit down at the company’s new “Disney Junior Dance Party on Tour,” which opens its first show today in California, they will be urged to stand up – and pay a visit to the bathroom before the show starts. It’s all part of a preschool pre-show sponsored by Pull-Ups, the Kimberly-Clark “training pants” extension of Huggies that the consumer-products giant aims at kids between the ages of 2 and 3 (and the parents who might make a purchase on their behalf).

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“There aren’t a ton of opportunities to reach them,” says Julie Kluka, brand manager for Pull-Ups, speaking about parents of active kids. “We have a strong belief that the audience for this event is going to include parents with children who are likely going to be thinking about potty training – or potty training at some point. The Pull-Ups should be relevant to them.”

Disney’s new diaper demonstration lends support to media companies moving strongly into new event businesses and so-called “experiential marketing.” The theory is that fans of movie and TV properties want more to do with them beyond their 30-minute or hour-long on-air run each week or a visit to the movie theater, and that advertisers will want to reach them at new points of encounter. Sponsorship spending is expected to grow 4.5% in North America in 2018 to $24.2 billion, according to ESP, a WPP-owned agency that tracks ad deals in support of events, teams, venues and the like. Spending across the world in the category is seen increasing 4.9% to $65.8 billion.

Live events help consumers “experience the brand first hand, and not through a screen,” says Jerry Daniello, senior vice president of integrated marketing for Disney|ABC Television Group.

Viacom is also working to create new live experiences for fans of its TV properties. Its Comedy Central cable outlet is readying its second annual “Clusterfest,”a three-day festival that this year is supposed to include appearance by Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, Trevor Noah and Tiffany Haddish, among others. Nickelodeon has a “Slimefest” planned for June in Chicago that boasts visits by Zedd, Flo Rida and JoJo Siwa.

The visitors attending the Disney Junior event are just as famous in certain circles. Attendees will see Doc McStuffins, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Sofia The First, Puppy Dog Pals, Elena of Avalor, Vampirina, The Lion Guard and other mainstays from the younger-skewing cable outlet.  The show is built to be flexible so that new properties like Fancy Nancy, slated to debut on the cable network this summer, can be added to the line-up, says Jennifer Rogers Doyle, senior vice president of brand development and integrated planning at Disney Channels Worldwide.

During the dance party, slated to be held in 60 different cities, audiences will see a 15-minute pre-show during which hosts teach them different moves to use during the presentation and remind parents of how much time is left before the program begins. As part of the proceedings, a song plays that focuses on kids’ first milestones and echoes the Pull-Ups slogan, “I’m A Big Kid Now.” Disney turned to Beau Black, a singer and songwriter who has written all the songs that appear in the Disney Junior series “The Lion Guard,” among other properties, for the tune. One lyrical line:  “Hold Up – get’cha swag on with your Pull Ups, and put ’em back on.”

Ads are typically rare in theatrical productions, because their appearance in a live stage show could distract the audience. But Madison Avenue has occasionally found an intersection with Broadway, and figured out ways to get products on stage as part of an advertising deal.

The Pull-Ups aren’t meant to yank anyone away of the entertainment, says Rogers Doyle.  “It’s not really a commercial in the sense of them trying to sell you product. They are acknowledging the experience moms go through with their children, and then it’s sponsored by Huggies. It’s a different approach.””

In the past, Disney worked with Feld Entertainment to put on tours associated with its properties, including one called “Disney Junior Live on Tour! Pirate and Princess Adventure.” The company is putting on the Disney Junior show more directly, with Red Light Management producing. The live show is inspired by the “Disney Junior Dance Party!” attraction at Disney California Adventure.

The ad pact is part of a broader alliance Disney has with Kimberly-Clark, which also makes Kleenex tissues and Kotex feminine care products. Kimberly Clark is a sponsor of certain attractions at Disney’s parks.

The big advertiser has also been a backer of content with similar themes on Disney Junior itself.  Fans of the network will likely know of “Nina Needs to Go,” a series of animated shorts about a young girl who is constantly distracted from some adventure by a need to relieve herself.  No matter the venue, Disney is helping the diaper manufacturer soak up attention.


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