Add Disney Channel to the list of networks desperately trying to lure millennials to their programming.
At first glance, it would seem the kids network—which is aimed at children age 6-14 and their families—has nothing to offer millennials, aside from programming for their kids, some of whom are now old enough to watch themselves. (Disney Channel launched nationally in 1983.) But the network has rolled out its broadcast and most millennial-targeted marketing campaign ever for tonight's premiere of Adventures in Babysitting, tapping into that audience's nostalgia for both the original film and Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOM).
Adventures in Babysitting, Disney Channel's 100th original movie, is a remake of the 1987 comedy, which starred Elisabeth Shue as a teen babysitter who ends up taking her charges on a wild adventure around Chicago. Disney Channel's version, airing tonight at 7 p.m., follows a similar storyline but features two babysitters, played by Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson.
Tonight's premiere caps the network's four-week celebration of DCOMs, which began with Under Wraps in 1997. Over Memorial Day Weekend, Disney aired 51 of its most popular DCOMs (including High School Musical, Teen Beach Movie, Descendants and Camp Rock), and continued its DCOM marathon into June by bringing back another 48 films.
Between Adventures in Babysitting and the DCOMs, "there is a very clear and direct connection with the millennial audience, and there's this nostalgia connection with the kids who grew up with us many years ago," said Richard Loomis, svp and CMO, Disney Channels Worldwide. "Millennials love this movie, and this is their chance to connect this movie and Disney Channel with a new generation, and hopefully their family, friends and kids."
So Loomis expanded the usual marketing campaign to add several elements targeted specifically at millennials. While the network previously reached out to the demo for the 2014 launch of Girl Meets World, the revival of the '90s hit sitcom Boy Meets World, it wasn't able to replicate that marketing strategy given how much social media marketing has evolved since then. "Things are changing incredibly quickly, so I wouldn't say there's any blueprint in terms of what we did in the past," said Loomis.
As Disney looked to reach millennials with its campaign, "social is a critical, core component to getting Adventures in Babysitting out there to this audience," said Loomis, who started by centering some elements around AMC's rebroadcast of the original movie about a month ago. Disney purchased ad time and aired the trailer during the film, while deploying Facebook promoted posts targeting millennials around the time of that broadcast. "We started a bit of a social media conversation," said Loomis.
The company aired the Adventures in Babysitting trailer in more than 4,600 theaters during Finding Dory via NationalCineMedia's (NCM) Full Network. The network chose Finding Dory not only because it was from its company, but it also appealed to a similar audience who watched the original film (in this case, Finding Nemo) when they were younger and were feeling nostalgic about it. It added a geo-targeted Snapchat activation in select theaters, which was a first for Disney Channel marketing.
Loomis' team created 27 different promo spots for Adventures in Babysitting, including one that mashes up the original film's most iconic moments with scenes from the remake. It was pushed out on Wednesday via various social channels, including sister network Freeform, as a #TBT (Throwback Thursday).
To reach millennials who love '80s and '90s teen comedies, Disney used YouTube preroll ads featuring both Adventures in Babysitting and 100th DCOM content.
In addition to reaching out to the millennial audiences of its sister network Freeform, Disney Channel tried to connect with ABC's viewers. "Nobody does millennials better than Freeform. Both in terms of linear and social, they have been great partners with us," said Loomis of the former ABC Family network, which has run several Adventures in Babysitting promos on air, via social media and its apps, and gave viewers a sneak peek at Adventure in Babysitting's first 10 minutes on its app.
ABC is also doing its part for social outreach, with themed promos featuring key babysitting moments from its hit family comedies like Modern Family, Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.
During tonight's premiere, Disney Channel will host a livestream on YouTube, which will feature stars from the film (as well as Bizaardvark, the new series which premieres after the movie) and have extensions on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Vine. "It's an interesting experiment," said Loomis. "We think we'll engage families, but also millennials."
If Disney Channel is successfully able to attract millennials, Adventures in Babysitting could draw an even larger audience than the 12.2 million (in live-plus-7) who tuned in for last summer's big original movie, Descendants, making it the No. 5 cable TV movie of all time.
Loomis said the network will continue its millennial outreach, even after Adventures in Babysitting premieres tonight. "We hope they will stick around a bit," he said.