PBS Kids Directs First Branding Pitch at Parents

Faced with increasing competition from cable channels, PBS Kids, the children’s programming arm of the Public Broadcasting Service, is launching its first-ever branding campaign.

The national print effort from One and All pitches parents by highlighting the educational aspect of PBS Kids programs rather than the characters, which include Arthur, Mr. Rogers and Teletubbies, said Mike Lescarbeau, creative director at the Minneapolis agency.

“The best way to talk about the shows was to talk about their effect on kids,” Lescarbeau said. “That allowed [the campaign] to be a brand message, as opposed to just ads for the shows.”

One ad that touts the program Dragon Tales shows a boy in an airplane pose held aloft by his father. The headline: “You can tell him he can’t fly, but he’ll never hear you over the roar of the engines.” Copy explains how the show urges kids to use their imagination, “encouraging him to believe in all kinds of things, especially himself.”

The campaign plays off the “Be more” tagline introduced by PBS agency Fallon Minne-apolis. Though PBS and PBS Kids are separate brands, they share a positioning, and One and All worked closely with Fallon to adopt a theme for PBS Kids, Lescarbeau said. The airplane ad, for instance, is tagged, “Be more empowered.”

Another ad shows a girl climbing atop a stack of books with the headline, “We’ll help her fall in love with books. How she uses them is up to her.” A third execution shows a tot with the headline, “Shhh, the baby is thinking.”

The effort is meant to reinforce the programming’s educational pedigree, particularly among parents who grew up watching PBS 30 years ago, said Lynn Richardson, director of brand promotions at PBS Kids.

“We feel we’re just as relevant and compelling and engaging to kids as ever before,” she said.

The work breaks in November magazines and will run for six months in periodicals such as Parenting, People, Martha Stewart Kids and Redbook, Richardson said. The campaign may be extended, she said.

Previous advertising for PBS Kids had been specific to individual programs, Richardson said.

Spending was not disclosed. PBS had minimal ad expenditures last year, according to CMR.