With partnerships ranging from clothing retailer dELiA*s to sites like WildTangent and Webkinz and of course, the presence of its own Disney-branded site, Jessie targeted its tween fans where they shop and play. The show’s titular character, a nanny, lives a hectic life with four rambunctious kids, and Disney reflected that game of tug-of-war in its online world. And with Disney veteran Debby Ryan (and a seven-foot pet lizard) at its center, the star power was blinding.
“Debby herself is very involved with the digital world, so we work very closely with her,” said Richard Loomis, SVP and CMO of Disney Channels Worldwide. “Because she already had an awareness and relationship with our network and with our fans, we were able to develop a lot of great marketing and promotional content that obviously drove the needle on this.”
Before the series premiere, Ryan hosted a sneak preview filled with clips and behind-the-scenes footage, which Disney distributed on its Web platforms, and a free preview episode streamed online was sought it out by fans in hordes. Show-based games are already a staple for Disney fans, and Jessie’s branded site was no different, offering online pastimes from hide and seek, a helicopter ride and weekly episodic quizzes to an entire Ultimate Lizard Lounge dedicated to the fans’ favorite reptilian character. The Jessie page also created its own kid-friendly version of Twitter and Facebook, allowing the show’s fans to give online shout-outs to their friends, their favorite characters on the show or share their overall thoughts.
“In the world of digital, there are many elements,” Loomis said. “For a majority of our audience, while they’re aware of social media, it’s not necessarily how and where they’re spending their time. Where they are spending their time digitally is squarely within the world of games and video. On our site video and games continue to be key drivers.”
All of the digital teases paid off with the show pulling 4.6 million viewers for its series premiere, making it Disney Channel’s most-watched Friday premiere in three years.