Riding a Straight Edge of Success10 Dec, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Razor & Tie’s Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam have built a major entertainment company by capitalizing on the power of direct response.
Looking for music for their kids, who weren’t quite ready for some pop music and too old for children’s songs, Chenfeld and Balsam came up with the idea for Kidz Bop earlier this decade. Chenfeld calls it music “between Barney and Britney and Elmo and Eminem.”
The idea was to have parent-approved pop songs sung by children, for children. So the duo picked the music, recorded the songs with children and went to a playground in New Jersey to film children playing and singing for the DRTV spot. That first eight-month DR campaign (in 2001) was a massive success, and now there are 16 volumes of Kidz Bop, not including secondary titles such as the Halloween or Christmas specials. Kidz Bop has sold more than 14 million CDs, and 10 consecutive albums have made it into the Billboard Top 10. Each CD is released the same way — first through DRTV and then to retail five-to-six weeks later.
Kidz Bop also has gone multi-channel, in that the brand now includes an interactive Web site (almost like a Facebook for kids in which they can post videos and have discussions). Kidz Bop is also available on VOD channels on cable providers Comcast and Cox. Chenfeld considers KidzBop.com its own social networking platform for posting music and having contests. The site is currently undergoing a revamp that will enable kids to communicate more easily and seamlessly.
“It’s the only place kids can have this experience in an environment that is comfortable and safe,” says Chenfeld. And he adds that KidzBop.com is already promoting offers from third parties on the site and will eventually add a subscriber option for users.
This past spring, McDonald’s gave away tens of millions of Kidz Bop CDs with the purchase of a Happy Meal, helping continue Kidz Bop’s growth into one of the biggest “tween” brands in the United States. Kidz Bop 17 will hit the air in December and stores at the end of January.
“The CDs are still the core of it, although it extends in all directions,” says Chenfeld. “It is really driven by the DR stuff we do on television. There are endless discussions on the migration out of TV, but it’s still incredibly powerful and will be for some time. Although we’re rapidly moving into digital capabilities, our competitive advantage is still primarily on the TV side. TV is not dead at all. CDs aren’t dead either.”