Update: Elmo, Big Bird Take on Barney as 'Sesame Street' Rolls out Kids Club

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There's a new kids club on the street -- Sesame Street. Sesame Street launched its first-ever affinity club last week, which it will promote through direct mail packages, an inbound teleservices campaign and the Web.


Mailings for the Sesame Street Laugh and Learn Club, which will target preschoolers ages 1 to 4, have started going out, but there will be no direct mail packages exclusively promoting the club. Instead, fliers, package inserts and notices will be included with its other products and publications, said Caroline Farnsworth, vice president of new business development for the publishing group at Children's Television Workshop, New York, whose primary property is Sesame Street.


"The goal of this first phase is to test and see what's out there, if there is going to be a big enough market," she said. "We will be sending out notices in our CD-ROM continuity program, our new business subscriber and renewal mailings for our magazines, and an eventual direct e-mail campaign. What we are looking for is also to find out what the best method of acquiring members is going to be."


Farnsworth would not disclose the actual number of pieces going out. "[At] this stage, testing and finding what the opportunity is more important than the number of mailings," she said.


Indeed, Elmo, Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are going up against a rather large competitor in the kids' club world -- Barney the dinosaur and his Barney Buddies Club. Sesame Street will target the 1.1 million subscribers to its Sesame Street Magazine, which is geared toward preschoolers. People outside the Sesame Street database also will be targeted with mailings that are regularly sent to potential subscribers for its three magazines.


The primary source of acquisitions for the affinity club, which has an annual membership fee of $9.99, will be through the inbound teleservices campaign. Sesame Street will include the 1-800-BIG-BIRD number on its retail products and product packaging. The toll-free number also will appear at the end of the Sesame Street TV show. Other areas where the club will be promoted include an online promotion at the CTW Web site at www.sesamestreet.com, the Sesame Street Parents Magazine and other Sesame Street licensees. Each response will be tracked to its origin, while new respondents will be entered into its database.


Farnsworth said the size of the official rollout will depend on the results it sees from the test campaign. The major campaign will take place late this year or early next year. The fulfillment package includes a number of educational toys and games such as a Sesame Street alphabet board book, story cards and an Elmo magnetic frame and poster.


"The big difference between our club and the others that are out there is that there is an element of learning in every aspect of the club," she said. "It is all designed so that the kids can learn and have fun at the same time."


Sesame Street decided to launch an affinity club to promote and extend the brand as well as celebrate the TV show's 30th year. Parents who sign up their children will receive The Sesame Street Laugh and Learn Times, a quarterly newsletter with information on events, celebrity visits on the show, new product announcements, members-only discounts as well as a special pull-out activity section for children.
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