Posted: Monday, February 28th, 2011
* (worldscreen.com/…)

Power Rangers: Samurai, a new series of the iconic ’90s franchise, premiered on Nickelodeon this month. Saban Brands has revamped the show, bringing it up to date for today’s media savvy children, but has maintained the core elements of the Power Rangers, a group of teens who fight evil and try to make the world better. Elie Dekel, president of Saban Brands, talks about the new series, the marketing efforts and pro-social initiatives around it, and the enduring popularity of this franchise.

TV KIDS: The announcement of the return of Power Rangers stirred up quite a reaction from fans.
DEKEL: It’s really interesting; we’ve awakened a latent love for the property. I’ll give you an example, last November [Saban Brands] launched a Facebook page for Power Rangers: Samurai in conjunction with Nickelodeon’s launch and a few indicators came across that were really quite surprising to us. This happened at Thanksgiving, we started airing trailers announcing Power Rangers is coming to Nick. We also had the Rangers in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Immediately Nick put up a Power Rangers page on their site at nick.com and a kid-friendly chat board. Since that time, it’s now more than two months, it’s been ***Power Rangers: Samurai***the most active page on nick.com and by far the most active chat room.

TV KIDS: What has your research revealed about how children are reacting to Power Rangers: Samurai?
DEKEL: That was a really interesting indicator. We’ve run focus groups with audiences—boy and girl—and what’s fascinating is the remarkable impact Power Rangers has on the target audience, which is 6- to 8-year-olds, boys and girls. When it comes on the screen, they are just riveted. Not only were we thrilled to see that it was like or love for everyone in the room, but when we ran girls’ groups, that’s what we thought would be a base line test and we got great scores from girls. They responded immediately to the girl Rangers. They responded immediately to the cute guys who happen to be our Rangers!

TV KIDS: Our little girls are a little too savvy for their own good!
DEKEL: Age compression has had a huge impact on our business with younger children being exposed to more media sooner.

We’ve also been adapting our messaging. We’re putting a lot of effort into the entertainment focus of the Power Rangers brand that we’ve always had, but now we have more focus on our [pro-social] activity. We have an initiative alongside the show called Power Rangers EmPOWER. It will first start as a comprehensive section on our website, with an EmPOWER for kids, and an EmPOWER for parents tab. And the notion is that as the Power Rangers are extraordinary young people who are empowered to save the world and become heroes, kids also have it within them to be extraordinary, to make good choices, to help others and to take care of themselves, which is important for a Ranger. So the EmPOWER initiative is really geared toward helping kids find their own inner hero, and it focuses on themes of fitness, responsibility and helping others. In addition to providing resources and encouragement through online activity, we are producing PSAs [public service announcements] and policy videos that will run online and on air, and will be available to all our broadcasters to really give kids some context and to channel some of that energy into positive action. These are very timely themes. So we are making that a parallel layer of our strategy.

TV KIDS: What is new and different about Power Rangers: Samurai?
DEKEL: It’s the first time the series has been shot in high definition, which is really quite a remarkable visual impact, because the show is so rich in color, props, rubber monster aliens and miniature buildings! We have a lot of unique special effects and action in our show. And when you see it in the hi-def format, it pops so much more and it adds a texture and a gloss to the show that hadn’t been there, and is reminiscent of some of that campy charm the show had. Again in our research, we found it was an improvement of the show; it was better than what they remembered.

We hired back our original producer, John Tzachor, and he’s been actively producing the first 20 episodes. We are about to start the second 20. We studied the DNA of Power Rangers from the ’90s. We broke it down from a creative standpoint and a visual standpoint to arrive at our own new approach, which is a really paying great attention to that original DNA: stories that have humor and heart and comedy action, a big element. The kids have really responded to it.

TV KIDS: How have Saban Brands and Nickelodeon been promoting the show?
DEKEL: There has been a very aggressive launch initiative by Nickelodeon to bring their audience to this show. In addition to what Nickelodeon has done so far, we have Bandai Toys, who is also supporting the property with their initiatives. Paid media will be going on over the next few months and Saban Brands is also putting a major marketing effort behind the launch.

So we are doing a lot of off-channel initiatives. We’re buying television media off channel. We are launching mobile apps. Over the next weeks and months we are running in-theater trailers that we produced for Power Rangers. We have some out-of-home media—billboards and video boards—in New York and L.A.

TV KIDS: Do you think some of the original fans of Power Rangers will tune in?
DEKEL: The show premiered in ’93, was a phenomenon through ’97 and ’98 and those kids were at that time 6 to 11. So you add 15 to 20 years to that and now these people are in their 20s—some of them are parents. So there is this really strong affinity and a lot of our marketing initiatives are about re-introducing Power Rangers into the popular culture again, where it was for so many years, where there was such a recognition with parents and children and such a personal connection—almost anyone who you mention it to will have a story about themselves or their child dressing up for Halloween, or waiting in line for a toy. And as interesting as it was then, it’s really fascinating now because there is that long-term and very personal connection. So in that respect it’s really gratifying to see how far and wide Power Rangers has touched so many people all around the world.

This is also true on the business side. Power Rangers allows other partners and businesses to be very successful. And now as we bring it back there is a sincere belief in what its potential is and what the possibilities are with this brand. And because it has proven itself that way before, it has changed some of the people I am talking to today—ironically some of them were fans and it’s nice to see young people in our business now.

In some cases Power Rangers has helped establish the careers of some of the people we talk to because it was so successful. And this is true across many different industries: it’s true across retail, it’s true across promotional partners, manufacturers, distributors of all types and then those in the television business. I can’t tell you how many anecdotes I hear. As much as we have stories about waiting in line for a Power Rangers toy, I hear professional stories, “I was the junior buyer in my department and I was on the fast track because Power Rangers gave me the biggest boost in my career.” I also hear, “We put Power Rangers on the air and all of a sudden we were the number one channel, so of course I want it back.” There is some really interesting unity in the belief and the desire to see it work again.