Give Into The P.I.E: A Discussion On Toonami’s New Paid Immersion Events

by Macattack


The last couple of weeks have been interesting, hasn’t it? Adult Swim got paid to specially advertise Oblivion, the new sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. Usually, when Adult Swim gets paid to advertise something, they throw up comedic bumps during Sunday premieres. But this time, we got something significantly different. Toonami got to be the starring vehicle for this paid promotion, and we got one hell of an advertisement for Oblivion.

It acted in the fashion of a Total Immersion Event, the classic Toonami specials that ran from 2000 to 2003. It’s not the same as a Total Immersion Event, though. While it had a storyline over the two weeks it ran (TOM trying to crack some code and visuals), its purpose was to sell us on Oblivion and get people talking about the movie on Twitter.

For the first week, Toonami made this event quite sudden and surprising. Using blurry and distorted images and sound during the first week to make Oblivion seem mysterious and quite intense, Toonami’s presentation got people talking about Oblivion right away. The second week provided a proper advertisement and a scene from the movie, and that also succeeded in getting Oblivion trending on Twitter for a second week in a row.

This says a lot about Toonami’s future as a block. Toonami was paid by Oblivion’s marketing department to do this two-week event. As far as Toonami’s crew has been telling us, the expectations for the two-week event were met and then some. It got people discussing the movie. It got this potential new sci-fi tentpole noticed among the sea of powerhouse franchise sequels glutting the summer 2013 season. Getting exposure when there is so many huge movies being released, from multiple Marvel films to Man of Steel to Catching Fire to the finale of the Twilight movie saga is no small feat.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the money received from marketing Oblivion helped Toonami pay for its new look premiering on April 27th and for One Piece which will premiere May 18th.

However, despite the narrative, it isn’t a true Total Immersion Event. It’s an ad, plain and simple. A creative ad conjured up by the Toonami crew, mind you, but when you get down to it we basically got a really sweet-looking couple weeks of movie trailers. That’s why the term “PIE” has been popping up to describe the Oblivion advertisements.

As we all know, “pie” is a good thing. It doesn’t matter what kind of pie. There are many pies. Cherry, apple, French silk, etc. It’s all good, and everyone has its favorite. Toonami’s version, the Paid Immersion Event (thus, “PIE”), is much the same way. We’re probably going to see more of these pop up over the course of 2013 and beyond, where we get to see a short narrative surrounding something Toonami was paid to advertise.

However, when you eat too much pie in real life, you get sick. That’s the risk Toonami is taking here. Right now, we’re happy with the PIE Toonami served us. It gave Toonami a bigger budget, money invested in a truly new, original look for the block and new shows. Those are good things. And it’s a good thing Toonami succeeded with the PIE they ran, too, which means we’ll get more of them, and if Toonami succeeds in those, the block will get more money which means more good stuff for us (and, hopefully, the staff finally getting paid for all of their trouble).

But you can have too much of a good thing. Toonami ran a good balance of content it was paid to run in the TOM 3.5 era along with content produced solely for entertaining us. But the risk here is that we could be served with more PIEs as we go along here as the block proves itself as a viable advertising entity. That’s why Toonami’s lineup has become increasingly more mainstream since its revival as well, starting May 18th the first two hours of the block will be devoted to highly accessible shonen action titles, three of whom fall under the “Shonen Jump” banner.

There’s nothing evil about it, that’s just business. The big reason Toonami got put back on the air is that the April 1st, 2012 joke airing proved to be a ratings success, which means that advertisers will want to pay to run their ads during the block. As a whole, Toonami’s ratings have gone up over Adult Swim Action’s ratings from 2011-12, which shows Adult Swim made a good investment in reviving the block.

But now comes the return on investment. And thankfully, Toonami has succeeded in that so far.

I guess the point I’m making is that Toonami should prime these PIEs carefully. They’re a sweet treat, but if we have too many PIEs, we’ll get sick of them. Part of Toonami’s appeal, after all, is that the block is more than just a corporate entity. It’s something genuinely fun and entertaining, produced with love by a team of people passionate about what we do, and we’re equally passionate in watching what Toonami gives us. Too many PIEs run the risk of over-emphasizing the business reality. And that, unfortunately, could cause the opposite of what Toonami and Toonami’s fans want to see happen.

I think that Toonami’s crew are smart enough to know the value of PIEs and how many should be run and how far they should be spaced apart. Their intelligence is what’s helped the block get this far. But there can be too much of a good thing.

But we’ll see. We’ll have all of 2013 to watch and find out how many more PIEs Toonami plans on serving us.

Yum . . .?