It’s been just over a month since Adult Swim unleashed their April Fool’s Day prank upon the world. For those that don’t recall, the network celebrated the occasion with a bit of a fake-out. Rather than air Tommy Wiseau’s The Room for yet another year, they instead cut to Toonami Mascot Tom, who kicked off a night of classic Toonami. Episodes of Yu Yu Hakusho, Outlaw Star, and Gundam Wing flickered on TV sets across the nation, each punctuated by Tom’s pithy commentary. People set social media afire and captured top spots in the trending Tweets, as they gleefully took in the event. However, in the back of everybody’s mind, they knew it couldn’t last. They knew that, after the sun rose on April 2, Tom would sign off one last time, and Toonami would become but a fleeting memory once again.
Or would it?
The next day, Adult Swim’s Twitter Feed updated with but one message: “Want it back? Let us know. #BringBackToonami” At this point, the game was afoot. The hash tag quickly spread, as people told their tales, and gave spirited pleas to return the block to its former glory. Even Steve Blum, voice actor for Tom, began hammering away, as he urged his followers to get on the bandwagon and post their pleas. After two days of silence, Adult Swim returned to Twitter with their response: “We’ve heard you. Thank you for your passion and interest – stay tuned.”
It would seem as if the customers won, wouldn’t it…? Not quite. Since April 4, Toonami has been somewhat of a dirty word for the official feed. They did not mention the brand, nor did they respond to inquiries about it. They simply went dark on the issue.
Unfortunately, going dark is the worst thing that any company could do from a marketing standpoint. As many know, when a company doesn’t respond, people begin talking amongst each other. And, once that happens, the business loses control of the conversation. Let’s recall the case of Motrin Moms as an example of the extreme case In 2008, Motrin launched an online ad on their website with the following voice-over:
Wearing a baby seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory, it’s a great idea. There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing,
wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free. Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the body tend to cry less than others. But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies tend to cry more than those who don’t. I sure do! These things put a ton of strain on your bac, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back? I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my id. Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.
To be blunt, the ad went over like a fart in church. According to Likeable Social Media, Mom-bloggers took to the web, and people flooded the company’s Twitter account. A YouTube video of mothers’ reactions was posted, and went viral. Unfortunately for Motrin, the ad was posted on a Saturday, and their ad agency only worked the 9-5 shift. So, for two whole days, the story festered and rage grew online. Even though the company pulled the ad that Monday and issued an apology, the damage was done, and the brand was stained. People saw Motrin as the company that demeaned moms across the globe, and nothing the company could do would bring control back into their realm.
In Adult Swim’s case, the story was nowhere near as severe. The real chatter has revolved mainly around when, if, and how the company would roll out a Toonami revival, if it were to do so. Voice Actor Steve Blum’s led the charge to bring the block back, as he rallied his followers and drove the #BringBackToonami hash tag to trend on Saturday nights. People have talked, begged, and pleaded with the non-responsive account to no avail. The first real response since April 2 came about on May 8, when the company posted a single tweet: “This is Amazing. #Toonami rap by Richie Branson – ow.ly/aMAlo”
The video was a simple salute to Toonami – a wish for a return to a simpler time by nerdcore rapper Richie Branson. It also came to many people’s utter surprise when Adult Swim promoted it.
While part of the company’s silence can be attributed to a lacking social media presence (the company posts an average of 1.1 tweets per day,to 147,543 followers), one can’t help but wonder if part of the company’s internal strategy. By being intentionally vague, Adult Swim can ensure that the discussion will continue. As discussion continues, so long as the company doesn’t shoot down the concept outright, people will continue to market the Toonami brand unprompted. They will serve as sneezers, and continue to spread word, and repeat every morsel of information that may travel through the pipeline.
If the company is planning to revive Toonami, they certainly wouldn’t do it in the midst of a broadcast season. This is something that’s set in stone, due to agreements with various content providers. Realistically, the earliest we’d see any movement on such a move would be the start of the summer broadcast season, which would give Blum enough time to get into the booth and record new dialogue, while they ready agreements for both new and old items to place in the broadcast lineup. However, to keep the illusion running, to keep people talking will ensure that the block continues to see strong performances even after the initial night. At the same time, continuing to acknowledge viewer input will continue to cement the notion that Toonami returned due to their efforts and their passion. This will ensure that people feel invested in the brand, in the sense that they will feel some ownership. Ideally, this will manifest in a sense of responsibility to see that it remains a success, and a continued emphasis from this audience to snare new viewers.
And, of course, there is also the possibility that Adult Swim didn’t expect the reaction to their prank, and they’re currently scrambling to cobble together a working block in short order to capitalize on the popularity boost. Things will become more clear, as the network finally begins opening on on the matter, and what sorts of lineup they begin showing off if a Toonami revival becomes a reality.