The Future Of Retro: Captain Planet And The Power Of Social Media

The nature of trends is to die out—especially on television. So last Earth  Day, I was amazed to see Captain Planet, the star of the 1990s TV series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” trending worldwide on Twitter. Don’t get me  wrong—I love Cap. He was one of my favorite “stars” to work with when I was vice  president of PR at Turner Broadcasting. After all, he had great hair (how could  you not love that green mullet?), a catchy theme song, and a message you could  really get behind—and not just because it was my job.

SuperHeroBut was it possible that the world’s first  eco-superhero could still have a growing fan base 15 years after he went off the  air? To find out, I asked Barbara Pyle, executive producer and co-creator of the  award-winning TV series with Ted Turner.

“Anything is possible with the Planeteer Movement!” exclaims Pyle, with her  signature burst of infectious enthusiasm.

Q: So what is this Planeteer Movement? I don’t recall that being part  of the TV series.

A: Young adults who call themselves Planeteers for  real have networked themselves together using social media. The brand and  message of Captain Planet are very much alive and more relevant than ever for  the millennial generation. Today, the Planeteer Movement’s Captain Planet  Facebook page has well over half a million fans, with 60% in the 18-24 range,  and another 30% in the 25-34. That kind of advocacy and brand loyalty is  something you can’t buy.

Q: That’s pretty impressive! What made Captain Planet and the  Planeteers stick?

A: It was more than a cartoon. Its empowering message of  collaboration, diversity, and sustainability became the hallmark of this  generation. As kids, they identified with the Planeteers, who created Captain  Planet out of their combined powers to do the heavy lifting while they did the  real work themselves!

Now as young adults, they not only believe they have the power to make a  difference, they have a commitment as the stakes are far greater. They’re  building local Planeteer Networks around the world using Facebook Groups to plan  meetings and projects. These Planeteers have become the empowered global  citizens Ted and I always hoped the fans would grow up to be. ‘The Power is  Yours!’ is not just a slogan to them—it’s a shared worldview.

Q: It must be very exciting to find “your peeps” still using Captain  Planet’s call to action created over two decades ago. How did you first meet  them?

A:It all started with my retro Captain Planet tote bag. I  get asked about it every day. I was carrying it with me when a group of young  Planeteers approached me, as they immediately recognized it. We started talking  and they told me how the show still affects their daily decisions and even their  career choices. They wanted to hook up with me on Facebook, so I joined. That  was 2009.

Once a member, I looked to see if people were saying anything about my  favorite superhero. They were—I was stunned to see that Captain Planet had over  200,000 fans already on Facebook. People were tweeting about him constantly, and  the theme song had millions of views. What?! That’s when I first  started thinking about the potential impact of networking these passionate fans.

Q: How did you harness all that energy?

A: I invited five of the most committed of these grown-up  Planeteers to “combine their powers” and organize the Planeteer web presence  that could connect these fans globally. We scheduled conference calls in  mid-June. By July 4, they had built one of the cleanest, hippest websites  ever.

We officially launched the Planeteer Movement worldwide on September 15,  2010, the 20th Anniversary of Captain Planet’s first  broadcast.

Q: How did social media come into play?

A: We partnered with an existing Australian fan page to  create the Planeteer Movement’s Captain Planet Facebook page and it’s growing  exponentially. Volunteer Planeteers set up a Twitter account, @PlaneteerAlert,  where we hold Twitter parties with cool swag and ‘twittersodes’ enacted by  character accounts tweeting the original episodes. CaptainPlanetTube is the  YouTube channel where Planeteers post everything from retro content to current  events.

All of this has been powered by the Planeteers—completely word of mouth,  completely grassroots—with no real professional marketing or PR to drive  membership.

Q: sounds like all this online activity results in a lot of  real-world action.

A: In February, I visited the Ghana Planeteers in West  Africa with Laura Turner Seydel, chairperson, Captain Planet Foundation. It was  truly inspirational to meet their partners, attend a monthly clean-up, and visit  one of the schools where they screen episodes for their Planeteer kids’ club. In  Los Angeles, Planeteers celebrated reaching 500,000 Facebook fans with some  famous Planeteer “stars” like Ed Begley, Jr., Kath Soucie (the voice of Linka on the show), and Efren Ramirez (Ma-Ti in the “Funny or Die” spoof with Don  Cheadle).

Planeteers in New York are preparing for the United Nations Rio+20 Conference  on Sustainable Development in June. And the Atlanta Planeteers created a “Planeteer Rap+20” music video for the Rio+20 Global Rockstar Music Contest with  lyrics by Nick Boxer, the Co-Executive Producer on the original series who  created the series’ theme song.

On Sunday, April 22, Boomerang has programmed a 12-hour marathon of “Captain  Planet and the Planeteers.”And, of course, we would love to see Cap  trend on Twitter again!

The Planeteer Movement will celebrate Earth Day by kicking off a “Go Planet” campaign: By posting videos, Facebook statuses, Tweeting with the hashtag  #GoPlanet, Planeteers worldwide will share their personal commitments to make  the world a better place.

If social marketing is about building trust and advocacy, we are there. The  Planeteers are always interested in strategic partnerships that add value, so  I’d encourage anyone to join us—this is about creating a sustainable future, and  that’s going to take a lot of combining our powers. Email us at: Partners@PlaneteerMovement.org.

Photo courtesy of Jim DeNuccio

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