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Toymax: 80s Toys Make a Comeback

Paul Holmes 09 Jul 2002

This campaign conceived and implemented on behalf of Toymax was very effective at helping Toymax 1.) drive consumer awareness for the re-launch of Popples, My Pet Monster and Activision Games, some of the most popular toys and video games of the 1980s and to 2.) make the products trendy for a new generation of children and parents.  Southard Communications implemented a strategic consumer media campaign designed to take advantage of a growing consumer affinity for 80’s trends to drive publicity for Toymax toys.   By affiliating the toys with modern day celebrities and a growing trend towards 80’s nostalgia, the program generated significant consumer publicity for Toymax products throughout 2001.
 
Challenge
 
Execute an impactful program for under $100,000 total.
 
Via a licensing agreement with American Greetings, Toymax was the exclusive manufacturer of Popples and My Pet Monster plush characters.  The popularity these toys, nearly 20 years ago, was primarily driven by the success of an animated series.  However, there were no plans for an animated children’s series during the products’ re-launch in 2001.
 
The program needed to inspire young moms, who remembered Popples (colorful, fluffy creatures that roll-up in to a ball) and My Pet Monster from their childhood, to purchase the plush characters for their child. The program also needed to appeal to a new generation of tweens.
 
One of the key tactics of the program, the Popples Pop Culture Charity Auction, was announced post-September 11, a period during which feature coverage was limited.
 
During the year of the Xbox and Game Cube, the program needed to generate national press for Toymax 10 in 1 TV Games, an inexpensive and portable plug-in video game based on classic Activision video games.
 
Planning Process/Objectives
 
Southard Communications worked with Toymax and American Greetings to identify the nostalgic news angles about the toys that would appeal to adults today who remember the characters from the 1980s.  We also identified trendsetters of present day who could help make Popples a “must have” for today’s kids, primarily girls 4+.
 
Strategic Approach/Execution
 
Popples Pop Culture Celebrity Charity Auction – To help market Popples to the mainstream, Southard Communications coordinated an auction by which popular celebrities and fashion designers created self-inspired Popples to be auctioned for charity on eBay  (November 16 – 26, 2001).  Celebrity participants, who donated their time for no cost, included Christina Ricci, Melissa Joan Hart, Ananda Lewis, Rachel Lee Cook, Jessica Biel, Nicole Miller, Tiffany (80’s pop star) and Shoshanna.  All proceeds went to the Starbright Foundation. 
 
Toy Fair – Executed an aggressive media outreach campaign at Toy Fair 2001 to set the stage for the Popples comeback.  Over 65 media toured the Toymax showroom.
 
Trade – Placed trend stories about the revival of 80s toys in industry trade publications.
 
Costumed Character In Market Appearances – During Toy Fair and the Fall holiday season, Toymax sent out Popples and My Pet Monster costumed characters into hi-traffic locations (throughout NYC and to major malls.
 
Popples at Fashion Week – Seventh of Sixth, which took place simultaneously with Toy Fair, was an opportunity to position Popples as a trendy teen collectible.  Toymax partnered with Girls Rule, the only teen show at Fashion Week, to include Popples plush key chains in the gift bags, distributed to over 1500 attendees.  The key chains were tagged with the message “Popples Rule.”
 
Teaser Mailing – Immediately prior to launch on store shelves, teaser gift boxes were distributed to over 150 influential press.  The gift boxes were tagged with three riddles to which items representing the answers “Pop”corn, Lolli”Pop”and “Pop”ples were gift wrapped inside.  The teaser was also distributed to top retail buyers and fast food chain promotions executives.
 
B-roll – Produced a b-roll package to generate TV news coverage in top markets; for a minimal charity donation, Popples designers, Melissa Joan Hart and Ananda Lewis, provided sound bytes.
 
Radio Promotions – Southard Communications coordinated ‘Blast from the Past” radio promotions in 10 top markets.  The promotions, by which prize packages of Popples and other Toymax toys were awarded to listeners who correctly answered 80’s trivia questions, ran on top FM pop music stations in each market.
 
Holiday Open House - Hosted a “Christmas Party” in June to showcase the Toymax toys to prominent long-lead consumer magazine editors.
 
Results
 
The program generated over 68 million + consumer impressions via print and broadcast publicity.
 
Toymax toys and news about the Popples Auction appeared in national and top market newspapers and syndicates including articles in USA Today, Associated Press, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The Detroit Free Press (Knight Ridder), The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Asbury Park Press and many others.
 
Prominent national magazine product placements included TIME, Rosie, Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly, O The Oprah Magazine, FamilyFun, Time Digital, Family Life and many more.
 
News reports about the revival of 80s Toys and the Popples auction appeared on Bloomberg Television, CNN, Good Day Los Angeles, Detroit WXYZ evening news, Philadelphia WPHL evening news, Dallas KDAF evening news, Good Day Atlanta, Good Day New York and several other programs.
 
Promotions and product giveaways appeared on Girls Life Online, M Magazine and American Cheerleader.
 
Ten Radio Promotions promoting Toymax “Blast from the Past” toy prize packages ran on top market stations, without any advertising buy required.  Top FM Stations included WPLJ (New York), WPTP (Philadelphia), KHMX (Houston), KDMX (Dallas), WNND (Chicago), WBZ (Boston), WMVX (Cleveland) and others.  Total promotional value exceeded $106,000.
 
The Popples auction generated several million consumer impressions alone via print and broadcast news reports, celebrity fan sites and on ebay.

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