If Mattel could turn back time, they would already be considered the toy industry’s key entertainment property. Since Hollywood already had a long history of being moonstruck with Hasbro, Ketchum and Ketchum Entertainment Marketing (KEM) were asked to help take Mattel in a new direction -- as the leading entertainment toy partner.
In order to create an indelible mark, Ketchum/KEM had to introduce a program that was larger than life. What we discovered was all we actually needed was an 11-inch doll! Knowing Mattel had plans to create a Cher collectible doll for spring 2001 and given Cher’s array of Emmy, Grammy and Oscar awards, the idea of aligning the doll with the entertainment industry was a perfect fit.
Ketchum/KEM approached the production team of NBC’s hit show “Will & Grace” with an un-“believe”-able product placement idea. Together, a storyline was crafted which showcased the doll as the sidekick of Sean Hayes’ Cher-obsessed alter ego “Jack.” At NBC’s request, the team also was able to secure the real-life Cher for a cameo appearance in the episode.
Originally scheduled to air in Q1 2001, the show was eventually slotted for November 16th, as part of their “NBC Super Star Thursday.” But what do you do when you’re about to gain the immediate attention of consumers and the media for a product that won’t be available for another few months? Ketchum quickly worked with Mattel to create a “pre-order” form on barbiecollectibles.com and via a link on nbc.com for fans who wanted to sign up for e-mail updates.
To position Mattel as the premier toy manufacturer for entertainment properties
To create buzz/demand for Mattel’s Celebrity Collector doll line
Ketchum and KEM researched television properties, shows and characters to find a natural “launching pad” for Mattel’s new role. As “Will & Grace” producer Tim Kaiser said in a later interview, “It (the placement) was just a natural fit… It (Jack’s affection for Cher) is a thread that is running through the show already.”
Entertainment Industry; 2) Collectors/fans; and 3) Cher and “Will & Grace” fans
“THE BEAT GOES ON”
Objectives - Position Mattel as the premier toy manufacturer for entertainment properties and create a demand for Mattel’s Celebrity doll line
Ketchum/KEM was able to secure extensive involvement and several close-ups of the Cher doll (and her real-life counterpart) in the “Will & Grace” episode, “Gypsies, Tramps and Weed.” NBC was so pleased with the outcome that it aired the show several months early during their coveted November sweeps timeframe.
More than 22 million people tuned in to watch the Cher doll make her national television debut as a mini-guest star along with Cher and Camryn Manheim.
The week the episode aired, more than 2,100 people signed up on the pre-order page of barbiecollectibles.com.
Media coverage of the doll and the episode included: The New York Times, Entertainment Tonight, Rosie O’Donnell show, Entertainment Weekly (twice), Dateline NBC, Associated Press and AP Online. In addition, the product placement was hailed by PR Week as “Play of the Week” for its creative tactics.
Following the episode’s airing, CNN Showbiz contacted Mattel requesting a feature on the overall celebrity doll line (from James Dean to the Olsen Twins…and, of course, Cher!).
TV Guide requested interviews with Mattel designers and marketing representatives and, subsequently, did a multi-page feature on celebrity/entertainment dolls by Mattel (including the Addams Family, James Dean and more).
Celebrity seedings of products (James Dean dolls to daytime television “rebels” and I Love Lucy dolls to top comediennes) have become the “talk of Hollywood” per some of today’s most influential publicists and Hollywood gurus
Media clamored for footage of Ketchum and Mattel’s subsequent launch event for the 50th Anniversary of the I Love Lucy collectibles. Coverage totaled more than 130 broadcast news segments.