Best Promotions of the Year

November 1, 1998


Overall Promotion


‘Find Godzilla and Win’

Godzilla and Taco Bell’s Chihuahua-centered ‘Find Godzilla and Win’ promotion was unanimously applauded among the tough-to-impress promotions community. Playing up the ‘Size matters’ theme with both its diminutive Chihuahua and oversized Gordita food product, the ‘Find Godzilla and Win’ promotion was a perfect fit for movie marketers, steadfastly keeping the monster under wraps. Mark Workman, senior VP of global strategic marketing at Columbia Motion Pictures Group, provided excellent synergy between the movie’s promotions and McCann-Erickson L.A.’s ad campaigns, spearheaded by mucho talented agency creative Dana Precis.

To play the game, consumers purchased the Taco Bell product, peeled off the game piece and used a decoder to hunt for the elusive Godzilla. Movie partners Harley-Davidson, Sony Electronics and Discman CD Players provided instant prizes. But the standout in the campaign was the initial ‘Trap’ commercial, with the line, ‘Here, lizard, lizard, lizard,’ uttered by the Chihuahua while attempting to lure Godzilla into what he realizes is a pathetically small box. The ad spot not only reinforced the movie marketers’ ‘don’t show the monster’ strategy, it catapulted the pooch into cult status, culminating later this year in the introduction of a consumer-products talking Chihuahua plush that utters, among other things, ‘Here, lizard, lizard, lizard.’

Honorable Mentions

‘Blue’s Clues Birthday’

Nickelodeon’s ‘Blue’s Clues Birthday’ promotion tapped in to toddlers’ collective obsession with the natal observance-and won praise among the promotions community for its ubiquitous visibility, from grocery shelves to fast-food bags to national magazines, and a lot of surprising places in between. An unprecedented campaign for preschool, its high-quality premiums and appealing images of the birthday dog, Blue, inspired even Teletubbies promoters to remark, ‘nice job.’ One notable coup for the campaign was landing partner Mott’s, which was ‘incredibly reluctant to tie in with the property,’ notes Pam Kaufman, VP of promotions marketing for Nickelodeon. The normally low-profile company ended up not only participating, but selling product at numerous retailers where its products had never appeared before. Specially created Blue’s Clues Berry applesauce six-packs, on-pack orders for a Blue’s Clues birthday toy and a recipe for birthday cake using the azure applesauce, plus Subway’s well-wrought premiums, all made the campaign ‘instantly relevant’ to toddlers and their parents.

The Rugrats Movie

Nickelodeon’s The Rugrats Movie promotion-with film prints and advertising well in excess of US$100 million-takes the cake for being the largest promotional launch for a kids franchise that anyone we talked to had ever heard of. Nickelodeon aimed to partner only with the ‘biggest and best,’ and big is what it got with partnerships like Burger King’s largest Kids Club promotion ever; a first-ever specially created Campbell’s soup; Mott’s biggest promotion in history, encompassing 120 million packages; an unprecedented movie ticket giveaway on boxes of Post Cereals; a soundtrack sampler cassette giveaway at Blockbuster; a Kraft Singles cheese deal; and what has been touted as the largest car partnership for a feature film on record, with Lincoln Mercury Villager. Lincoln Mercury committed US$25 million in U.S. print and TV advertising to promote the movie. Just try to avoid this movie promotion this November-we dare you!

Best Overall Branding Campaign

Disney’s One Saturday Morning

In its second year, Disney’s One Saturday Morning block pumped up its already strong image-building efforts with the addition of youthful on-air hosts like Doug Porkchop, who guide kids through the two-hour block with humor and antics. Bolstering the block’s ‘event TV’ approach were both off-air and on-air ads and promos that underscored the uniqueness of the Disney’s One Saturday Morning destination, highlighting the idea that Saturday morning happens only once a week and must be enjoyed wisely. For the third season, which kicked off this fall, a national promotion that launched at Toys `R’ Us in September reaches kids even further away from their TV screens, offering grand prizes of a US$10,000 toy shopping spree, the bounty of which is to be delivered in a truck covered in a Disney’s One Saturday Morning wrapping.

Best In-Pack Promotion

‘Scope It Out’

Nickelodeon’s US$20-million ‘Scope It Out’ promotion included an in-pack extravaganza with 16 Kraft Kids brands, which offered kids a red film decoder ‘Nickel-O-Scope’ to decode secret messages on-air and on a three-foot, in-pack Hey Arnold! poster in Kraft’s Post Cereals products. The high-tech edge of the campaign proved as provocative as last year’s ‘Nogglevision’ promotion, and kids could hardly wait to check out the whole interactive experience. The two-week effort provided the perfect kickoff to the overall branding wizardry behind Nick’s debuting prime-time block, Nickel-O-Zone.

Most Awesome Kids Sweepstakes

‘Get Tooned’

Creators of Cartoon Network’s ‘Get Tooned’ promotion scored a winning image campaign designed to ‘get people tooned in as many ways as possible,’ according to Craig McAnsh, senior VP of marketing. Yet, it was the promotion’s grand prize that made kids most animated: the chance to star in an original Cartoon Network toon to air during prime time, along with a trip to Hollywood. While adults and kids were eligible, the promotion winner was 11-year-old girl Kristina Odumes, with round glasses and frizzy brown hair. ‘She was fun to turn into a cartoon,’ concedes McAnsh. Runners-up received animated cels with their image painted in by animators. Kraft Kids brands offered another way for kids to ‘get tooned,’ with packaging and commercial spots bolstering the channel’s on-air promos to extend the offer’s reach. Considering the competition surrounding the coveted Kraft partnership, McAnsh notes that ‘Get Tooned’ fit Kraft’s key criteria of ‘an idea that wins [Kraft] over.’ Post Cereals were also won over, producing three 15-second commercial spots that aired on a plethora of broadcast outlets.

Honorable Mention

‘Storming the Castle’

Fox Kids’ ‘Storming the Castle’ sweepstakes, undertaken with partners Bandai America and Discovery Zone, allows the winning kid and his or her family to win a trip to Ireland and witness the creation of the network’s new flagship show, The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, plus receive a one-of-a-kind action figure made in his or her own likeness. The promotion is part of a new trend to literally place a kid into the center of an entertainment property, bridging the gap between the world of the little screen and what kids dream of in real life. Ask any kid what they think of this concept, and you’re likely to hear, ‘mega cool.’

Best Up-And-Coming QSR

Taco Bell

There are two kinds of promotions honchos out there this year: those who have worked with Taco Bell and those who wish they had. According to Saban’s George Leon, VP of promotions, this relative newcomer is known to be edgier and more willing to take risks with more creative programs than the more staid QSR top two. And, needless to say, the fast-food innovator has gone above and beyond its promotional duties by teaching the entire U.S. population Spanish 101.

Honorable Mentions


KFC is very new to the promotions game, but already undertook a charming QSR effort with classy British kids property Wallace and Gromit, winning kudos from kids players familiar with the quirky property. Wallace & Gromit KFC Kids Meals included figurines and character cards, plus inserts promoting the BBC videos. KFC followed this effort with a Kids Meal tie-in to Scholatic’s new Animorphs series, which debuted this fall on Nickelodeon’s Nickel-O-Zone. A series of interactive toys, including an Animorphs puzzle cube and DNA transfer cards, highlighted the new show.


Wendy’s nourished its brand this year by tying in with PorchLight Entertainment’s equally wholesome Adventures from The Book of Virtues series on PBS-a move that scored high marks among the country’s pro-family consumers. According to PorchLight’s VP of marketing, licensing and public relations, Jill Newhouse Calcaterra, the fast-food company was not only easy to work with, but created premiums that ‘maintained the integrity of the show.’

Best Retail Promotion

‘Power Rangers Rocket Tour’

The Power Rangers took off again this year-with Fox Kids and Wal-Mart’s ‘Power Rangers Rocket Tour,’ kicking off the new Power Rangers in Space season and boosting toy sell-through at the retailer by 100%. National on-air spots introduced the ride-a space rocket simulator manned by kids and one visiting Power Ranger that traveled to 35 Wal-Mart stores throughout the U.S. Local affiliate, magazine and radio efforts, plus the media coverage generated by the ride’s appearance at Toy Fair `98, inspired kids to turn out in record numbers. Wal-Mart not only agreed to incremental toy buys, but implored Fox Kids to extend the tour past schedule. Now, how often do you get to see a grown retailer beg?

Best Retail Display

‘Talking Teletubbies’

The ‘Talking Teletubbies’ window display appeared this May at two FAO Schwarz retailers, but the promotion’s big splash was on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, where front, side and escalator well windows stopped everyone from the city’s trendsetters to its toddlers. A dizzying mix of high-tech monitors and infantile cooing audio, the multiwindow and in-store promotion could best be described as an event, complete with circus acts, men on stilts, face painters and Teletubbies product giveaways. Teletubbies marketing guru Kenn Viselman called it ‘the talk of the toy industry,’ then backed up his claim with the real skinny: more than two million licensed-good items were sold each week during the two-week promotion.

Best Traveling Promotion

‘Dexter’s Duplication Machine’

Cartoon Network’s ‘Dexter’s Duplication Machine’ is a gigantic traveling bus, dressed up as a laboratory modeled after Cartoon Network’s leading show, on the road to promote the prime-time launch of the show as a strip last June. The interactive bus visited 24 cities, giving out Dexter-related prizes, including the ‘Dexter’s Duplication Summer’ grand prize, bestowing one ecstatic kid with a bedroom made over as Dexter’s laboratory-complete with computers, lab equipment and a fax machine. Charting the promotion’s success were the show’s ratings back home-up 60% for the eight-week period.

Best Point-of-Purchase Display

Babe: Pig in the City

Movie theaters are the new retailers for Equity Toys’ fully loaded POP displays for Babe: Pig in the City. Placed near concession stands and adjusted to suit theaters’ specifications, each display hefts 144 pieces of plush, beanbag, figural straws and keychains. We predict that moviegoers will pig out on product.

Promo Most Dead-on with its Demo

‘Ultimate Clueless Slumber Party’

Viacom Consumer Products’ ‘Ultimate Clueless Slumber Party’ kicked off with UPN’s on-air spots, followed by POP at bookstores touting the chance to win a major shopping spree at Bloomingdale’s, meet the Clueless cast and spend a trendy weekend in Hollywood, including a visit to an all-natural hair salon and other cutting-edge haunts. No way!

Honorable Mention

‘Sabrina’s Magical Adventure’

Radio Disney’s ‘Sabrina’s Magical Adventure’ sweepstakes bestowed one screaming teen with a walk-on role on the hit ABC show, a chance to meet Sabrina herself (played by Melissa Joan Hart) and a script signed by the entire cast-all taking place during a five-day/four-night trip to Hollywood for four. Losing a sweepstakes this excellent blows!

Best Promotion Surrounding a Secondary Character

Marvin the Martian

Looney Tunes jump-started its brand this season with its sizable Marvin the Martian promotion, celebrating the 50th year of the character’s arrival on Earth. The promotion centered around a Bugs Bunny Show character whose sole desire is to blow up the planet. Landing partners like the Warner Bros. Studio Stores, Subway, Frito-Lay, Gatorade and Kraft, among others, was a feat considering the character had appeared in only five episodes and didn’t have a show or book vehicle to call its own-pulled off with flying colors by Warner Bros. promotions wiz Jordan Sollitto and his Looney Tunes licensing and promotions team.

Best Bang for the Buck in a Campaign

The CBS Kidshow

CBS and Nelvana launched their joint CBS Saturday morning block, The CBS Kidshow, for peanuts, according to Toper Taylor, president of Nelvana Communications. Fall ratings will prove just how effective these creative, kid-grabbing, on-air promos will be in their daunting task of introducing an entire block of new shows to the choosy kid audience. Promotion execs at Nelvana scored a coup when CBS agreed to air promos both within the block and during other day parts.

Best Media Coverage

Anastasia’s ‘Lord or Lady’

The Anastasia video debut’s ‘Lord or Lady’ promotion bestowed the lucky winner with an actual title of nobility (the Lord or Lady of Whinnymoor)-and thus garnered a truly noble amount of free ink. And we’re talking international ink.

Most Enduring Premium

McDonald’s Beanie Babies

McDonald’s Beanie Babies stood the test of time, maintaining their position as the most coveted and collected premium in history. Who said the unassuming plush line wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans?

Best Ancillary Media as a Promotion Tool

Barney Magazine

Barney Magazine won a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor seal this year from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, proving that even an aggressive kids marketing tool can be good for you.

Quirkiest Premium


A magnifying glass was sent to the media from promoters of DreamWorks’ Antz feature-apparently designed to entice them to take a closer look.

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