WONGDOODY baits hook with Pikachu, reels `em in with humor

Marketer: Wizards of the Coast, Seattle-Michelle Taylor-Harris, advertising manager...
May 1, 2000

Marketer: Wizards of the Coast, Seattle-Michelle Taylor-Harris, advertising manager

Agency: WONGDOODY, Seattle-Tracy Wong, agency creative director; John Schofield,supervising associate creative director; Dean Saling, copy writer; Pam Fujimoto, art director; Craig Potter, agency producer; Suzi Maddocks, account supervisor

Spot Shop: Tool of North America, Los Angeles

Post: Cosmo Street, Los Angeles

Markets: U.S. national

The idea: To get boys ages eight to 14 who collect and trade Wizards of the Coast Pokémon trading cards to start playing the card game too.

The campaign: Pikapooch will air for three separate month-long runs in 2000, each time with a different 10-second tag for a trading card expansion line. The 30-second spot will debut May 8 with a tag for the Team Rocket line, then reappear in July and October with two new tags. Airs on Kids’ WB!, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox Kids, Fox Family and ABC Saturday mornings.

The strategy:

Already, about 90% of U.S. boys ages 10 to 12 know about Pokémon trading cards, but of those, a much smaller percentage actually play the game. So rather than trying to raise awareness for a product kids already recognize, this spot leverages kids’ love of all things Pokémon to get them caught up in Wizards’ coast-to-coast trading card league. Getting kids in the league accomplishes a dual goal, says Wizards advertising manager, Michelle Taylor-Harris: ‘The first and foremost reason is that we are a game company and our mission is to get people playing our games,’ she says. ‘But the business reason is, when you play the game, it requires continuous buying to keep your decks up to date.’

Taylor-Harris adds that the card game, a sophisticated version of rock, paper, scissors, takes some effort to learn, but has a better chance of hooking kids for the long term than the trading and collecting play patterns. ‘We don’t want this to be a fad, although we realize that to some extent it is,’ she says. ‘We want to build trading card game players. We’re coming out with lots of other trading card games that may be interesting to Pokémon players who are no longer into Pokémon.’

Given the goal of introducing a league only 30% of the target demo is already familiar with, the agency decided to create a spot that grabs attention with Pokémon bait, then uses offbeat humor to hold kids’ attention while the league is introduced. And for boys ages eight to14, humor means a dog in a goofy Pikachu costume drinking out of a toilet.

‘The whole idea of the thing is that the ultimate goal of every kid who plays Pokémon is to become a master trainer, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it,’ says WONGDOODY senior copy writer Dean Saling. ‘The kid in the spot is obviously going about it the wrong way. So the message is that the right way to do this is to join the Pokémon Trading Card League.’

According to NPD Group figures, Pokémon card sales have dipped a little since Christmas, with total U.S. dollar volume at US$46 million for January and US$31 million for February. Over the same period, Digimon trading card sales increased from US$1 million to US$4 million. But Taylor-Harris says ‘looking back only validates competitors,’ and that Wizards’ advertising strategy is unaffected by the new rival.

For his part, Saling says a strategy of using humor to reach kids is part of the core philosophy of his agency, an agency that sprang up with a staff of three in Seattle a scant six years ago, but already has a reputation for producing fall-outa-yer-chair funny spots.

‘We have a three-word idea of what makes a good ad,’ says Saling. ‘Relevant, believable and unexpected. And the unexpected is all about whether this spot is going to hold their interest. You’re an uninvited guest in their home, so if you don’t make it entertaining, they’re not even going to pay attention.’

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