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WonderGroup flogs toys the old-fashioned way

Marketer: Ritvik Holdings (Mega Bloks), Montreal, Canada-Strawn Cathcart, VP of marketing
Agency: WonderGroup, Cincinnati-Peter Lloyd, chief creative officer; Lisa Scheuerle, art director; Darren Wiedman, copy writer; Alex Perkins, senior account executive; Doug Bergheger, senior agency producer
Spot shop: Tapestry Films, New...
September 1, 2000

Marketer: Ritvik Holdings (Mega Bloks), Montreal, Canada-Strawn Cathcart, VP of marketing

Agency: WonderGroup, Cincinnati-Peter Lloyd, chief creative officer; Lisa Scheuerle, art director; Darren Wiedman, copy writer; Alex Perkins, senior account executive; Doug Bergheger, senior agency producer

Spot shop: Tapestry Films, New York-Andre Marcell, director; Tom Romano, producer

Post: Lightborne, Cincinnati

Music: Ripple FX, Indianapolis

Markets: U.S. national

The idea: This is the first spot in a campaign to create mainstream awareness of the Mega Bloks brand in the five and up set. March aims to introduce the Transforming Blok Bots line (which hit mass in August) to kids ages eight to 11 for holiday 2000.

The campaign: One :30 and one :15 will begin airing the last week of October. A media budget of about US$1 million will be used to buy time on Fox Kids, Cartoon Network, Kids’ WB!, UPN and Nickelodeon. In-store POP and a website launching September 1 will support.

The strategy:

Newbie youth agency WonderGroup has created a toy commercial that some people in the industry will hate. The endless product shots, the open-mouthed wonder of the kids, the repetitive ‘Blok Bots’ chanting in the background, the lack of humor or story line: This spot was built to sell-not necessarily to entertain.

It’s a throwback to the kids advertising of the `80s in high-tech, fast-paced drag, but WonderGroup CEO Tim Coffey isn’t at all apologetic. ‘The things that work with the younger group are the things that have always worked,’ he says. ‘That is, involving kids in your product and making the spot absolutely crystal clear. Don’t spend a lot of time on trying to tell a creative, conceptual story. Get right to the product benefit and dramatize it via characters and or music.’

Here, Mega Bloks consumer marketing manager Scott Jackson says the goal is to introduce a new toy, tell kids what makes it cool, and above all, get them to remember what it’s called so their parents don’t go out and buy Lego instead.

To accomplish the first two objectives, the creative focuses on three major distinguishing characteristics. An accelerated assembly sequence shows kids that you build it yourself. A hand moving a jointed arm shows kids that the toys have 10 fully articulated joints. Additional show-and-tell sequences show that each figure can transform into a vehicle.

An army-style chant of ‘Blok Bots, Blok Bots’ makes sure kids will remember what the product is called when they sit down to pen letters to Santa. ‘It drills it right in,’ says chief creative officer Peter Lloyd, adding that an informal test on the producer’s son found the boy marching around and chanting the product’s name after viewing the ad.

The spot, which doesn’t even pretend to aim for girls, has a military feel to it, but Lloyd is quick to say that although he feels ‘there’s something healthy’ about young boys working out their frustrations with make-believe gunplay, people are ‘really sensitive about kids and guns right now,’ so the spot avoids depicting any violence. ‘These toys, instead of fighting each other, they’re saving the earth and the human race,’ says Lloyd. ‘We always show them rescuing each other.’

Still, boys will be boys. Commenting on the focus group test results, senior account exec Alex Perkins says: ‘When we asked the kids how they would play with this toy, they said, `we’ll take this and use it to beat up our other action figures.’ That’s what we were trying to get at-that fantasy and role play that we know boys are really into at that age.’

WonderGroup is the largest independent youth marketing agency in the U.S. Offering both product development and advertising services, the agency focuses on marketing to kids, tweens, teens and their families. The two-year-old company had 1999 billings amounting to about US$35 million. Agency and new product marketing clients include Chiquita, Toymax, Stuart Natal, Evenflo, General Mills, Kodak, Johnson & Johnson, H.J. Heinz and Procter & Gamble.

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