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Carlton goes guerilla to push holiday Thunder-goods

Following last month's BBC2 debut of a digitally remastered version of the Brit classic Thunderbirds (complete with enhanced explosions), Carlton International is ramping up a promo blitz to ensure T-Bird merch tops holiday wish lists.

Handheld and console electronic games from...
October 1, 2000

Following last month’s BBC2 debut of a digitally remastered version of the Brit classic Thunderbirds (complete with enhanced explosions), Carlton International is ramping up a promo blitz to ensure T-Bird merch tops holiday wish lists.

Handheld and console electronic games from U.K.-based SCi will anchor the product offerings, with VHS, DVD and book titles from Carlton and Tracey Island playsets and action figures from Vivid Imaginations rounding out the program.

Carlton’s marketing program has a wide scope, aiming for nostalgic aficionados of the original `60s and early `90s runs, teens who appreciate the retro look of the ‘Supermarionation,’ and a new generation of kid viewers.

Starting this month, a flying inflatable Thunderbirds spacecraft will begin hovering over U.K. buildings housing political conflicts or other kerfuffles that have appeared in the news so that International Rescue can lend a helping hand. (Carlton will be careful to avoid serious or tragic events.) These guerrilla sightings follow a recent Thunderbirds-themed grand reopening of Hamleys of Regent Street (perhaps the most famous toy store in Britain). Original show creator Gerry Anderson was on hand for ribbon-cutting and signings, with displays, character walkabouts, the spacecraft inflatable and a 22-foot long replica of Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls rounding out the festivities.

Merch sales will be further enhanced by in-store book displays at WHSmith, features in Christmas catalogs issued by both WHSmith and Waterstone, along with endcaps at U.K. Toys `R’ Us locations.

Teen and nostalgia audiences will in turn be courted through limited edition Lady Penelope boots from Acupuncture (to be auctioned off in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer this month) and limited edition ‘Brains’ eyeglasses from Kirk Originals (featured in men’s fashion mags such as Attitude). Teen clubbers are already moving to a remixed version of the Thunderbirds theme song by Resolution Copyright Limited, with a music video-supported single hitting U.K. music stores this month.

As with all event-driven promos, consumer press coverage is key, with retro fashion features, features on the cool-looking cars and interviews with Anderson being planted in the mainstream and niche press. Highlights so far include a ‘Gerry Anderson night’ on Channel 4 in late August, followed by four collectible Thunderbirds covers appearing on The Radio Times during the broadcast launch week in September. The BBC also recently aired a Blue Peter special on constructing your own Tracey Island out of cardboard tubes and cereal boxes.

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