Campaign Spotlight – What were they thinking?

Marketer: Hasbro, Pawtucket, Rhode Island--Ira Hernowitz, senior VP of marketing; Valerie Jurries, director of marketing; Julie Collins Duffy, public relations manager
October 1, 2001

Marketer: Hasbro, Pawtucket, Rhode Island–Ira Hernowitz, senior VP of marketing; Valerie Jurries, director of marketing; Julie Collins Duffy, public relations manager

Agencies: (Spot) Litzky Public Relations, Hoboken, New Jersey–Michelle Litzky, creative director and executive producer

Matt Hill, New York, New York–producer

Tapestry Productions, New York, New York–Andre Marcell, director

(Event) Alliance, New York, New York–Randi Karmin, managing director

Market: U.S.

The idea: Targeting girls eight to 18, the e-kara campaign plays on the idea that these days, anyone can be a star–as evidenced by the level of fame achieved by ordinary folks on shows such as PopStars and Making the Band. Positioning will reinforce the message that e-kara, which hits shelves this month, is the product that can put tween and teen girls in a spotlight of their own making.

The campaign: Live auditions for a spot in the TV commercial were held in L.A. and New York about two months ago as part of a heavily branded e-kara real karaoke Star Maker Tour. The resulting 30-second spot ‘Popstar’ starts airing October 8 for eight weeks on the WB, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox Family, Fox Kids, MTV and Prime Access. A mall tour is also set to run throughout October and November.

Budget: US$5 million

The strategy: ‘Kids are growing up now with a far different view of what fame is,’ says Ira Hernowitz, senior VP of marketing at Hasbro. ‘They’re constantly exposed to it, and it’s much more within their grasp–just look at Survivor, in which these nobodies go on an island for a couple of weeks, and then they’re huge superstars.’

Hasbro wanted to tap into this kid mentality that fame is 100% accessible with e-kara, a new handheld karaoke system that was introduced in Japan last October by developers Takara. The gadget was a runaway hit, selling 600,000 units and over a million song cartridges in 90 days. Hasbro signed on to distribute the product and is specifically targeting the type of tween/teen girl who stands in front of her mirror, singing into a hairbrush and dreaming of being a pop star.

Sales of karaoke systems to kids have doubled in the past three years, according to Hasbro’s estimates. Category sales for 1998 were at US$6 million, and that number jumped to US$14 million by 2000.

Michelle Litzky, president of Litzky Public Relations, came up with the e-kara real karaoke Star Maker Tour idea, which gave girls in New York and L.A. a chance to show their stuff and win a spot in the e-kara TV commercial. Roughly 60 girls on the Santa Monica Pier and 80 in Times Square auditioned in front of a live audience, and for shyer songstresses, the event also featured a demo area where girls could karaoke offstage.

The product really lends itself to event marketing. ‘It’s not the kind of item you can go out and sample,’ says Litzky. ‘You really have to let kids interact with it on their own.’ Hanging its hat on the event as the kick-off point in building buzz around e-kara, Hasbro maintains that television is the real driver of the campaign.

The toyco wanted the party-on-the-go ‘Popstar’ spot to highlight three product elements: fun, portable and real. The 30-second spot features a girl in her bedroom, e-kara in hand, singing and dancing to Britney Spears’ song Stronger. Warp-speed zooms of facial close-ups lend the commercial a music video aesthetic. The girl then puts the e-kara into her backpack and hightails it to her friend’s bedroom, where the pair plugs into the TV, pops in a cartridge and uses the duet microphone capability to sing together. The mikes are packed up yet again, and the final scene is at a party where boys and girls karaoke till the sun comes up.

Rounding out the campaign, an eight-city mall tour will hit the top U.S. markets starting October 6 and running through November. Toy Wishes Magazine will also feature e-kara in its holiday issue, and a fall issue of Tiger Beat will have a four-page advertorial on the winners.

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