Ghouls and Dolls

For the first time in decades, international toy behemoth Mattel has developed an entirely new IP that it hopes will capture the attention of tween and teen girls with an innovative marketing and CP approach.
July 23, 2010

For the first time in decades, international toy behemoth Mattel has developed an entirely new IP that it hopes will capture the attention of tween and teen girls with an innovative marketing and CP approach.

Dubbed Monster High, the new property features the teenage descendents of some of the world’s most infamous monsters, including Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf and Draculaura, as they navigate the perils of high school.

‘We are doing this in a fun, humorous way,’ says Susie Lecker, VP of marketing for Mattel. ‘It really gets at the bonds of friendship that are created in high school and the challenges of fitting in.’

Also at the heart of the IP is a fashion-forward aesthetic, which revolves around a highly stylized, slick design tinged with a touch of Goth. Mattel, however, has been careful not to over-emphasize the darker aspects of the characters, carefully stating that Monster High is ‘more OMG than RIP.’

Content will also help drive Monster High into the mass market. To that end, the toyco has produced 15 webisodes, running between 90 seconds and two minutes in length, that reside on the property’s website. ‘We decided to start off with content that would allow our characters to introduce themselves to our target audience,’ says Barry Waldo, VP of entertainment development and licensing at Mattel. ‘It gives the audience a little of the flavor of who they are and the humorous twists that they encounter.’

Of-the-moment pop culture references also permeate the shorts, with puns on celebrity names abounding. One webisode, for example, shows the cast of monsters-cum-students spiralling into a tizzy in anticipation of a visit from the Jonas, er, Jaundiced Brothers.

To get the ball rolling, Mattel made a major online media buy for placement on teen- and tween-oriented sites like to drive traffic to the Monster High website ( ‘We put out teasers of the webisodes and it has seemed to work so far,’ says Lecker. In two months, the new site had garnered 41 million impressions, and the webisodes were viewed more than two million times, she says.

The next wave of content will venture a little deeper into the IP and feature a 30-minute webisode that is currently in production. This one focuses on the backstory of Frankie Stein, and Mattel is looking to follow it up with other in-depth pieces about the main characters.

On the teen side of the content, Mattel has inked a deal with New York Times bestselling author Lisi Harrison to produce a series of young adult novels based on the IP. The first one will hit retail shelves in September with a 150,000-copy print run guaranteed by publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Mattel is currently searching out a book retail partnership that will serve as the headquarters for the publishing program.

Mattel has also inked a preliminary deal with Hollywood studio Universal Pictures to develop a feature-length live-action musical tentatively set for big-screen release in 2012. Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Miller (Smallville and Spider-Man 2, respectively) are already attached to the project.

On the CP side, Mattel is looking to capture both sides of the demographic in a different way. For tweens still playing with dolls, Mattel has already shipped the initial line to Toys ‘R’ Us. On the teen side, US mall-based fashion and accessory retailer Justice is serving as the home of all Monster High softlines via a DTR exclusive launching this September.

‘Our relationship with Justice is a full partnership,’ says Waldo. ‘It will be airing the webisodes in-store…[and]…really bringing the story to life from a retail perspective.’

Moving forward, Waldo says he expects to open up further licensing doors for the IP, especially as the movie nears completion, but for now Mattel is taking a measured and careful approach. ‘We didn’t want to do an in-and-out product line,’ he says. ‘In the early stages we said ‘No’ to more people than we said ‘Yes’ to. We are happy about the excitement, but we know about the dangers of over-licensing it too soon.’

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at


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