Barbie, He-Man Get Hollywood Representation

Toymaker Mattel Strikes Deal With CAA for Some Tinseltown Exposure for Its Brands

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NEW YORK -- Toy giant Mattel is stepping up its forays into branded entertainment by partnering with Creative Artists Agency's marketing division, hoping to leverage the Hollywood agency's many contacts into more opportunities for its long list of brands.
He-Man, Barbie, Hot Wheels and other Mattel brands now have Hollywood representation.
He-Man, Barbie, Hot Wheels and other Mattel brands now have Hollywood representation. Credit: Mattel

Besides Barbie, arguably the marketer's best-known brand, Mattel manufactures traditional toys such as Rock'em Sock'em Robots and board game classics Pictionary, and along with its subsidiary Fisher-Price, it is responsible for the licensed manufacturing of toy lines for many entertainment properties, ranging from Walt Disney's Aladdin and Lion King and Pixar's "Cars" to "The Simpsons," "Sesame Street," Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants," and even Warner Brother's '90s hit "Demolition Man."

Next chapter
"This is the next chapter of our entertainment strategy," said Richard Dickson, the toymaker's senior VP-marketing, media and entertainment. "Mattel's strength is that we are a marketing company that can conceptualize new brands and [intellectual properties], and generate entertainment opportunities that can extend the brands. We've had a lot of success with Barbie on DVDs and on the web with BarbieGirls.com and Hotwheels.com. But other forms of communication are becoming more important and CAA has the skill sets we need to navigate the complexity of the entertainment space."

Mattel spent $203.5 million for calendar year 2006, and $71.5 million for the first nine months of 2007, the bulk of it for its Mattel Toys and Fisher-Price brands, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

While best known for representing artists from Bruce Willis to Bob Dylan, CAA's marketing division represents several corporate clients, such as Coca-Cola and eBay. Its position in the Hollywood contact ecosystem will help evolve Mattel's entertainment strategy by giving it a unique access to the industry.

Both Mattel and CAA refused to comment on future plans, saying it was too early in the partnership to disclose any possible branded-entertainment projects. But if the toymaker's successful past in the area is anything to go by, expect to see a renaissance of classic Mattel brands.
Richard Dickson, Mattel's senior VP-marketing, media and entertainment.
Richard Dickson, Mattel's senior VP-marketing, media and entertainment.

"Great properties resonate with many people. There will always be the possibility to refresh and reintroduce them in a way that re-creates that impact," Mr. Dickson said. "I don't like giving props to the competition, but [Hasbro's] 'Transformers' did a wonderful job of reintroducing the brand to a new generation [with the movie]."

'Masters' of the big screen?
"Masters of the Universe," with iconic hero He-Man, is set to do just that, with a live-action re-imaging of the property being handled by Warner Bros., with Joel Silver as producer. Other Mattel properties that might see similar theatrical treatments include Magic 8 Ball and Hot Wheels, whose option is currently held by Sony Pictures, while Mattel's popular Uno game might see itself revamped into a TV game show.

And of course, with the Hollywood star power that CAA delivers, the big question is whether Mattel's princess, Barbie -- who has already been extended into animated DVD features, live stage theatricals and even magazines -- will see a live-action rendering on the big screen.

"Anything is possible," replied Mr. Dickson. "We've successfully extended the Barbie brand from a toy to a lifestyle and intellectual property, and the intent is to continue down that path."
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