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THE CAP IS OFF POG CRAZE MARKETERS IN U.S. AND ELSEWHERE ARE HOOKING UP WITH GAME

By Published on .

The POG craze could have easily gone the way of the pet rock, that popular but short-lived fad of the mid-1970s.

Instead, the increasingly popular milk-cap flipping game from Hawaii is "a moving firestorm," said Alan Rypinski, president-CEO of the World POG Federation, based in Costa Mesa, Calif. "It's become a worldwide phenomenon for kids."

Since last spring (AA, April 25), Mr. Rypinski has added a staff of more than 30, including Exec VP-Creative Director Shane DeRolf, a former creative consultant with Fox Kids Network, and POG's new head of its international games division, Doug McFadden, formerly international director of marketing for Trivial Pursuit, Parker Bros. Mr. DeRolf is responsible for creating the federation's icon, POGMAN, a character that he likens to "what Mickey Mouse is to Disney and Bugs Bunny is to Warner Bros."

The fuzzy orange POGMAN, described by Mr. Rypinski as "half-man, half-beast," is a modernized version of the character on the passion-orange-guava fruit drink first introduced by Maui's Haleakala Dairy, now a 14% owner in the World POG Federation. POGMAN is currently being used both as the mascot on an in-store promotion for a new Sunkist fruit roll, and, as part of a deal with J&J Snack Foods, as a character on a new POG Icee available in Hawaii and on the West Coast.

Speaking of Mickey Mouse, Disneyland in a deal with the POG federation gave away nearly 300,000 POGs during a spring break promotion this year; kids ages 13 and under got four milk caps and a "kini," a heavier slamming cap. Mr. Rypinski also reported a successful "thirst venture" with Coca-Cola Co. and Del Taco, a California-based Mexican fast-food chain that gave away more than 5 million POGs during its two-month summer promotion.

In Canada, during what was to be a six-week-long promotion with Coca-Cola and Mac's, a convenience store chain, stores gave away their entire Wayne Gretzky POG collection during the first week.

As for the more than 20 different brands of milk cap games that have also sprung up, Mr. Rypinski said he considers them "competition but not knockoffs" of the POG brand.

Canada Games is the federation's exclusive Canadian distributor; other deals are pending in Israel, the U.K. and Japan. Mr. Rypinski has also sold more than 2 billion POGs to Sabritas, Frito-Lay's Mexican distributor, which has inserted the milk caps into each of its snack food packs. More recently, Target stores in Australia placed an order for 300,000 POGs.

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