'GOOSEBUMPS' PROMOTION LURES TACO BELL, GEN'L MILLS: PUBLISHER TRYING EXTENSIONS TO BOOST BRAND, AVOID NOVELTIES

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Despite some concerns about whether the popular "Goosebumps" franchise is slowing down, Parachute Properties has scared up Taco Bell, General Mills and other partners and licensees for a multifaceted promotion push.

Parachute's faith in the property's long-term prospects is strong. Coming months will see major extensions of the brand into theme parks and a touring show, as well as the creation of an additional "Goosebumps" publishing brand.

The push comes despite the fact last month U.S. publishing partner Scholastic Inc. cited a slowdown in sales of "Goosebumps" books as a factor in implementing a $25 million cost-cutting plan.

MARKET CORRECTION

"To put it in Wall Street speak, we see it as a marketplace correction," said Jane Stine, Parachute's president and wife of "Goosebumps" author R.L. Stine.

Still, Publisher's Weekly had 20 "Goosebumps" titles among the top 21 best-selling children's books of 1996. Scholastic has committed to 128 more titles through 2003. The Fox TV series remained tops among 2-to-12-year-olds last year, and Fox's first four home video titles moved 6 million units. The first 'Goosebumps" CD-ROM, from DreamWorks SKG, was launched for holiday '96 and became a best-seller.

In moving to position the product long-term, Parachute is eschewing novelty licensing for products like apparel, sports and toys that promote interaction and reflect kids' lifestyle.

The fall '97 effort, said Steve Herman, VP-general manager, Para-chute Consumer Products, is marked by a series of interconnected promotions among key licensees and partners.

Returning after taking part in PepsiCo's multidivisional "Goosebumps" program last fall, Taco Bell plans a "Goosebumps"-theme back-to-school promotion in late summer that will offer four interactive toy premiums. The fast-feeder will support with a multimillion-dollar ad push and point-of-purchase displays. TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., is Taco Bell's agency.

GM SWEEPSTAKES

General Mills' snack division is plotting a multibrand sweepstakes promo that will tout and offer as prizes the latest "Goosebumps" videos from Fox and audio book products from Disney Records, plus the second DreamWorks CD-ROM. Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's Kid Connection, New York, is handling.

An undisclosed cereal marketer is planning a similar sweepstakes effort, but also will offer an electronic toy and a $5 rebate for the Fox videos.

Conversely, Fox and DreamWorks will promote the promo partners at retail with POP and support other licensees by including merchandise catalogs within their packaging.

Disney Records is also supporting its products via a summertime cross-promo with Kampgrounds of America, in which KOA locations will host a "Goosebumps" night each week. Product will be sold at KOA's gift shops.

THEME PARK RIDE

Parachute is getting ready to expand its "Goosebumps" empire. A major theme park operator will soon announce the creation of a "Goosebumps" attraction at one of its venues, and a touring "Goosebumps" road show is also in the works. And in the fourth quarter, another "Goosebumps" publishing brand will be added to the three Scholastic already publishes.

Like Saban Entertainment efforts to extend the longevity of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," Parachute sees the key to sustaining "Goosebumps" as periodic face-lifts.

"The challenge in making 'Goosebumps' an evergreen is keeping its fresh . . . and to keep surprising kids, whether they be new fans or old ones," Ms. Stine said.

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