Hasbro hopes Star Wars toys prosper without sequel

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Even though "Star Wars" doesn't have a film sequel this year, toy licensee Hasbro plans to keep the force of its products fresh in kids' minds.

A 10-part commercial saga that promotes Hasbro's Star Wars toy line breaks today. The episodic ad series, from Grey Advertising, New York, tells the story of a young boy's quest to become a Jedi knight. Over the next year, subsequent ads will continue, each ending in a cliff-hanger that directs the viewer to the Hasbro/Star Wars Web site (starwars.hasbro.com).

"If you look at the boys' action category, so many of the competitive products are based on toys that have the benefit of books, TV shows or movies," said Grey Senior VP-Account Manager David Biebelberg. "This was a real opportunity for us to leverage the Star Wars equity into a continually compelling kids' saga," he said. But without a movie to tie in to this year, Hasbro had to fill a marketing void.

The TV ads will run on children-oriented programming on network and cable, as well as in syndication and spot TV. Exact spending wasn't disclosed, but Grey executives categorized it in the multimillion dollar range.

Two of the vignettes will appear exclusively on the Hasbro/

Star Wars Web site this summer. The integrated campaign also features a "Jedi Quest Kids Club" promotion, including a newsletter and a Web-based comic book series. After each "chapter" in the series breaks, it will be posted on the Web site. The Jedi Quest chronicle is slated to wrap up in December.


Mr. Biebelberg said the integrated marketing effort is designed to grab kids' attention on all fronts. "Every minute we keep kids engaged in the Star Wars brand is a minute they're not spending with the competitor's brand," he said.

In order to make the advertising more realistic, Grey borrowed a few props from Lucasfilms -- including the authentic Darth Maul costume and light saber.

Instead of touting the toy line's technological attributes, the campaign instead focuses on the power of the Star Wars mythology.

"What this campaign is selling is the Star Wars experience," said Grey Creative Director Rob Travalino, who also directed the commercials. "It's not about the product features. It's about the emotional benefit. Technology is great but it doesn't have a soul."

Mr. Travalino, a long-time Star Wars devotee, saw last year's "Episode One" five times, and claims he's watched the earlier Star Wars movies "hundreds of times."

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