M.A.G.S.'s appeals

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Appealing to boys between the ages of 12 and 15-too old for Teletubbies but too young for T-and-A-requires a unique approach. Grey Worldwide, New York has found exactly that in its soon-to-break TV campaign for M.A.G.S., or Music Activated Gaming System, a hand-held toy that incorporates a user's musical preferences into a challenging electronic diversion.

Using the Grey Global Group agency's longtime strength in creating animated spots, Grey's Robert Skollar, exec VP-exec creative director, combines a stylistic, iconic look with popular music from up-and-coming artists in five animated commercials. All debut Aug. 27, running only on Viacom's MTV.

"We think we've achieved something that speaks to the MTV audience," Mr. Skollar said. "The commercials will be as entertaining as the game itself."

Neither Hasbro nor its ad agency would reveal the cost of the campaign, but Matt Collins, Hasbro Games director of marketing, estimated the combination of radio (ads by Target Marketing & Promotions, Boston) and TV advertising is "more than three times what we'd normally spend to launch a new item." The amount Hasbro spends to promote its games varies widely; in 2000, for example, the company spent $1.5 million on its Top It hand-held game, but less than $2,000 to advertise the Tiger Find Furby game, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Rather than focus solely on M.A.G.S. as an electronic game, the spots, which feature one-dimensional, box-like characters a la the popular TV show "South Park," describe the toy as a music accessory. "We compete with other traditional hand-held games, like [Parker Brothers'] Bop-It!, as well as video games like [Nintendo's] Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Color," said Mr. Collins. "We also compete with hardware purchases."

To separate M.A.G.S. from such competition, Mr. Collins and Grey executives Mr. Skollar and Maureen Maldari, managing partner, opted to run the spots on MTV to emphasize M.A.G.S. place as a must-have for music aficionados. Two ads feature fashionable Warner Brothers groups Jelleestone, a hip-hop band, and hard-rock band Beautiful Creatures, respectively, in exchange for a fee paid to Warner Bros.

"We deliberately chose not to align ourselves with one musical style," Mr. Collins said. M.A.G.S. works with tunes from country to pop to classical, and thus users can continue to play even as their musical tastes change. "The kinds of music kids listen to changes dramatically from the time they are 8 until they are 15," noted Mr. Collins.

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