Mattel extends Barbie and Hot Wheels to branded PCs

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MARKHAM, Ontario -- Toy marketer Mattel is extending its popular Barbie and Hot Wheels properties into branded personal computers for kids.

Mattel's interactive Mattel Media arm and Canada-based Patriot Computer Corp. dubbed the $599 PCs as the first kid- branded systems, designed by the two marketers to "capture the essence of each brand."

Featured with the PCs are custom color schemes, a software bundle with Barbie- or Hot Wheels-branded titles and a special add-on, either a Barbie digital camera or a Hot Wheels steering wheel console for game playing.

Mattel describes the branded PCs as a way to bring computers closer to kids, who now start to use technology at younger ages.

"It's Mattel's goal is to make computers friendly and accessible for children and their parents," said Dana Henry at Mattel Media.

Barbie and Hot Wheels PCs will be available in the U.S. and Canada Sept. 15 through a toll-free phone number and via dedicated Web sites www.barbiepc.com and www.hotwheelspc.com.

A rollout in international markets may follow if the computers are a success in North America.

Advertising primarily targets parents and runs from Aug. 15 until Christmas.

Magazine and some newspaper creative kicks off the campaign, moving into high gear on Sept. 30 with 15- and 30-second TV spots in major markets, airing during family viewing hours.

Handling both creative and media buying is Patriot's agency, Miller Interactive Advertising, Unionville, Ontario. Media relations efforts are from Canadian shop Contemporary Communications in Vancouver and Bender/Helper Impact in Los Angeles.

VP-Marketing John Durst at direct-seller Patriot points to a combination of education and entertainment to bring kids and computers together.

"Working with Mattel allows us to leverage the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands to encourage children to learn about technology from an early age," he said.

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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