MATTEL MILLIONS TO BACK PLUSH TIGGER: BOUNCING TOY IN WINNIE THE POOH LINE GETS FALL TV ADS

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Mattel will launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in September for Bounce Around Tigger, its latest special-feature plush toy. The product hits store shelves this month.

Tigger arrives on the trail of last year's Hug & Wiggle Pooh, Mattel's first special-feature plush toy in its Winnie the Pooh line. Both Pooh and Tigger are similar to Mattel's Sesame Street sensations, Tickle Me Elmo and Sing & Snore Ernie.

JUST LIKE A THEME PARK

"Our whole strategy behind the Pooh line is to bring the characters to life, just as kids may experience the characters at a theme park," said Elaine Sagers, VP-marketing for the Pooh line.

Ms. Sagers said Mattel wanted to get the product into retail well in advance of advertising, so retailers can gauge consumer response before plotting fall in-store merchandising strategies.

Mattel won't project sales or disclose orders, but is confident it has another hit. Ms. Sagers reported one retailer increased its order 25% after receiving a prototype several months ago.

When Bounce Around Tigger is pressed, it announces "I'm gonna bounce!" and then does so for 6 seconds while laughing, before coming to a rest to say, "Bouncin's what Tiggers do best."

Manufacturing a phenomenon by intentionally limiting supply won't be part of Mattel's strategy, said Ms. Sagers. "At this point we are meeting the demand from retailers. We are not trying to short the market," she said.

Mattel's TV push, created by Foote, Cone & Belding, Los Angeles, will include a mix of 15- and 30-second spots. Mattel won't disclose the budget; Ms. Sagers said spending "will be substantial."

PR CRUCIAL

Last year, Mattel spent $3.7 million in the fourth quarter, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Public relations is a critical part of the promotional strategy. Working with Freeman Public Relations, New York, Mattel will use the second annual Friendship Day as a PR platform. This year's Friendship Day on Aug. 2, a holiday created by Walt Disney Co., will take place at the United Nations in New York.

Also slated for fall is the introduction of My Interactive Pooh, a programmable special-feature plush toy similar to the interactive Barney product launched last year by Microsoft Corp. My Interactive Pooh can be programmed to remember a child's name and other personal information, as well to play games, tell stories and sing songs. The product plus accessories will retail for $100.

It ships in September; ads hit in November.

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