MCD'S COVETS VIRTUAL PETS: TAMOGOTCHI TOYS NEXT BIG SUMMER PROMOTION

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McDonald's Corp. is tapping into the craze for virtual pets with a children's promotion slated for July offering free Tamagotchi toys with the purchase of a Happy Meal.

The fast-food giant plans to give away 60 million of Bandai America toys in the four-week program, with support from a $6 million ad campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

KFC TRIED PETS

The McDonald's promotion will run seven months after Tricon Global Restaurants' KFC chain partnered with Tiger Electronics' Giga Pets brand in a holiday promotion. KFC customers were offered the toys for $7.99, about half the retail price, with no purchase required. McDonald's didn't return calls for comment.

Some fast-food observers say the KFC promotion wasn't a hit -- the toys didn't sell out in all restaurants and the price tag appeared high for a fast-food setting. Still, a KFC spokesman termed it a success and a moneymaker.

Bandai executives said the McDonald's premiums will be free and significantly different from the retail version of the pet. The toys will be less sophisticated than a retail version of the "pet." The fast-feeder had the same strategy with its Teenie Beanie Babies promotion last year.

MUST BE DESIRABLE LINE

Dennis Lombardi, exec VP of restaurant consultancy Technomic said fast-food customers have come to expect free toys. Still, toys for a fee have a place. "It probably needs to be a highly desired product line," he said.

Bandai's support from McDonald's will come in the midst of the toymaker's own summer push for the Tamagotchi line, which skews toward girls.

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