Mattel Revs Up Hot Wheels Campaign for Primetime

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A new 60-second spot, starts with a cool-looking mom taking her son for a joyride in a yellow muscle car. The two do donuts through a spouting hydrant and narrowly dodge careening barrels that fell off the back of a truck -- all while she doles out matronly advice about tackling adversity. Ultimately, our heroes careen off the side of a cliff in a doomed Evel Knievel-style stunt.

Finally, the spot reveals that the duo is not actually driving off real cliffs, but playing with toy cars on the floor. "When kids take on challenges, there's no limit to how far they'll go. Hot Wheels: Challenge accepted," a voiceover says.

The Mattel-owned division, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, is airing its first primetime spot in an effort to add more vroom to its brand. With the "Challenge Accepted" campaign, Hot Wheels wants to show consumers that the brand is more than just static play; its products can produce an active play experience which is beneficial for children, says Chris Down, senior VP-global brand general manager at Hot Wheels.

"A lot of people who have experienced the brand have good feelings about but also think about it in a narrow way, that it's a dollar car, with a lifetime guarantee that's been around forever," he says. "But it's more than a die-cast car, it's a system of play."

Working with BBDO for the first time, Hot Wheels is hoping to replicate some of the success its sister brand, Mattel-owned Barbie, has had with recent campaigns that tap into female empowerment. BBDO started working on Barbie more than two years ago, and took on creative duties for Hot Wheels and other Mattel core brands including American Girl and Fisher-Price earlier this year. The company has made a point of trying to bust gender stereotypes in its marketing, by featuring dads playing Barbie for example, or a mom driving the Hot Wheels car.

While Hot Wheels has been a successful brand for El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel—the division was up single digits in sales in the second quarter of this year—the toy sector overall has been hard-hit by digital competition. Lego proved the difficulties of analog toys earlier this week when it reported it will cut 1,400 jobs, 8% of its workforce, after sales declines—its first in 13 years.

Hot Wheels' new push includes 30-and 60-second TV spots, a 130-second longer version that will run in cinema, and a full social campaign. The multi-million-dollar effort is Mattel's single largest investment on a campaign for the Hot Wheels brand, Down says. Last year, Mattel spent $115.5 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

"We wanted to resonate with mom but in an unexpected way," says Down. "Her being a badass mom driving this car is both aspirational and understandable—they were able to persevere."

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