Mattel Teams Up With Car-Rental Agency to Rent Hot Wheels to Kids

In Paris, Ogilvy Uses One Campaign to Solve Two Client Briefs

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"Are we there yet?"

Hot Wheels might have managed to forever banish those four dreaded words every parent on vacation has come to expect, with a smart stunt in collaboration with European car rental agency Europcar.

Working with Ogilvy and Mather, Paris, Hot Wheels parent Mattel set up the "First Rental Car Agency for Kids." When parents went to Europcar to book a car for the family vacation, on hand were representatives from Hot Wheels who rented out cars to kids -- complete with rental contract and late-return penalties.

Co-branding the campaign was a result of "good old-fashioned serendipity," said Patrick Sullivan, creative director at Ogilvy ,Paris. "Mattel and Europcar are two Ogilvy clients that have some creative and account leadership staffing overlap," he said. "One hallway conversation led to another."

Hot Wheels, for its part, was trying to make itself relevant in a category dominated by video games and technology, where many kids haven't really played with the miniature cars and trucks. Research had found that what they needed was just to get the toy into kids' hands, and they'd play.

So the car-rental agency turned into a sampling and sales exercise. When kids didn't return the cars, the parents' credit cards were charged, leading to some revenue for the company. It also was able to tell which cars were most popular by analyzing what cars were returned and which ones were kept.

Europcar was looking for a way to reach families and try to include everyone, even kids, in its messaging. "In the end, Ogilvy brought together two of the agency's brands with one unique creative idea that answered two separate briefs," said Mr. Sullivan.

The agency also brought a nice bit of duality to the whole experience. For example, if the kids' parents signed up for a loyalty program, so did the kids. "The pre-booking, the rental contracts, the test-drives, the free upgrades, unlimited miles -- whatever the parents experienced on the Europcar side, the kids experienced on the Hot Wheels cars," said Mr. Sullivan.

The agency's events team found that in-store engagement times from kids were clocking in between 12 and 24 minutes, numbers that Mr. Sullivan says are proof that the campaign works. "We're just starting to tap into the real potential of this idea," he said. "We're all really excited to push the next evolution of this idea even further. Make it bigger, roll it out to more markets in the European Union."

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