Bubblegum Crew cards greet young consumers

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American Greetings Corp. is giving younger consumers something new to chew on with the export of its successful U.K. Bubblegum card line to the U.S.

To pitch the product now hitting retail stores, Doner's Southfield, Mich., and Cleveland offices collaborated on a TV and print effort introducing the 29 Bubblegum Crew cartoon characters featured in the card line.

Themed "Who is the Bubblegum crew?" the TV spots break the first week of March on Viacom cable networks Nick at Night and TV Land. The ads have upbeat music and showcase characters with names such as Groovy Chick, Diet Slave, Drama Queen and Fitness Freak, so named in the hopes that teens and young adults will identify with the edgy personas.

"Each character represents a different type of person or alter ego," said David DeMuth, Doner exec VP.


Print advertising, which contains an insert of an actual Bubblegum card, broke in March issues of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Jane, Mademoiselle, Rolling Stone and Spin. American Greetings will also hype the cards on its americangreetings.com Web site and is exploring several event-driven promotional concepts, possibly featuring life-size versions of the characters.

The Bubblegum line targets more youthful consumers than most greeting cards -- honing in especially on the 17-to-23-year-old set. To catch their fancy, the line features brightly colored, glitter-outlined cards that showcase the various members of the Bubblegum Crew cartoon clique.

"This [target] is new for the industry," said American Greetings VP-Communications Jeff Petit, giving American Greetings an opportunity to grow the $7.5 billion greeting card market since "the typical greeting card consumer is a 50-year-old woman." He added that the company's research has found that younger consumers would buy more greeting cards "if they were more contemporary." In fact, he said the research also found many Gen X respondents "thought of greeting cards as their mothers' communications vehicle."

Counting on the popularity of its new crew, American Greetings also plans to roll out an accompanying line of Bubblegum-themed products such as key chains, wrapping paper, stationery and plush characters. By late 2000, the card marketer expects to have 20 different licensed products under the brand umbrella.

Currently, the Bubblegum cards are in 10,000 U.S. retail outlets, but American Greetings expects to double that number by this fall. The company has been selling the Bubblegum line in Europe since 1996 under its Carlton Cards brand; the line now accounts for more than 15% of American Greetings' sales in the U.K.

But in bringing Bubblegum to the U.S., American Greetings did have to do some tinkering with the racy U.K. product.

"We're much more PC here," Mr. Petit said. "Some of the humor had to be tempered."

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