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Interactive marketing to children doesn't come just through the Internet.

For companies vying for children's attention spans, Trenton, N.J.-based agency Zoot Suit uses interactive displays and community festivals.

"There's no longer just three networks out there, so you can't just run an ad on TV. You have to think of alternative ways to reach kids," says Alan Rambam, president of Zoot Suit.


Zoot Suit was formed in 1991 under the name "The Planner's Alternative" as an event planning and services company. In 1993, it had revenues of $400,000 and this year will hit close to $7 million.

While Zoot Suit has worked with agencies such as Bozell Worldwide and Earle Palmer Brown on projects, it also competes against them.

In mid-1995, Zoot Suit beat out Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in a pitch for Milan's Play Planet-Europe's first indoor play park for children.

Zoot Suit also beat out Tierney & Partners, Philadelphia, and other agencies in a pitch earlier this year for Boston Market's Einstein Bros. bagel chain.


Zoot Suit's attraction: hands-on marketing that introduces a marketer to a child at a young age, insuring loyalty and familiarity in future years and in the meantime prompting a child to take that marketer's name home to parents.

It's also cost effective, the company contends. Mr. Rambam says the average cost of renting out space in Minneapolis' Mall of America, for example, is $5,000 for a weekend.

"You'll reach 300,000 people who will get to see and touch your product," says Mr. Rambam. "Doing that in every market will support your advertising."

When Hatfield, Pa.-based toy company K'NEX Industries launched a toy construction set nationally in 1993, it turned to Zoot Suit for help. Zoot Suit created the K'NEX Build in Circus-a 3,000 square foot exhibit that went on a 13-city national tour to science and children's museums.

More than 500,000 people were exposed to the product on that tour. The first year of the campaign, K'NEX construction set sales rose from $2 million to $23 million through the use of an integrated campaign, utilizing Zoot Suit's efforts, national TV advertising and PR from K'NEX's then-agency Elkman Advertising and PR, Bala-Cynwyd, Pa.


"With a construction product, hands-on marketing is absolutely necessary to tell people what it's all about," says Gail Nagy, event manager for K'NEX.

Last May, Binney & Smith-maker of Crayola crayons-enlisted the assistance of Zoot Suit in promoting its non-crayon Crayola products. Zoot Suit created a traveling exhibit where kids could try out Crayola items.

"They're worth their weight in gold in terms of creative trouble shooting," says Tracey Moran, communications manager for Binney & Smith.

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