McDonald's hopes to repeat Beanie Babies success

By Julie Steenhuysen

Reuters; 8th May 1997

Flushed with the enormous success of its Teenie Beanie Babies marketing push, McDonald's Corp. is hoping to repeat with its upcoming kids promotion featuring the hit Sky Dancers toys.

A McDonald's spokeswoman confirmed the Sky Dancers Happy Meal promotion, but declined to discuss details, saying information on the promotion will be released later.

Before it was eclipsed by the Teenie Beanie Babies, McDonald's most recent Happy Meal hit was its tie-in with Disney's "101 Dalmatians" movie.

That deal was not a part of McDonald's 10-year marketing agreement with Walt Disney Co., which began in January. This summer, the chain plans tie-ins for Disney's back-to-back blockbuster movie events, with "Hercules" in June, followed by "George of the Jungle" in July. Both promotions feature toys based on film characters.

Sky Dancers, twirling, fairylike toys that fly with the aid of a launcher, are made by Galoob Toys. For boys, McDonald's will offer Galoob's popular Micro Machines toy cars.

"McDonald's has made a 180-degree turnaround in their emphasis on kids," said Bob Goldin, executive vice president at Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant consulting company.

"Three or four months ago they were talking about an adult menu with the Arch Deluxe, and now they're back to their core market: kids. That's their strength. They own the hearts and minds of our kids in such a powerful way."

The Sky Dancers/Micro Machines promotion comes on the heels of McDonald's most successful Happy Meal promotion ever, in which the company distributed more than 100 million Ty Inc. Teenie Beanie Babies in a little more than a week. McDonald's had hoped supplies would last for five weeks.

Another company, Greenwich, Conn.-based independent filmmaker Cabin Fever Entertainment, is hoping the new promotion will help get its Sky Dancers animated video series off the ground. In addition to the toys to be featured in the promotion, the deal includes a $2 rebate coupon for Sky Dancers videos.

"Our position is to capitalize on the success McDonald's is having with Happy Meals, and part of that strategy is to aggressively capitalize on the public relations to promote the enormous awareness of the Sky Dancers TV show and toy," said Kristine Larson, senior vice president of marketing for Cabin Fever, which markets the Sky Dancers video series under the Razzmatazz Entertainment label.

"The exciting thing for us is that McDonald's for the promotion is launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign on Sky Dancers. Where we benefit is the consumer awareness of Sky Dancers. That directly impacts us at our mass merchandisers and video locations," Larson said.

The advertising will be handled by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, a McDonald's spokeswoman said.

Sky Dancers have captured the imagination of girls under 9, generating sales of more than $180 million globally in the past two years. The toys, licensed to Galoob Toys Inc. by Abrams/Gentile Entertainment, are currently the No. 2 selling toy among girls, behind Mattel Inc.'s Barbie.

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