But the story behind the story is how aggressively they were marketed. The Martz Agency, a Phoenix-based advertising agency handles the account and the Beacon Media Group, also responsible for past holiday hits like Cabbage Patch Dolls, Furby and Pokemon are the advertising and media agencies behind the Zhu Zhu craze. Advertising for the robot-like hamsters began in late summer on children's cable such as Nickelodeon and Disney to begin to create demand for the faux pets. In addition to television, the campaign relied heavily on events, promotions and PR. There were more than 300 mom influencer party events as well as giveaway events at hospitals and zoos across the country. Special emphasis was put on moms who Blog and Twitter. Leaving no stone unturned, there is even an iPhone App.
The quest to be the hot toy is a lucrative one. Coleco sold 18 million Cabbage Patch dolls in 1984, the year the doll topped the Christmas wish list, grossing 1.5 billion dollars. In 1999, 14 million Furby's were sold while the year before it rose to the top of the holiday list, just 1.8 million. One of the hottest toys of all time, the Beanie Baby was the "it" toy for 1995. From the holiday season of 1995 until the end of 1196, Ty sold more than 100 million Beanie babies and made a profit of over $250 million dollars.
This year, advertisers have the equivalent of a marketing Rubik's Cube to solve to have a successful holiday selling season. Many retailers are sacrificing margins to get people into the stores to buy. Many manufacturers have produced fewer quantities mindful of the recession. Consumers are telling pollsters they are likely to spend less on gifts this year, but positive economic news and the moderate price tags on some of this year's hottest toys, might make the pre-shopping surveys irrelevant.
I predict in the final analysis it will come down to frantic parents, scouring shelves, both cyber and brick-and-mortar terrified they won't see that bright light in the eyes of their children on Christmas morning. And with smart phones and texting make no mistake about it, kids are armed with lots of information about where the toys are.
The work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Larry D. Woodard is president and CEO of Vigilante, a New York-based advertising agency that develops consumer-centric advertising campaigns. He is also chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies New York Council and the recipient of many prestigious industry awards, including two O'Toole Awards for Agency of the Year, the London International Award, Gold Effie, Telly, Mobius, Addy's and the Cannes Gold Lion. A blogger and a frequent public speaker, Woodard enjoys discussing the intersection of media, politics, entertainment and technology.