Consumers, voters draw own conclusions with iconic toy

Ohio Art's Etch A Sketch became part of a media fire-storm after Eric Fehrnstrom, adviser to Mitt Romney, compared the general election campaign plan to the iconic 53-year-old drawing toy during a CNN interview on March 21, 2012.

Client
Ohio Art (Bryan, OH)

PR agency
Southard Communications (New York)

Campaign
Etch A Sketch – Shake It Up, America

Duration
March 21-November 6, 2012

Budget
$50,000

Ohio Art's Etch A Sketch became part of a media fire-storm after Eric Fehrnstrom, adviser to Mitt Romney, compared the general election campaign plan to the iconic 53-year-old drawing toy during a CNN interview on March 21, 2012.  

“It's almost like an Etch A Sketch,” Fehrnstrom said. “You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.” 

Immediately inundated with media calls, Ohio Art and Southard Communications, its longtime AOR for PR, parlayed the situation into a campaign that encouraged all Americans to vote in the election and kept the brand in the spotlight throughout most of 2012.

“It was important to create a sustainable campaign so we could sell through the holiday season,” explains agency founder and CEO Bill Southard.

Strategy
“We wanted to be a positive part of the discussion,” says Ohio Art president Larry Killgallon. “We didn't want to be seen as taking sides.”

Killgallon's son Martin, SVP of marketing and product development, recalls talking on his cellphone to a reporter when his father spontaneously devised the campaign's messaging platform. “He whispered in my ear to tell the reporter Etch A Sketch has a left and a right knob so we speak to both sides,” the younger Killgallon says. “That statement became the perfect platform for us.”

The company moved quickly to manufacture limited-edition Shake It Up, America Etch A Sketches – one blue, one red – with packaging showing a donkey and an elephant in a tug-of-war and the tagline: Draw Your Own Conclusion.
Consumers were encouraged to pick their political side with Etch a Sketch products.

Ad agency Team Detroit created the packaging as well as print ad-like creative, T-shirts, yard signs, and bumper stickers used in PR outreach. Media and blogger relations, ShakeItUpAmerica.net, and social media drove messaging.

Tactics
“We literally stopped managing our business for the first 10 days and made ourselves available to all media,” Larry Killgallon says.

Ongoing proactive outreach targeted outlets covering business, politics, parenting, toys, and general consumer topics. Outlets in Tampa and Charlotte were targeted during the conventions. Select talk shows and mom bloggers got limited-edition products. Images of Obama and Romney created by an Etch A Sketch artist went to media and were posted online.

Launched in late May, ShakeItUpAmerica.net provided a voter registration link and an informal poll allowing visitors to click a blue Etch A Sketch for Democrat and a red one for Republican. Attendees of BlogHer in August were asked to vote on the website.   

Results
“Etch A Sketch sales for 2012 were up in excess of 10%, and I'm very pleased with that,” Larry Killgallon reports. “Overall toy industry sales for 2012 are expected to be flat or down.”

Proactive outreach generated 1,500 placements, about 1 billion impressions, in outlets worldwide including CNN International, French News Agency, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg, and Time.

CNN named Etch A Sketch one of the 21 defining moments of the election. Time ranked it nine on a list of the Top 100 objects of the campaign.

Nearly 11,000 people participated in the website poll. The Facebook page, which currently has about 8,000 likes, drew more than 100,000 visitors in the first two weeks of the campaign.

Future
The team will continue to use ShakeItUpAmerica.net to motivate consumers to speak out about issues they feel are important to them.

PRWeek's View
Though clearly a reactive campaign, this team did a fantastic job of seizing the opportunity and driving favorable results for Ohio Art throughout most of 2012. It was smart for the brand to remain neutral, and Larry Killgallon's left knob/right knob insight was downright inspired. And props to the organization for using the situation to encourage voting. All creative was pitch perfect in execution and wisely distributed. Overall, the campaign injected some positive engagement and fun into a contentious election.

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