The hype surrounding Buzz Lightyear in the pre-Christmas period
really did go as he says ’to infinity and beyond!’.
At first glance the headline-grabbing stories seem an exemplary
communications plan to generate media exposure and fuel demand in a way
that advertising simply cannot. We witnessed a sustained campaign of
human interest stories as dedicated parents succeeded where Santa had
failed; the family that paid pounds 94 for Buzz at auction, another
desperate father who spent pounds 400 on adverts, phonecalls and postage
to the US as part of a toy swap with Tickle-me Elmo and the grandmother
who paid pounds 230 for Buzz as part of a radio station’s charity
appeal. The media lapped it up.
We then read of Disney stores issuing secret passwords to parents who
had ordered the toy, presumably in an effort to help them remain
anonymous and presumably avoid attack on the way home.
The final photocall of security men guarding a delivery on 20 December
served as a marvellous opportunity for more stories of abandoned cars -
and even a double decker bus left in Regent Street.
What a triumph. Or was it? Criticism of Disney is heavy. Even the
tabloids repeatedly guess at the enormity of lost sales. While the
communication makes Buzz look more desirable, corporately there must be
considerable egg on face.
How extraordinary then to announce the arrival of Intergalactic Buzz
Lightyear as we had barely finished singing ’Auld Lang Syne’. The new
improved Buzz will shortly be available across the UK but instead of
appeasing those desperate parents this announcement could well
It generated publicity but you don’t have to be a cynic for it to send
the wrong message. Maybe Disney’s communications advisers should take a
leaf out of the FA’s book and publicise a use-by date on all future
models to defuse criticism from consumers!
This jury doesn’t believe any publicity is good publicity and one cannot
help feeling a lack of strategy and control in the aftermath of Buzz and
Christmas ’96. An excellent way to remedy the situation might be a
suggestion to Blue Peter who gallantly re-created Thunderbirds’ Tracy
Island following its sell-out of Christmas 1992. I’m sure a home-grown
Buzz could be created with some sticky-backed plastic and a squeezy