Japanese toy company Bandai, creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles and Power Rangers, launched the computerised pet Tamagotchi in
Japan towards the end of last year, achieving phenomenal success.
Tamagotchi is an oval-shaped plastic toy with an LCD screen. When owners
switch on a bird-like creature is hatched from an egg on the LCD display
and it is then up to them to care for it by feeding, playing with and
disciplining it by pressing buttons.
To launch Tamagotchi in the UK using PR only and to make the Tamagotchi
name synonymous with virtual pets and ensure it dominates the
To position Tamagotchi as a must-have product and generate media
interest in it throughout 1997 particularly in the lead-up to the summer
A sales target of one million units from the launch date in May to the
end of the year was set.
Tamagotchi was launched to the retail trade at the Olympia Toy Fair in
A drip-feed campaign started in February to stimulate media interest
ahead of the launch in May when products would be available. Individual
journalists were targeted with countdown releases, and exclusives
Only 12 Tamagotchi were available for preview and these were sent out
with a minder. Journalists were not allowed to take charge until they
had been taught how to care for their pet.
Around 200 key journalists were sent adoption papers and invited to a
launch party at London sushi bar Yo! Sushi in early May. They were told
that unless they turned up they would be sent a funeral bill. The party
included the world’s largest simultaneous hatching of the first 140
Tamagotchi in the UK. A photocall was arranged using sumo wrestlers as
the first 150 went on sale to the public at Toys R Us in Brent Cross
during National Pet Week. More than 500 people turned up to wait for the
store to open.
After the launch the Wright Partnership’s objective has been to ensure
continued coverage of Tamagotchi. Various stories have been put out and
the agency has been quick to respond to media requests for information
Many of the stories - for example, schools banning Tamagotchi and
children requiring bereavement counselling after their pet ’died’ -
might be considered negative. ’We were aware that such issues were
likely to be discussed and have a pragmatic approach to dealing with
media requests,’ says Kevin Wright, partner at the Wright
The Tamagotchi has become a craze to rival previous ones such as the
Rubik Cube, Action Man and Power Ranger, and, as such, has received
phenomenal media coverage, including more than one-and-a-half hours of
TV. Even by mid-August around 175 cuttings a week were coming through.
Coverage includes a feature by Amanda Mitchison in the Sunday Telegraph
describing her experiences of looking after a Tamagotchi.
Bandai UK marketing director, Rosie Bavies, says: ’The problem at the
moment is that we are desperately short of stock. We could easily sell
two or three times as many.’
Using PR only to launch Tamagotchi was a brave decision, but one that
has paid off spectacularly. Following the success of the toy in Japan,
where almost 1.5 million sold in the first five months, the campaign
expertly built up media interest and public expectation. This has been
cleverly sustained almost four months after the launch thanks to stories
such as a woman in Birmingham setting up a Tamagotchi creche and a
Buddhist temple in Hiroshima offering a virtual pet graveyard on the
Apparently negative stories such as bereavement counselling for kids are
a sure way of keeping the product in the public consciousness.
The challenge now is to continue to keep the public and media interested
in Tamagotchi. After all, who buys the Rubik Cube nowadays?
Client: Bandai UK
PR Team: The Wright Partnership
Campaign: Tamagotchi launch
Timescale: Jan-Aug 1997
Cost: pounds 22,000