Hasbro, the world’s largest toy company, became the latest to turn
the traditional marketing flow of product first, creative second and
media later, inside out, when it awarded its pounds 46m UK planning and
buying account to BMP OMD last week.
The appointment serves two purposes for the toy giant.
First, it consolidates the planning and buying of Hasbro’s media,
previously handled by Griffin Bacal, Carat and a number of independents,
making implementation of a co-ordinated company-wide strategy
Second, and more importantly, it pushes the media function upstream in
the marketing strategy, offering BMP OMD the chance to take command of
Hasbro’s marketing effort so it can use the company’s brands in support
of each other.
Hasbro’s desire to make more effective use of its media is born of
significant change at the US giant, which has seen it move away from its
traditional product focus to reinvent itself as a family entertainment
The company’s toy brands include Action Man, Monopoly, Cluedo, Furbys,
computer game character Pokemon, Mr Potato Head and PlaysKool.
’This refocus brought us to a position where we needed a more
sophisticated media strategy,’ says Mark Trinder, Hasbro UK marketing
’We are acquiring or developing the capability to offer a broader range
of entertainment. It is taking us to new audiences and forcing us to
look at the way that we will communicate with them.’
Hasbro is currently investigating opportunities to link new board-game
products with television game shows and to take its established board
games onto television. It has also committed itself to the interactive
home shopping service, Open, as the official games supplier.
Hasbro has been guilty in the past of an over-reliance on TV
Disparate TV executions for the company’s ’hero brands’ and board games
have failed to take advantage of the potential to use the brands for
’The value in our products, as with many companies, is the intellectual
copyright,’ says Tinder. ’The challenge is to draw out this value and
use it to market the company across a broader range of product
extensions. To do this, we need an integrated and pro-active media,
promotional and public relations strategy.’
It is in this environment that the media strategists are making their
way up the marketing services roster to become clients’ strategic
’What Hasbro has done is to put media at the centre of its
communications process,’ says Mark Palmer, head of communications
strategy at BMP OMD.
’It is looking at communication in terms of objectives and then building
brand properties and personalities and linking its communication across
the products, instead of looking on them as individual unconnected
Recognition that their marketing spend can be made to work harder
through a co-ordinated media strategy has led rival Lego, Levi’s, Anchor
Dairy, as well as Procter & Gamble and Unilever to investigate more
imaginative use of media.
Will Collins, communication strategy director at New PHD, which operates
media strategist Msc as a joint venture with Partners BDDH, believes
that the growth of the media strategists has been born of necessity.
’Marketing has become more difficult with the increase in media
channels,’ says Collins. ’As a message is forced to spread it has to
become more co-ordinated. Companies are finding that they need someone
to guide them in the choice of media before they start thinking about
what they should be saying. So media strategy is becoming central and is
moving ahead of the creative strategy in the marketing flow.’
While BMP OMD’s appointment by Hasbro has pushed the debate further, it
is wrong to paint the company as a pioneer.
A year ago, Lego appointed strategic planning agency Motive to see
through its push into media brand extensions, including software, TV,
movies, books and magazines.
Disney also is a past master and Hasbro’s aspirations closely mirror the
formula of the entertainment giant.
’Disney is the best at it,’ says Palmer. ’Take the promotion of Mulan
(the recent feature length film). To promote its opening, Disney
re-released The Jungle Book so it could run a Mulan trailer. It tied the
products in with McDonald’s and stocked the store fronts with toys.’
It is this sort of cross pollination that Hasbro hopes BMP OMD will be
able to deliver over the coming year.
The extent to which Hasbro allows BMP OMD to operate at what has until
now been a senior management level remains to be seen, but Trinder seems
to be willing to give the agency every opportunity.
’Individual brands and their development will still drive the
communications brief,’ he says. ’However, we are looking for effective
innovation and we expect that media will create these opportunities,
down to developing new brands and products.’