Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised

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Photo: Pixar. Wikia

The iconic Mr. Potato Head toy was first manufactured in 1952. Originally conceived and designed as plastic pieces to be inserted into a real potato, complaints over moldy vegetables soon led to the inclusion of a plastic potato body.

The toy’s popularity resulted in further members of the Potato Head family being introduced, as well as the character’s appearance in films such as the Toy Story franchise, Burger King advertisements and on children’s television shows.

In 2008 the character also featured as one of the giant helium balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The manufacturers, Hasbro Inc., made two key innovations with Mr. Potato Head’s marketing campaign.

  1. It was the first children’s toy to ever be advertised on television; although this was a novelty in itself, it is unsurprising that advertising would take advantage of the new televised media form as it came into maturity.
  2. More significantly, however, Mr. Potato Head was marketed directly at children, meaning the campaign was the first example of using television advertising to directly encourage children to request certain products from their parents. And thus, ‘pester power’ was born.

With more than one million units sold within the first year, Hasbro’s innovative marketing was a clear success. It opened the door for what are now familiar 30-second advertising slots on television, and introduced the idea of marketing to children directly, as opposed to their parents.

These two simple ideas have been applied ever since, and still inform the format of many televised children’s toy advertisements today.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Although there are strict regulations about advertising to children, marketing softly at this valuable audience can still produce considerable pester power.

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 1 The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 20 John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 23 Apple Misunderstood Campaign Makes Technology and Family a Priority
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition