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Etch A Sketch Shakes Things Up With New Ads

Monday, 2 Apr 2012 | 2:49 PM ET
Etch-A-Sketch on the campaign trail advertisement
Source: Team Detroit
Etch-A-Sketch on the campaign trail advertisement

Well played, Etch A Sketch. Well played.

Ohio Arts, the maker of the classic children’s drawing toy, continues to embrace its moment in the national spotlight. The company has launched a new advertising campaign and is planning new products based on the uproar that followed in the wake of the political gaffe that continues to haunt Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Talk about making the most of your 15 minutes of fame.

When Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstromdrew on the Etch A Sketch to paint a picture of a campaign that could essentially reset itself after the nomination was locked in, Ohio Arts had a few choices. It could have ignored the comment, and waited for the discussion to die down. Or it could have balked, and declared that it wasn’t a fair use of its brand. Instead, it chose a third option — It decided to make the most of the situation.

The company is rushing to market with a new product that will be based on the political blunder. Ohio Arts expects it will be in stores by late spring or early summer.

As for the new campaign, it was created by ad agency Team Detroit, and it reinforces the idea that as a toy brand, Etch a Sketch is about fun. Instead of poking fun at the political blunder directly, Etch A Sketch jokes about the nature of politics in general.

“We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party. (But remember, when both work together, we can do loop de loops.),” declares one ad. Another says, “Etch A Sketch is a lot like politics, there’s a lot of gray area.”

A third attempts to reinforce the neutral ground the company is seeking. “Politically,” it says, “We lean right down the middle, which way did you lean?” The words are written vertically down the middle of the ad, forcing the reader to tilt their head to the left or to the right to read it.

Etch-A-Sketch on the campaign trail advertisement
Source: Team Detroit
Etch-A-Sketch on the campaign trail advertisement

Each of the ads declares: “Etch a Sketch is proud to be part of the national debate.”

That debate isn’t going away anytime soon. The image continues to be conjured up by Romney’s opponents on both sides.

Earlier Monday, former President Bill Clintonbecame the latest to use the metaphor in an interview with ABC’s television show “Good Morning America.” He concluded that Romney would need an Etch A Sketch reset to win.

Clinton’s remarks reinforce the idea the remark may continue to haunt Romney long after the primaries are over. It also provides another opportunity for Americans to become aware of the comment (as do the toymaker’s ads).

That might be needed to move the story beyond the Beltway. Last week, a Pew Research Center poll found most Americans were unaware of the comment. About 44 percent of those surveyed by Pew had heard about the comment and of those voters it did not appear to sway their opinions of Romney.

That doesn’t mean that Ohio Arts isn’t getting a bump. The company continues to say its sales are brisk in the wake of the incident, and undoubtedly hopes the ad campaign will drive them even further.

According to Ohio Arts Chairman Bill Killgallon, its point-of-sales data, which do not show sales in all channels, are indicating sales are up between 10 percent to 40 percent. But product is also in short supply as this is not usually a busy time for sales of the toy.

Killgallon stressed that those purchasing Etch A Sketches now are not the usual buyer and the new product on its way to store shelves will be targeted more to the new consumer who is buying the toy for political reasons or as a momento.

The company is also using its moment to champion another cause it cares about: encouraging Americans to vote.

"I think it is a disgrace in America that we have such a low voter turnout," Killgallon said. "It is not good for a democracy."

It appears the company is trying to play its part in making that happen. At the toy’s website — with a banner that reads, “Shake It Up, America” — there is now a link to help people register to vote.

According to Killgallon, there will be more to come.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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