Bear Hugs and Giggles via KB&P

Teddy Ruxpin, the talking teddy bear that became a must-have Christmas gift in the late 1980s, has sired an heir.

The Wabi Bear, due out in late 2003 and backed by a$5 million ad push, uses a toll-free phone number to let kids hear a message from their parents or pre-recorded content like lullabies.

A campaign to support the launch from Wabi Inc. is being developed by San Francisco’s Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West, which won a review that included three other California shops. The hope is that the 15-inch plush toy, expected to be priced under $60, will emerge as this year’s hot holiday gift.

Client CEO Mark Bradlee was a co-founder of Worlds of Wonder, which launched Teddy Ruxpin in 1985. Wabi, his San Ramon, Calif.-based startup, incorporates a 900 MHz wireless receiver inside each bear. Using a toll-free number, a parent records a message that is later retrieved by the bear via a home phone. The bear giggles to signal the child that there is a message waiting.

“We saw it and we were enormously impressed,” said Nigel Carr, managing partner of KB&P. “It is perfect for parents who travel and want to say good night to their child. For kids, it’s like their own personal answering machine.”

Ray Marione,Wabi’s vp of advertising, said he was impressed with the agency’s campaign proposals. “They were all over this thing. I could not believe the enthusiasm,” Marione said.