With the scarcity of shelf space becoming a major survival factor in the $5 billion retail PC software market, Hasbro Interactive Worldwide has opened up a cyber toy store with designs on derailing the momentum of Riven and Barbie at the cash register.
Hasbro Interactive, the Beverly, Mass., new media division for the No. 2 toymaker, specializes in CD-ROM development and site construction for traditional Hasbro brands. This year, the company has stepped up its online ad budget, earmarking approximately $3 million for the Internet. The money will be spread over site construction, maintenance and the company's largest Web advertising campaign, said Hasbro Interactive president Tom Dusenberry. The campaign will launch next week with banners running for six weeks on top-traffic sites. The focus is on driving traffic to and building awareness for Hasbro's new cyber outpost.
Designed by Poppe Tyson, New York, the new site, www.hasbro-interactive.com, affords visitors a chance to browse through Hasbro's 22-title CD-ROM library, make purchases online and link to multiplayer gaming destinations such as Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone and MPlayer, which support Hasbro titles.
Dusenberry said that while a new distribution channel, the online store is not meant to supplant the company's retail chain. "It's really positioned for convenience," he said, adding that the site offers the additional benefit of giving older titles-which retailers may not be interested in stocking-a longer shelf life.
The heavier focus on Web ad buys is a shift in Hasbro Interactive's overall marketing plans-much of the money will be spent in the fourth quarter during the crucial holiday selling period. Hasbro Interactive plans to outlay more than $10 million across all media during that period to promote its crop of 10 or so new CD-ROM titles including its first girl's title, Girl Talk.
Mattel's Barbie CD-Rom titles, including Barbie Magic Hairstyler, Barbie Talk With Me and the 1996 hit Barbie Fashion Designer, were the topsellers last year. Hasbro has had success, too, in the digital arena, first with Monopoly and more recently with Frogger. Most industry estimates place Hasbro, which has about twice as many software titles, ahead of Mattel in CD-ROM sales.
Sony Computer Entertainment of America, another major software seller, is planning its next online ad buy for March to promote NBA Shootout 98. Banners will be placed primarily on search engines and gamer-enthusiast sites, said Peter Dille, SCEA's senior director of product marketing.-with Adrienne Mand