Mattel Incumbents May Lose A Toy or Two During Review

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. – Finalists in the Mattel review said last week that some pieces of the businesses currently at the incumbent shops – Ogilvy & Mather and Foote, Cone & Belding, both L.A. – are likely to shake loose when the review proceeds.
FCB handles an estimated $20-25 million in billings from Mattel, including Hot Wheels, big dolls and Disney toys. Ogilvy’s assignments, totalling some $30-$35 million, include Barbie and other Disney toys. Neither shop appears to be in danger of losing all its billings.
FCB gm Rich Edler said Mattel told him the company planned no changes at this time. O&M managing director Jerry McGee was unavailable at press time.
The two spec creative assignments Mattel gave the finalists were drawn from FCB’s roster. Though these sources would not specify the assignments, they did say one was for a girl’s toy. ‘They (the assignments) had to do with some problem pieces of business,’ said a source. ‘Is FCB going to lose everything? No way. Both of the agencies have strengths and weaknesses. But FCB is probably the more vulnerable of the two.’
Since the review began in November, Mattel execs have neither disclosed publicly nor to contenders the assignments they intend to give a third agency. Nor did they reveal why the review was halted just before a decision was due. Now Mattel executives have told two of the finalists that they plan to switch some undisclosed assignments at the incumbent shops to a third agency.
L.A. shops DDB Needham, McCann-Erickson and DMB&B were finalists in the review.
Mattel reorganized last fall, combining the two U.S. divisions it had previously run separately – boys’ toys and girls – under Jill Barad, former president of the girls division, home of Barbie, who was named president of Mattel/U.S.
What appears to have driven that reorganization is an attempt to determine how to duplicate the success of Barbie, which generated $840 million of Mattel’s $1.6 billion in revenues last year.
Analysts believe Barbie has nearly peaked. ‘They’ve been really successful with Barbie,’ said an analyst who asked not to be identified. ‘They’re not going to be able to do that again, so what’s the (next) vehicle for growth?’ That search, ‘may involve rethinking their agency lineup,’ he added.
Mattel’s offices were closed at deadline, and executives could not be reached for comment.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)