Toys R Us Revisits Its Glory Days, Using ’70s and ’80s Ad Footage in New Holiday Spot

BBDO gets nostalgic in throwback :30

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Toys R Us surely longs for the 1980s, back when it dominated the holiday toy market—years before Walmart and Amazon arrived and stole its lunch.

Creatively, too, Toys R Us also sees some value in harking back to its glory days, as BBDO Atlanta just released a new 30-second holiday spot that is almost two-thirds comprised of vintage footage from classic spots aired decades ago.

See the new ad below, which weaves in old spots from as long ago as 1978—and features a somewhat reworked version of the “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” jingle.

Toys R Us has mostly been trying to look forward, not backward, since it filed for bankruptcy protection in September. Its attempts at reinvention have been embodied by a new BBDO-created brand platform, “Today We Play,” based on research that showed how children’s free-play time has declined drastically in recent decades.

But nostalgia also clearly remains a draw for a company whose heyday was 30 years ago. (In fact, at the time of the bankruptcy filing, Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon began his remarks, somewhat bizarrely, by singing the “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” jingle himself.)

The version of “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” in the new ad is sung by 41-year-old singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis, formerly of the band Rilo Kiley. BBDO tells us Lewis was actually a child actress in early Toys R Us commercials.

The reworked lyrics, though, hint at the changing world that has battered the brand. “From bikes and trains to video games/We’ve been with you for all these years,” Lewis sings—omitting the original line, “It’s the biggest toy store there is,” which is clearly no longer the case.

This new spot will run on TV through the holiday season alongside the promotional holiday campaign “The Naughty List Is Not an Option,” which launched earlier this season.

Client: Toys R Us

Agency: BBDO Atlanta
David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide
Robin Fitzgerald, Chief Creative Officer, Atlanta
Craig Miller, Group Creative Director
Patrick Lindsay, Writer/Creative Director
Danny Corrales, Art Director/Creative Director
Paul Roebuck, Worldwide Sr. Business Director
Danielle Willett, Director
Hannah Aaronson, Account Manager
Alex Denney, Account Executive
Marc Calamia, Production and Innovation
Chrissy Lucas, Senior Producer
Jill Davis, Director of Business Affairs
Meg Foley, Integrated Business Manager

Production of Modern Footage: Chorus Films
Director: Troy Bieser
Managing Partner: Judith Hoffman
Producer: Meagan Massa

Edit: Beast Atlanta
Head of Production/Executive Producer: Soraia Callison
Producer: Kenny Sloat
Editor: Matt Baron

Music House: We Are Walker
Music Supervisor, Founder: Sara Matarazzo

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.