Y&R to Back Sears Kids Line

An integrated marketing campaign from Young & Rubicam will back a new line of children’s clothing from Sears, Roebuck & Co. this Spring, the retailer said.

The Hoffman Estates, Ill., company plans a major ad blitz behind a full line of children’s clothes and accessories that ties into the Public Broadcast Service series Between the Lions, a Sears representative said. “This will be a major nationwide campaign for us,” the representative said.

The clothing line, which includes hats, backpacks and swimwear, is designed to help children read and will be available at 860 Sears stores nationwide in time for the spring kickoff Sears’ national book drive.

Marketing plans, while in preliminary stages, will be similar to other tie-in initiatives by the retailer, including a Pokemon campaign that was also handled by Y&R, said Kary McIIwain, Y&R’s managing director. Specifics of the tie-in plan with the “Between the Lions” series remain under development, the agency said.

The new clothing line, like the TV program, aims to teach kids basic grammatical skills. The clothing features outfits such as a novelty zipper pocket with the word “zip.” It opens to read “unzipped.” All garments also carry a vowel tag on the collar that reads “A,E,I,O,U and sometimes Y.” Prices range from $14.99 to $23.99.

The PBS show is based on an imaginary library run by a family of lions and premiered nationwide in April. It uses puppets, live action and animation with the cast of characters that interact with the lions. In the magical library, vowels sing and books jump, to make the process of learning to read less challenging and more entertaining.

The series was recently honored for outstanding achievement in children’s programming by the Television Critics Association, and the University of Kansas released a study concluding that children improved reading performance after watching several episodes of the program.

Competitive Media Reporting figures showed that last year Sears spent $15 million on advertising for its children’s apparel. The retailer spent $99.2 million overall on marketing its apparel in 1999.

The total $700 million Sears account is split between Y&R, which for the most part handles the company’s apparel and other soft goods, and Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago, which handles the majority of Sears’ hardware equipment.