Toys R Us rescues the vanishing imaginary friend in new ad
Mr. Ferguson clings to life, and conventional methods like electric shocks and chest compressions are useless to revive him. Only a water gun and a whoopee pad will do.
Mr. Ferguson, you see, is not a real person. He’s not real at all.
This giant bunny in distressed overalls – charming or terrifying, depending on your perspective – represents the death of children’s imaginations. But even though he was down, his comically oversized tongue sticking out of his mouth, he got back up, according to a Toys R Us Canada ad from his new record agency Broken Heart Love Affair.
Not to mention the cheeky drama, but the life-size Mr. Ferguson, after collapsing due to his child’s carelessness, is rescued by a pair of dedicated “playamedics”. It lives to stimulate creativity (or cause nightmares).
Stimulate the imagination
Imagination Included, the agency’s first work since winning the contract with the retailer in June, was inspired by studies of youth behavior. In a 2019 survey in the UK, 72% of educators said fewer children had imaginary friends than five years ago, while 63% pointed to screen time as the cause.
Now children are also overloaded with play dates and extracurricular activities, leaving less time for themselves “when they can fuel creativity and create a rich inner world where imaginary friends can flourish. “, said the agency.
“As a parent of two young children and a creator myself, the statistic about the dwindling number of childhood friends really freaked me out,” Craig McIntosh, the agency’s chief creative officer, told Adweek. “I immediately ran to Toys R Us to load up action figures and other manual-free toys, so I could stoke the fires of my child’s imagination.”
The campaign comes at a critical time for the retailer, which spun off from the shuttered US chain and was acquired in 2021 by a venture capital group called Putnam Investments. Toys R Us has 80 stores across Canada and faces stiff competition from giants like Walmart and Amazon. The effort marks his first-ever branding campaign.
“When a child picks up a toy, it only comes to life through their imagination,” Allyson Banks, chief marketing officer at the retailer, said in a statement. “We are more focused than ever on encouraging imaginative play and nurturing that development in children.”
The spot is broadcast, in its entirety and its reductions, on digital and social channels, in addition to theatrical, in-store and out-of-home placements. It’s not designated as a Christmas effort, although the timing is no accident, and it will continue throughout the New Year.
The retailer plans to use the agency’s “Inclusive Imagination” platform in the future, calling it a “long-term strategy”.
“This is just the beginning of our partnership,” Banks said. “Our imaginations run wild thinking about what’s to come.”