Toys ‘R’ Us launches imaginary friends campaign with a memorable indeed

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Below, the creators of the campaign explain their playful approach:

Muse: Why focus on imaginary friends?

Kristy Pleckaitis, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Broken Heart Love Affair: Fantasy characters are the product of children using their imaginations. But over the past five years, we’ve seen those friends disappear due to increased screen time and over-planning of activities. Children don’t have many opportunities to be bored or explore, which stimulates creativity. And creativity is the skill of the future. It is the key to solving problems and generating new ideas that will help us move forward individually and as a society. Toys “R” Us has always been about playing and encouraging a child’s imagination to run wild. It’s time to give this magical gift back to our children.

This is not a holiday campaign per se. Still, it has a seasonal vibe, with toys often given away as freebies.

Kristy Pleckaitis: Because this is the launch of a new brand platform, we didn’t want the spot to reflect a single moment in time. Although it doesn’t have the typical themes you see this time of year, especially toy brands, imagination and magic have always been cornerstones of the holiday. So it always works, it always connects, without having to lean into the tropes of the season.

What exactly is Mr. Ferguson supposed to be?

Jaimes Zentil, CCO, BHLA: Mr. Ferguson is a figment of the child’s imagination and not based on a real toy. Because of this, he’s more of an amalgamation of different characters and animals rather than a single definable thing.

He reminds me of several media characters though, like a Muppet or a Wild Thing.

Jaimes Zentril: Mr. Ferguson was born out of our love for practical, classic 80s analog designs like Howard the Duck, Alf, Falkor from The Neverending Story and all things Jim Henson. We saw a few iterations of characters before we got to one we all loved, but, boy, would we have liked to be able to bring them all to life.

Who created it? Looks like animatronics were used?

Jaimes Zentril: We brought in Legacy Effects, an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated special effects studio that specializes in hands-on constructions for the film industry. Mr. Ferguson is a life-size costume with built-in animatronics to operate the mouth, eyes, and ears to convey emotions. Having this deep appreciation for practical characters in common, we all agreed that being able to make Mr. Ferguson feel emotional using animatronics would be pretty special on film and would bring us back, and many kids of our generation who are now themselves. same parents, back to those magical moments of our

Maybe Toys “R” Us should produce Mr. Fergusons to sell at the store.

Allyson Banks, Director, Marketing, Toys “R” Us Canada: That’s something we considered. Toys “R” Us has an iconic mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, who will always be at the center of the brand. It was important that we alleviate any possible confusion that there might be a new mascot. Additionally, we want children to use their own imagination to imagine their own imaginary friends. But never say never!

CREDITS

Campaign Title: Imagination Included
Spot Title: Mr. Ferguson
Client: Toys’R’Us Canada
Director, Marketing: Allyson Banks
Creative Director: Salvatore Stranges

Agency: Broken Heart Love Affair
Creative directors: Craig Mcintosh, Jaimes Zentil
Strategy: Kristy Pleckaitis, Jay Chaney
Account Team: Cass Farry, Maegan Thomas
Executive Producer: Erica Metcalfe
Junior producer: Olivia Cousineau

Production company: The Salmon
Executive producer: Natalia Winardi
Director: Mike Warzin
Director of photography: Barry Parrell
Executive Producer: Rory Halsall
Production designer: Jeremy Macfarlane
Clothing Stylist: Melissa Shouldice

Casting: Mann Casting
Casting Director: Steven Mann

Editorial: Saints Editorial
Executive producers: Michelle Rich, Mackenzie Goodwin
Publisher: Griff Henderson
Assistant editor-in-chief: Sam Rousseau

Visual effects: Vanity
Executive Producer: Stephanie Pennington
VFX Artist: Kaelem Cahill
Producer: Katie Oliver

Color: Vanity
Colorist: Andrew Exworth

Audio House: Berkeley
Creative Director: Jared Kuemper
Mixing and sound design: Jared Kuemper

Media Agency: Prospect Media Group

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Raymond I. Langston