Toys R Us Saves the Endangered Imaginary Friend in New Ad – IGWIIKI


Mr. Ferguson is clinging to life, and conventional methods like electric shocks and chest compressions are useless to revive him. Only a water gun and a whoopee cushion will do.

Mr. Ferguson, you see, is not a real person. He’s not real at all.

This giant overall-wearing rabbit in distress—either charming or terrifying, depending on your perspective—represents the death of children’s imaginations. But even though he was down, his comically oversized tongue lolling out of his mouth, he sprang back up again, per a Toys R Us Canada ad from its new agency of record Broken Heart Love Affair.

Not to take away from the cheeky drama, but the life-sized Mr. Ferguson, after collapsing from the inattention of his child, gets rescued by a pair of dedicated “playamedics.” He lives on to spark creativity (or cause nightmares).

Broken Heart Love Affair, Toys R Us

Igniting imagination

“Imagination Included,” the agency’s first work since winning the retailer’s business in June, was inspired by studies on youngsters’ behavior. In a 2019 survey from the U.K., 72% of daycare workers said fewer children have imaginary friends than they did five years ago, while 63% pointed the finger at screen time as the cause.

Kids now are also over-scheduled with play dates and after-school activities, leaving them less time to themselves “when they can fuel creativity and create a rich inner world where imaginary friends can thrive,” stated the agency.

“As a parent of two young kids and a creative myself, the stat about the dwindling number of childhood friends really freaked me out,” Craig McIntosh, the agency’s chief creative officer, told Adweek. “I instantly raced to Toys R Us to load up on action figures and other toys without manuals, so I could stoke the fires of my kid’s imaginations.”

The campaign comes at a critical time for the retailer, which broke away from the shuttered U.S. chain and was acquired in 2021 by a venture capital group called Putnam Investments. Toys R Us has 80 stores in Canada and faces stiff competition from behemoths like Walmart and Amazon. This effort marks its first-ever brand campaign.

Broken Heart Love Affair, Toys R Us

“When a child picks up a toy, it only comes to life through their imagination,” Allyson Banks, director of marketing at the retailer, said in a statement. “We are focused more than ever on encouraging imaginative play and nurturing this development in children.”

The spot is running, in its full-length and cut-downs, across digital and social channels in addition to in-theater, in-store and out-of-home placements. It’s not designated as a Christmas effort, though timing is no accident, and it will continue through the new year.

The retailer plans to use the “Imagination Included” platform from the agency going forward, calling it “a long-term strategy.”

“This is just the beginning of our partnership,” Banks said. “Our imaginations are going wild thinking about what’s to come.”

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