Old-school toy makes a comeback thanks to political aide’s gaffe
ETCH A SKETCH, the mechanical drawing toy, is making a comeback thanks to a political gaffe by an aide to presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who compared the toy to his election strategy. A new ad campaign by the 104-year-old makers of Etch A Sketch pokes fun at politics with the hopes of boosting sales for the analog classic.
Asked how Romney’s politics next autumn will compare to now, strategist Eric Fehrnstrom likened the campaign to an Etch A Sketch, which lets you create drawings on a grey slate by turning two knobs and then erase them by a simple shake. “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again”, Fehrnstrom said of the campaign. Queue Romney’s rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich using Etch A Sketches as props and accusing Romney of being a flip-flopper.
The Ohio Art Company, makers of the Etch A Sketch, are hoping to capitalise on the brouhaha and to stage a comeback for a toy that may have qualified as a gizmo back in the 1960s but looks distinctly arcane in the era of Wiis and Xboxes. The company’s new “Shake it Up, America” ad will be doing the rounds on social networking sites soon.
One of the ad slogans says “Etch A Sketch is a lot like politics, there’s a lot of grey area”. Another reads: “We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party. (But remember, when both work together, we can do loop de loops.)”
To emphasise its political neutrality Ohio Art Co plans to make a blue version of the traditionally red toy. There will also be a red-and-blue collector’s edition with etchings of an elephant and a donkey, the symbols for the Republican and Democrat parties.
But despite the wall-to-wall media coverage that the gaffe received and despite the old-school toy’s appearance on the campaign trail, will the public know just what the “Shake it Up” ads are on about? After all, just days before the announcement of the ad campaign, a Pew Research Center poll showed that 55 per cent of people were unaware of the Etch A Sketch incident and out of those who did know about it 44 per cent said it would have no effect on their opinion of Romney. As the Washington Post pointed out, “simply because 100 per cent of people who do politics for a living… are closely following a story, it’s no guarantee that the story is penetrating nearly as broadly among the general public”.
But if the old-fashioned toy does manage to achieve that modern marker of advertising success – going viral – then the Etch A Sketch gibe may be hard for Romney to shake after all.