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Etch A Sketch Shakes Up the GOP Race, Goes Red, White and Blue for the 2012 Election

Retail Editor 3 -- Gifts & Dec, March 26, 2012

Etch A SketchEtch A Sketch
BRYAN, OH — When Martin Killgallon and his father Larry, Ohio Art's president and COO, were meeting with a toy inventor last Wednesday, they had no idea what was about to happen to their classic, 52-year-old toy the Etch A Sketch. Already, the rectangular red and white sketching toy was the top trending topic on Twitter - even toppling over all the hash tags for New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow - and it was the main talking point of the GOP race.

Everything blew up when Mitt Romney campaign advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, likened the candidate's politics during a CNN interview to playing with the sketch and erase toy, saying "You hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."

Perhaps Fehrnstrom didn't realize the impact his Etch A Sketch comment may have on the Romney campaign. Even if the Etch A Sketch remark allowed democrats and republicans to jump on the "Romney is a flip flopper" bandwagon and make voters question the candidate's true beliefs and political views, Ohio Art is reaping the rewards of the gaffe. Now that the toy is in the political and national spotlight, the Etch A Sketch makers want to make a limited-edition red, white and blue version this fall in honor of the republican name drop.

"People are using the Etch A Sketch as a metaphor for what's going on in the election," says Martin Killgallon, senior vice president of marketing and development at Ohio Art. "They're enjoying the humor that it brings to the discussion. It's something they can understand and relate to."

Since Fehrnstrom's blunder, shares of Etch A Sketch stock have tripled as of the New York close on Friday, and the toy is even the prop of choice for journalists from CNN, MSNBC and beyond. ABC News' Jake Tapper could be seen holding up the Etch A Sketch with "Illinois" written before shaking it up. (Romney won the Illinois primary the evening prior to the sketch comment.) Republican candidate Rick Santorum was also seen holding the toy and capitalizing on the Etch A Sketch comment saying that we're better off re-electing President Barack Obama than considering Romney as a GOP nominee. "If they're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future," said Santorum.

Primaries and debates aside, the sketch toy hasn't received any negative backlash and is no stranger to stardom. It starred in all three Toy Story films as one of Andy's main toys and in the 2003 Will Farrell holiday comedy Elf. The red and white toy even made it on Oprah, but even an appearance with the former queen of daytime didn't get the same notice as the response to Fehrstrom's err.

"We've never seen something take off so quickly and broadly," said Killgallon. "It's the digital age we live in. It's everywhere!"

The company is discussing ways to promote the product in lieu of the slip up. "It's a nice thing from a marketing standpoint," said Killgallon, who sees adding blue to the already red and white toy a natural, and very patriotic, addition to the Etch A Sketch. "Everything that's happening is very authentic. People are writing about it in their own way. We've been having a discussion on how to take it and turn into positive."

Celebrity drawings or autographed portraits of celebs on the Etch A Sketch that can be auctioned off for charity or supporting the Get Out the Vote campaign during this year's fall election are not out of question. Killgallon jokes that they would love to get Larry the Cable Guy to star in a special Only in America Etch A Sketch segment.

It's unclear how far the Etch A Sketch craze will go or whether the comment may follow- and potentially hurt Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but Ohio Art is enjoying the spotlight for now. So where does Etch a Sketch stand on its political views. Is it right or left-in the middle? "We have a left knob and right knob," says Killgallon. "We speak to both parties."






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