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Advertising & Marketing | From the Archives: A Look
Back at Classic Ad Campaigns.

Taking Toys to New Hypes

April 16, 1998|GREG JOHNSON

In the late 1950s, Wham-O's Frisbee print ads had to describe what the new toy was--and, unbelievably--how it worked. Advertising copy for the flying disc that began life as the "Pluto Platter" included lines such as "flies like a plane" and "America's favorite game of catch."

Wham-O also flooded America with Hula-Hoops during the late 1950s. When the toy was reintroduced in the late 1960s, Wham-O pitched it as "ready for the new generation." Wham-O executives shot the first television commercial for the Hula-Hoop in 1958, using a hand-held 16-millimeter camera.

"We brought the film to a camera shop in Alhambra and I spliced it in back," said longtime Wham-O executive Richard Gillespie. "Toys really weren't being advertised very much on TV back then."

Behind Wham-O's success was a healthy dose of hype. Super Ball, a 1960s-era toy, was made of a common plastic--which Wham-O named Zectron. At about the same time, Wham-O was marketing its Monster Magnet as "the most powerful and the only toy of its kind on the market!"

Water Wiggle, a 1960s hit, was sold with the tag line: "Water Wiggle Makes You Giggle." Ads and packaging promised that the "Laugh Miracle" offered "splashin' good sport for all ages."

Wham-O produced about 200 varieties of toys between 1957 and 1983, when it was sold to a Bay Area company. Only a handful of those products are still being sold today.

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