Toys R Us Puts Coolest YouTube Dad Behind Camera

Toys R Us is raiding YouTube talent for its latest ad campaign, tapping Daniel Hashimoto and his toddler son (a.k.a. “Action Movie Kid”) to direct and star in the new spots.

By day, Hashimoto toils as a special-effects guy at Dream Works, but has built a solid following on YouTube. In one spot, he adds real-live fire-starting capabilities to a toy light saber, a viral hit with more than 8 million views.

Lee Walker, VP of Creative Services for the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer, tells Marketing Daily that the retailer was so impressed by Hashimoto & Son’s all-around awesomeness that it asked Daniel to join its new “C’mon Let’s Play” campaign, created by The Escape Pod. James, now 3, stars in some of the ads as well. 

TV and radio spots focus on Toys R Us employees playing with customers. And while they don’t have the same explosive pyrotechnics of his YouTube videos, they do emphasize ways that play becomes real to little kids. 

“Experts say that play is a child’s work, and we think this campaign really gets to the heart of that,” says Walker. “We have really found our place in the world of play.”

She tells Marketing Daily the campaign focuses on the chain’s best customers, “the ones who are interested in toys that encourage certain development.” One features merchandise (and a sewer escape) from the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection, tied to the release of the upcoming film. But since Gen Y parents grew up with their own relationship to the four famous reptiles, “it works really well since there is generational bridge. Parents immediately understand the joke.” Another features a close call with a train from Imaginarium.

The campaign also includes the #LetsPlay hashtag, and a new song, written and performed by indie performers Opus Orange. Walker says that while there are still lingering vestiges of the old Toys R Us jingle in stores, “the brand really needs to be relevant, so new music from a new band gives more of a connection to today’s store, as opposed to Toys R Us of their childhood.” Finally, she adds, the most important thing is that the campaign makes it clear that Toys R Us  “is not about selling toys, but the experience.”

In addition to major cable networks and cinema ads, digital strategy also includes placement on desktop, mobile and tablet as well as Hulu and Hulu Plus.

In its most recent quarterly results, the company reported a 4% gain of comparable-store sales, and a loss of $196 million, compared to a loss of $111 million in the same period of the prior year.

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