Tubbies toy tirade

Burger King promo items prove too popular

NEW YORK — Burger King’s Teletubbies promo became a victim of its own success last week, prompting the fast-food chain to pull ad support in response to the premature depletion of nearly 50 million finger-puppet toys.

The systemwide sellout occurred in less than 3-1/2 weeks of the six-week promotion, which started off fast enough to break BK’s first-week sales record for kids meals.

The promo was being supported by a nationally televised 30-second commercial, created by BK agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, as well as by in-store merchandising and full-page national print ads.

Counter to ‘Menace’

“The Teletubbies,” a U.K. kidvid hit imported to North America by the Itsy Bitsy Entertainment and broadcast over PBS, was an inspired choice for Burger King to counter the older-skewing “Phantom Menace” promo in progress by Tricon Global Restaurants’ Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

“Kids don’t come into restaurants by themselves,” explained Richard Taylor, Burger King’s VP of marketing.

Can’t match demand

“We have been spot-filling toy outages across the country for as long as possible,” he said, “but we simply cannot keep up with the demand.”

The culprit may well be premium provider Equity Marketing for coming up with a collection of clip-on beanbag finger puppets that the Teletubbies’ demographic target of 2- to 5-year-olds finds irresistible.

In addition to individual Teletubbies — Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po — the collection put together by Equity Marketing includes Teletubbies vacuum cleaner Noo-noo and a Teletubbyland rabbit.

Itsy Bitsy CEO Kenn Viselman earlier reported that Burger King planned to spend up to $20 million on marketing the promotion, which was to extend through June 20.

For Itsy Bitsy, the Teletubbies’ initial outing into the quick-service restaurant field not only provided substantial payments but a free marketing boost.