March 18, 2009

Welcome To The Hotel Dora: You Can Grow Out Of It Any Time You Want, But You Can Never Leave

dora_tween.jpg

I knew it was a bad week, finger-on-the-pulse-wise when I learned about Nickelodeon and Mattel's plans to launch Tween Dora on NPR's weekend quiz show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." But I needn't have worried. That was just the first round of Nick's Shock & Awww media strategy, fomented by a Bratzy silhouette that made Dora look like a micromini-wearing tramp.

Now that we're all paying attention, the companies can reassure us--it's just leggings and a tunic!--about their transparent plan to keep milking the Dora cash cow even after their target customers move into kindergarten and out of the shrieky little menace's demo.

"I think there was just a misconception in terms of where we were going with this," Mattel marketing VP Gina Sirard told the AP. "The Dora we all know and love [sic] isn't going away [ever, never, not even if you pry her intellectual property from our cold dead licensing hands]," warned Leigh Anne Brodsky, president of Nickelodeon Viacom Consumer Products, and it's all parents' fault:

Nickelodeon and Mattel say that as part of unrelated research, they found parents wanted a way to keep Dora in their children's lives and have their daughters move on to a toy that was age appropriate.

"The idea is Dora for more girls," Brodsky says. "The whole point was this was created because moms said help us."

More girls, or the same girls for twice as long? And now that you mention it, who better to "help us" find age-appropriate merchandise than Mattel, which owns Barbie, and which now controls Bratz, after winning a copyright infringement lawsuit last December? And who better than Viacom to help save us from the evil, money-grubbing clutches of Disney, purveyors of such tweensploitation as Tinkerbell and Hannah Montana?

This is why you have to pick your licensed properties carefully: because once they latch onto your kid's little frontal brand-awareness lobe, they won't let go until grad school.

Uh, should read, "After baiting them"?After Dora uproar, Nick and Mattel soothe moms [ap

6 Comments

Ok, I totally get (and admire your phrasing of) the whole brand-awareness lobe-latching concern, and the day the Backyardigans start IM-ing and wearing lip gloss is the day I'll torch my TV... but isn't lumping Tween Dora in with the insidious Bratz a mite zealous?

Compare: Tween Dora has some meat on her bones and is overall more proportional where Bratz are bobbleheads on toothpicks. Tween Dora may have overgrown eyes, but at least they are not heavily populated with Jessica Rabbit lashes like the Bratz. Tween Dora's lips appear to be silicone-free, and she even has a nose! And, perhaps even more tellingly, she is wearing FLATS.

Yes, extending the brand to capture a market share that is otherwise growing up (and away) is nefarious in its way. But at least the girl is WHOLESOME. So far.

The "don't let'em go" approach to brand-milking is established practice, and it's been repeated many times, especially in the kid industry: Holly Hobby getting reintroduced as a Tween, with an explicit pitch to the moms who liked HH as children, and Teletubbies being reintroduced as an ironic throwback-to-your-childhood brand for the first generation of viewers are two examples.

[Whoa, I'm freaking myself out because that Teletubbies revival was almost two years ago to the day, and I even used the same damn headline.]

And while I think you're absolutely right about Tween Dora's studied non-trampiness, that is precisely a result of what Nick & Mattel say parents are begging them to make. Dora is the anti-Bratz, the anti-Barbie. Which is fine, except that the teaser silhouette seems entirely calculated to generate a rabid anti-tramp doll wave of publicity, which was followed by an equally calculated reassurance. It's the kind of getting-played-by-publicists that makes me want to wait 2-3 weeks at least before posting anything.

Personally, I'm interested in getting for myself a thirtysomething Dora mom (doll), Dora the Homemaker.

The question I have is does this Dora SHOUT all the freaking time. Or has she learned to use a normal speaking voice?

"The whole point was this was created because moms said help us."
I take it "moms" are looking for help because there are 2-3 aisles in each Target that are currently absent any Dora merchandise. This additional Dora incarnation should broaden Dora's reach so that "moms" can feel comfortable that their kids won't have to navigate any section of any store without a comforting Dora product within sight.
You can check out a nice assessment of Dora and TV for kids at on badassdad (http://www.badassdad.com/2008/01/giving-up-tv.html). He notes the Amazon.com departments that stock Dora merchandize. Spoiler alert: virtually all of them.

But an older Swiper is likely to get charged as an adult for his crimes. And let's not even get into the danger of having an older monkey like Boots as your best friend...

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