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Ohio Art grabs coattails of '12 campaign

Toy maker moves to extend its Etch A Sketch moment

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Limited-edition Etch A Sketch models cast in red or blue are to be released this summer to capitalize on the toy's role in the campaign.

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BRYAN -- When the media and Twitter took hold of a comment from a Mitt Romney staff member about his boss' presidential campaign being "almost like an Etch A Sketch," Martin Killgallon wondered whether his company's product would have a fleeting political shelf life or develop into a quirky campaign symbol.

Almost two months later, Etch A Sketch is "still coming up and it's also in the Democratic talking points from what we understand," Mr. Killgallon, senior vice president of marketing and product development for Ohio Art Co., recently told The Blade. "We're trying to figure out how to turn it into a positive."

Shortly after the March 21 comment and ensuing spike in interest in the 52-year-old classic toy, the Bryan-based company launched a politically themed but neutral "Shake it Up, America" ad campaign.

Clearly, company officials were having fun with being pushed into the national debate, reminding people that the device has both a right knob and left knob -- one for each political party.

Although the sales bump -- shipments to distributors shot up 10 to 30 percent for the two weeks after the comment -- has waned, the references keep coming.

The President himself has latched onto the metaphor, telling ABC News this month that he thought Mr. Romney was having another of his "Etch A Sketch moments" when he seemingly took credit for the auto industry's resurgence.

Ohio Art is also doing its part to keep the conversation going.

The company plans to release two limited-edition "Draw Your Own Conclusions" Etch A Sketch models cast in red or blue (naturally) this summer.

Their packaging is to show a donkey playing tug-of-war with an elephant against a backdrop of the White House. The special editions should be available in July or August.

Ohio Art also plans to push a get-out-the-vote initiative and allow people to "vote" online, with a map of red and blue states.

"We think that will be a fun, tongue-in-cheek thing," Mr. Killgallon said.

The company is also hopeful that another sales boost may be coming as the election draws nearer and the Christmas shopping season approaches.

"I think what we're all really looking at is because it's so top of mind [now], once we get into the season, what's going to happen?"

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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