As a senior executive with 18 years of marketing experience for companies like Martha Stewart Living and Hello Sunshine, Kerry Tucker has featured, built, and launched just about every strip of advertising you can name. But there was one that had always escaped her: a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It wasn’t just that the department store limited the number of large character balloons to 16. And it wasn’t just the cost of the balloon itself (supposedly around $ 200,000 to make and another $ 500,000 to fill it with helium, regardless of the cost of insurance, handlers, and everything else). The biggest hurdle was meeting Macy’s criteria: successfully claiming that a proposed balloon would be instantly recognizable to a global audience and also suitable for a family-friendly event.
“This was never a marketing opportunity that came my way,” Tucker told Adweek. “I was CMO for Victoria’s Secret – and that balloon would never happen. So this was a great opportunity. “
The opportunity Tucker is talking about is a deal her current company Pocket.Watch recently made with Macy’s. It will lead to the newest large balloon in the parade, Red Titan, which is 51 feet long, 28 feet wide, and 42 feet high, and will soar over the streets of New York next month when the store is 94th annual Thanksgiving Festival sponsors.
This year, of course, things will look and feel different as the coronavirus pandemic forced Macy’s to introduce the Kibosh to a live audience. But Tucker isn’t concerned that the brand isn’t getting their money’s worth. In fact, she’s lucky enough that Ryan’s World made the cut to even be in the parade, an feat that even a superhero like Red Titan would have achieved with any muscle.
If you are not familiar with Red Titan, it is likely because you are not 8 years old or you have no children. He’s the superhero alter ego of a Texan kid named Ryan Kaji who started posting toy unboxing videos on YouTube at the age of 3. With the subsequent help of his parents, he’s now the main character in Ryan’s World, a loud and frenetic channel with Ryan and his family doing childish things like telling ghost stories, baking colorful pancakes, and using the family pool to explain how each other Tsunamis form. Three years ago, the family (whose last name is actually Guan) kept Pocket.Watch to expand their brand outside of YouTube, including licensed merchandise and a Nick Jr. series called Ryan’s Mystery Playdate.
Some parents have raised concerns about Ryan’s World, claiming that they teach children under 5 to use by sliding branded toys under a very thin veneer of educational content. “I deleted YouTube Kids from my child’s device because they began to believe that this is how all families live,” said a parent at Common Sense Media.[namely] Thousands of dollars’ worth of new toys every week, parents playing with them 24/7, hours in arcades, Disney, etc. “
Aside from the objections, Ryan’s reach cannot be denied: his YouTube channel has 27 million subscribers and Ryan’s lifetime views are around 56 billion.
When it came time for Tucker to convince Macy’s that Red Titan would be a recognizable character with endurance, she had the goods. But the sale still wasn’t easy, and not just because Tucker had to fly from Culver City, California to New York several times to meet. Simply put, there was no precedent for a balloon like this.