How did Elmo become the hottest property of the holiday season? Television was a huge catalyst, says Frank Reysen, editor of the New York City-based toy trade publication Playthings.
Tyco provided daytime chat show host Rosie O'Donnell with hundreds of the fuzzy orange guys to give away to her studio audience back in October when the toy was still in plentiful supply. That and subsequent appearances on the show boosted its popularity, according to the manufacturer.
"TV is priceless," Reysen says. "Public relations people will kill to get their products mentioned. And hers is the hottest show on right now, which also helps considerably. Then the media starts to see the frenzy, and it builds and builds like wildfire. There's no way that Tyco or any retailer could plan for this."
Another factor in Elmo's success was the fact that he was already a recognizable Sesame Street character--a good pedigree for parents.
"There's knowledge of the character," Reysen says, "because it's tied into the Sesame Street family, which children and parents have a high regard for."