Transformers Posts

Marx, Sindy & “Greenlighting” Transformers….

Charlie Rosner started an ad agency with Harvey Herman in the early 80s which had a lot of unexpected results and here he is sharing some of interest to the hobbyDB readership.

One of our very first clients was called Dumbee Combex Marx (DCM). It was an offshoot of the old Marx Toys, famous for wonderful tin toys back in the 30 and 40s. It was a publicly traded British company, and they opened a US office, to launch a 12” high fashion doll called Sindy. Harvey got the assignment, and asked me to help, while I was working at Lord Geller Federico. The launch of Sindy was a huge success, which was all down to Harvey positioning Sindy as the wholesome alternative to Mattel’s Barbie. I just helped out a bit with the copy and art directing.

DCM had initially asked Harvey to start an in-house ad agency, but instead he had wanted to start an independent agency, and invited me to become his partner. At that time, toys was one of only a few categories (liquor and “feminine” products being two others) which at the time were highly regulated by the broadcast industry’s self-regulatory body – the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – Big Brother incarnate! The NAB published an entire book of regulations about what toy commercials were permitted to do, and what they were prohibited from doing. It was over 200 pages long, and so restrictive as to be beyond imagination. When an agency won a toy account they were paid 20% commission, instead of the usual 15%, because they had to hire a law firm to battle with the NAB.

Another genius thing Harvey did was to call up the board of the NAB and tell them we wanted to visit. No one ever wanted to meet with NAB, but we went over and Harvey said “OK, we’re not going to be enemies. Putting aside your insane rules for a moment (like never being able to use the word ”the” in a commercial because an impressionable seven-year-old might misconstrue it for a claim of superiority – which was verboten) just tell us what you care about, and we’ll work just fine together.”

They did, and we did. And we became famous for getting commercials approved by the NAB other agencies never could. I used to get calls from other agencies, asking what our secret was!

DCM, based in Stamford (where 35 years later I still have a business ) had us doing all of their commercials, and with all of the toy ideas they thought they might want to advertise on TV, the last step was to show it to us. If we thought we could make a commercial the NAB would OK, they’d make the toy. Otherwise….

We eventually handled quite a number of toy companies in the US, and one of the overseas companies was the mammoth Bandai, of Japan. They also relied on us to tell them if we thought a toy could be advertised on TV in the US. Bandai had an immensely popular line of toys called Godaiken invented by Nobuyuki Okude. They were robots that ranged from about 5” high to over seven feet tall giants. And each had this very cool thing where they could transform from a robot into a vehicle. We named them Machine Men, did a fun little commercial, and Bandai sold tens of thousands. When they decided to make the first movie, they renamed them “Transformers.”

If Harvey and I hadn’t casually said sure, we can make a commercial the NAB would approve, no Transformers.