Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Thomas the Tank Engine Arrives on Cameo

ALL ABOARD!! - Mattel and Sir Topham Hatt have partnered with custom video site Cameo to sign Thomas the Tank Engine as a creator on the platform! Or an animated, AI version of him, at least.

Thomas & Friends has watched us all grow up for more than 75 years through books, tv series, and toys. Parents or relatives can now gift kids a custom message from Thomas himself for only $20 on Cameo. Not only is a message from Thomas a treat for your little one, seeing a personalized message from Thomas can also be a nostalgic treat for adult fans as well. Plus, with all of the shipping delays affecting holiday shopping this year, a virtual gift like this is an easy way to check someone off your list this year.

Consumers can customize Cameo messages with anything they’d like to say, whether that’s personalizing the messages for the holidays, celebrating birthdays, or other big milestones. Kids can keep their personalized messages from Thomas for as long as they’d like.

To make Thomas come alive, Cameo and Mattel use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to produce Thomas’s videos. Voice actors from the Thomas & Friends TV series worked with Mattel to create an extensive “language bank” to pull from, Arthur Leopold, Cameo’s chief business officer, explained to Marketing Brew. For instance, if someone orders a Thomas Cameo with the instructions “Please make a Cameo for my son John’s birthday,” the AI then takes the text request and converts it into a script using sounds from the language bank.

Content that makes someone stop the neverending social media scroll is even more valuable these days, according to Leopold. “Especially given everything that’s been happening with increased customer acquisition costs and privacy issues with Apple—and how that’s impacted so many advertisers—people want content that is going to quickly stop the scroll,” he said.

Leopold noted the brand’s advertising partners tell him Cameos are doing just that. “People see it in their feed and—because of the personalized nature of them, because of the User Generated Content (UGC) — they’re stopping and watching,” he said, adding that Cameos tend to convert at a “much higher percentage than traditional ad content,” though he did not provide exact figures.  Leopold also called these more scalable AI–based Cameos a “major revenue opportunity” for studios and IP holders.

Thomas is the second-ever animated character on Cameo, with Boss Baby arriving first. But Leopold told Marketing Brew that Cameo is excited about bringing more iconic characters onto the platform.

“We see a future where every major brand and studio has their IP on Cameo. So if it’s Mattel, they are the owners of Barbie, Skeletor, and American Girl dolls. Whether it’s Disney [or] Nickelodeon, they’ll have an incredible amount of animated IP that connects with kids every single day,” he said.

As for Thomas, Cameo was looking for a character that resonated well with both older and younger generations, as well as a major fan base that’s both nostalgic and current. His Cameos will live under the Family section of Cameo’s site.

Leopold explained that Mattel came to Cameo with the idea—they got connected via one of Cameo’s VC firms, Lightspeed, about six months ago, before Cameo had any animated characters.

But Cameo’s interest in Thomas actually stems from a deep love of public transportation demonstrated user interest in content for kids. According to Leopold, Cameo data shows a lot of parents are ordering birthday messages for their children from celebrities like Fiona the Hippo and Steve Burns from Blue's Clues. Leopold described Cameo’s content for kids as doing “exceptionally well” on the platform, though he did not share any specific figures.

A percentage of that $20 per Thomas Cameo goes to Mattel and to Cameo itself. Although Leopold declined to provide exact figures, he did say these AI–driven animated Cameos are an entirely new revenue stream for the business.

“This is just a hyper-scalable way of doing it because there’s no human interference. This being AI, you could do an unlimited amount of Cameos if you wanted to...whereas a human has to sit down and spend time thinking about the fan and do the Cameo.”

Both Mattel and Cameo are promoting the partnership, with Cameo specifically marketing it on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as on Cameo’s email distribution list. Influencer fans of Thomas the Tank Engine will receive Cameos from the train himself to run on social media.

To celebrate the launch of Thomas arriving on Cameo, Mattel is offering two new Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends toys to go along with a Thomas the Tank Engine holiday message this holiday season. The 2.5-feet-tall Trains & Cranes Super Tower playset has four levels of unloading and loading space for cargo and a track for steam engines to travel on. Kids ages 3 and up can use the handles and switches on the playset to keep all the work in order. The Race & Chase R/C features buddies Thomas and Percy connected by a steam cloud that kids can also use as a handle to easily pick up and play with anywhere. Conductors ages 2 and up can use the remote to race Thomas and Percy around.

The Thomas & Friends Trains & Cranes Super Tower playset is available for $99.99 and the Thomas & Friends Race & Chase R/C is available for $32.99 at select retailers.

Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go, the latest series in the long-running franchise, premiered earlier this Fall in the U.S. and recently made its U.K. debut on Channel 5's preschool programming block, Milkshake! on November 8. The show will also air on Nick Jr. UK & Ireland and Nickelodeon Greece in the near future.

Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go features an entirely new storytelling approach, vibrant 2D animation, and a collection of fun new characters.

Additional source: The Toy Insider.

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