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By Sahil Patel
Mattel Inc. and Walmart Inc. are trying out interactive video to market and sell toys ranging from Barbie to a castle based on the forthcoming movie "Frozen 2."
Both companies are "leasing floors" in a new virtual store called KidHQ, which lets users browse toys and merchandise in videos with various choose-your-own-adventure formats.
In Walmart's Toy Lab, for example, users can examine, test and watch children (played by actors) play with 40 different toys including a transforming Batmobile and a Star Wars lightsaber.
On Mattel's Barbie DreamFloor, users can help Barbie create her own video blog -- or "vlog" in web parlance -- while browsing products such as a Barbie house or space shuttle.
The videos intermittently point out, with enthusiasm, that they are ads.
A "grownups only" floor allows parents to view their children's wish lists and buy toys through Walmart.com.
"It's a new way for kids to interact with the Barbie brand," said Janet Hsu, chief franchise officer at Mattel.
"[Sales] wouldn't hurt, but the reason we are doing this is to deepen the engagement with the brand," she added.
KidHQ was built by Eko, a startup that received $250 million in funding from Walmart last October to create a joint venture for interactive programming. Walmart and Eko experimented with an initial version of a Toy Lab that generated 8 million interactions, Eko said. Visitors spent an average of 13 minutes and had 13 interactions per visit, the company said. Twelve percent of users also added a toy to their wish lists, the company said.
Eko also operates a free platform with interactive videos from BuzzFeed, Refinery29 and others.
Interactive video can be a tough sell for marketers who are unsure if there is a big enough audience for this type of programming.
Eko's own video platform has a monthly active user base in the "single-digit millions," according to Ivy Sheibar, chief business officer at Eko. "When you have meaningful choice on platforms with superior tech, you will see the engagement, the completion rates, the click-through rates that get people to sit up and take notice."
"What we are seeing here is a real hole left by Toys 'R' Us leaving the ecosystem," Ms. Sheibar said of KidHQ. "We're giving kids and parents a place to experience toys, while giving parents the ability to understand what their kids are interested in -- but doing it in a way that can be fun for both."
Marketers receive aggregated, anonymized data on purchases through KidHQ and how visitors interact with different toys, Ms. Sheibar said.
Eko is in conversations about adding other toy manufacturers, children's entertainment programmers and food marketers to KidHQ, she added.
The minimum commitment for a "floor" in the new KidHQ is seven figures, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The KidHQ videos for Mattel and Walmart were produced by BuzzFeed as part of a larger content deal between Eko and the publisher. BuzzFeed will also promote KidHQ across its media properties including Playful and Tasty, as well as on the BuzzFeed-affiliated retail store Camp, said Ben Kaufman, BuzzFeed's marketing chief.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 16, 2019 12:17 ET (16:17 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.