Subway Breaks First Online Interactive Game for Kids' Pak Meal

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Subway Restaurants yesterday broke its first online interactive game for children as part of a push for its Kids' Pak Meal, a move intended to ramp up awareness and broaden the consumer base for that product.


In partnership with AOL Time Warner's Cartoon Network, Subway launched the game on subway.com, based on the cable network's "Sheep in the Big City" show.


Children playing the interactive game can see "Sheep" toys popping up. These toys can be found in Kids' Pak Meals, making the online game a traffic driver to Subway stores in the United States and Canada.


"We would like to talk to kids online," said Joanne Vermilya, promotional services supervisor at the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, Milford, CT. "We want to take it one step further where they play the game. The game cleverly integrates the toys.


"Obviously our strategy is to get kids to tell the parents to come to Subway," Vermilya said.


Subway's latest marketing push signifies the growing interest of fast-food chains in online games. McDonald's Corp. broke its first online contest on March 30 for its Happy Kids Meal and Mighty Kids Meal. The burger giant partnered with Miramax/Dimension Film for the studio's "Spy Kids" movie.


The Kids' Pak Meal currently targets preschoolers. With this interactive online game, it also seeks to tap children age 4 to 8 -- the Cartoon Network's fan base for the "Sheep in the Big City" show, Vermilya said.


"They coincide with our target," she said. "We're trying to go a little bit older than we have in the past."


Created by b. little & Co., New York, the online game features the character Sheep, who is loose in the city. Children who play this game use a helicopter to find him. When they catch Sheep, toys based on characters from the show pop up.


Also created by b. little, these toys can be found in Kids' Pak Meals at Subway stores.


Subway's toys are based on characters from the "Sheep" program. Sheep flees his idyllic farm life after being pursued by General Specific and his assistant, Private Public. He hides in the city to avoid becoming a component in a powerful ray gun being developed by the military.


Subway earlier this year partnered with the Cartoon Network for toys based on "Johnny Bravo" and last year for "Powerpuff Girls."


The toys include Sheep posing on a sidewalk in the city; General Specific watching as Sheep lights up a fun gun; Sheep leaping as Private Public tries to capture him; and the "secret military helicopter" as the general and private look for Sheep.


Fuel North America, New York, designed the game pages on subway.com.


Subway usually runs eight promotions a year that plug its Kids' Pak Meal. Selling since 1992, the Kids' Pak Meal costs about $2.49. This covers a sandwich on a deli roll, a drink, a cookie and, in this instance, a "Sheep" toy.


Running through July 8, the online game is supported by point-of-purchase materials with "Sheep" art on them. These include a display card and ad slicks for local media.


"We don't have another similar project in place, but I think this will open a door to maybe some online tie-in games for our future promotions down the line," Vermilya said.


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