NEW YORK — The 104-year old company that makes Etch A Sketch is launching new political-themed ads, after the toy made headlines when an aide for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney compared it with Romney's fall election strategy.
Rivals said the comparison with a toy that's fun because of the way it erases implied that Romney would do the same – and flip-flop on issues once the general election campaign starts. The toy instantly became a buzzword.
"I have not written my public policy pronouncements on an Etch A Sketch," GOP rival Rick Santorum said while campaigning in Wisconsin, for example. "They are written on my heart."
The Ohio Art Co. said the "Shake it Up, America" ads will appear on social media including Facebook and Twitter. They poke fun at politics in general, while maintaining that the drawing toy, first marketed in 1960, is politically neutral.
"Etch A Sketch is a lot like politics, there's a lot of gray area," reads one ad.
"We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party," reads another. "(But remember, when both work together, we can do loop de loops.)"
Still other ads encourage viewers to register to vote. The campaign was created by the ad agency Team Detroit.
"We're just having a ball with it," said Ohio Art President Larry Killgallon. "I thought a week ago it would have died down by now."
The company came up with the idea last weekend and plans to add yard signs and bumper stickers soon.
"We tried to look at what's our appropriate place," Killgallon said.
Toys R Us asked Ohio Art to make blue versions of the toy to go along with the traditional bright-red model – a move that might keep both political parties happy. The blue versions are due out by mid-June, along with a red-and-blue collector's edition with etchings of an elephant and a donkey, Killgallon said.
He hopes they're popular at this summer's Republican and Democratic national conventions.
"We're kind of the fun part of the campaign," Killgallon said.
The Ohio Art Co., based in Bryan, Ohio, also makes K's Kids toys for babies and toddlers and nanoblock, a building toy. Through Apple Inc.'s iTunes website, it also markets an Etch A Sketch app for the iPhone and iPod.
Ohio Art's shares, which had a wild ride after Etch A Sketch became a metaphor, spiked on Thursday to $9.65, after trading between $2 and $4 since late 2008. They closed Friday at $5.95.
On the Web: www.etch-a-sketch.com
Associated Press writer Seewer contributed to this report from Toledo, Ohio.