Romney Campaign Gaffe: A Boon for Etch-A-Sketch
Policy + Politics

Romney Campaign Gaffe: A Boon for Etch-A-Sketch

REUTERS/Sean Gardner

It may be the biggest retro toy to hit the 2012 campaign trail so far – and it may not go away as quickly as the Romney campaign folks would like.

Bad for Romney. Not so bad for his rivals or for Etch-A-Sketch -- their stock almost doubled in one day.  The toy is at the center of the election campaign dust-up created late Wednesday afternoon  when Romney’s senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the campaign would “hit a reset button” in the general election if Romney became the GOP nominee. He added, “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch – you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Within minutes, it seemed, both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich pounced. Holding an Etch-a-Sketch in his hands, Santorum said, “Governor Romney is interested in saying whatever is necessary to win the election and when the game changes, he’ll change.”

Newt Gingrich unveiled a new website featuring the Fehrnstrom quote above an Etch-A-Sketch that highlights the former governor’s policy shifts when viewers hit a prompt labeled, “shake.” Yesterday, Gingrich said during a Lake Charles, Louisiana, campaign stop “I think having an Etch-A-Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we’re going.”

Since it was first released in 1959, over 100 million Etch-A-Sketch toys have been sold, according to Tim Walsh, a toy expert and author of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, on Thursday morning. But clearly, since yesterday afternoon, a lot more Etch-A-Sketches are flying, sailing, leaping out of stores.

One buyer told Ohio Art this morning that it sold roughly double the number of average units yesterday, according to Larry Killgallon,  senior vice president of marketing and product development at Ohio Art. 

At this rate, look for bucketloads of Etch-A-Sketches to be handed out during the next few Santorum or Gingrich campaign stops. As for the Democrats, the Associated Press has already described them as “positively giddy” over the Etch-A-Sketch gaffe, as it “gave them an opening to resurrect a familiar story line that the former Massachusetts governor will take any position on an issue to get elected.”

The Ohio Art Company, which has made the Etch-A-Sketch for over 50 years (and added various updates to it over the years), said in a statement, “We’re pleased with the added attention being drawn to Etch-A-sketch, which is truly one of the most recognizable, iconic and fun toys ever developed… It’s always sold well with today’s consumer. It is too early to tell, but we are hopeful to see if there is an uptake in the sales, given this recent exposure.”

Here’s more on the toy that’s getting its new shot in the sun:

Closing price of Ohio Art yesterday

Current price of the stock (as of Thursday 1:15 p.m.)

150 million
Number of units of Etch A Sketch sold since 1960 

35 percent
The amount of toy revenue that Etch-A-Sketch is responsible for at Ohio Art

Number of shares of Ohio Art (OART) owned by North Star Investment Management Fund, a Chicago-based money management firm – making it the largest institutional owner of the stock

Price that Etch A Sketch sells for on amazon right now

Price the “travel” version of Etch-A-Sketch sells for on amazon right now


Late 1950s:
Time the toy was invented by Andre Cassagnes, a French electrician, in his basement

Year he took his drawing to the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, where the Ohio Art company saw it – and eventually decided to do something with it

Year the Ohio Art Company launched the toy, in time for the holidays; the toy was for years made in Bryan, Ohio

Year Etch-A-Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame

Year that Etch-A-Sketch manufacturing moved to Shenzhen, China

Year that Toys ‘R Us, which is a big seller of Etch-A-Sketch, was bought out by an investor consortium, including  Romney’s own Bain Capital