Cannes Lions

Thank You Heroes – Essential Worker Action Figures


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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone—but children have been especially impacted. In-school learning has been canceled, along with countless playdates, birthday parties, and fun events with friends. Children have struggled to make sense of the world around them. And as the situation unfolded, they needed a way to understand what was happening—and know that they would be okay.

Mattel saw a unique opportunity to step in. As one of the world’s leading toy companies, we’ve always empowered the next generation to reach their full potential—so we immediately thought about our consumers, our products, and how we could help. We quickly touched on a simple idea: create toys that would not only help kids make sense of what was happening , but also give back to the communities that they live in.

And thus, Mattel Thank You Heroes action figures were born.


When Mattel saw the tireless dedication the medical community had around the world, they were touched and wanted to create something impactful, inspired by the real-life heroes of the pandemic.

Out of this came Mattel Thank You Heroes action figures, a diverse collection of 16 Fisher-Price figures representing doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and delivery drivers.

From an earned standpoint, we surrounded these action figures with additional efforts to generate attention:

1. All net proceeds went to support First Responders First, an initiative created to support first responder healthcare workers serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. We created the Mattel Playroom, a free site with play-from-home information and tips.

3. We made personal protective equipment, including cloth face masks and face shields, for donation to medical professionals and emergency workers.

4. We provided toy donations to nonprofit partners including Baby2Baby, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, and others.


We wanted kids to know that there are people out there going above and beyond to help keep them safe during the pandemic. That’s why we created these toys—not only for general play, but also as a tool to foster helpful conversations between children and their caregivers about how they’re feeling.

But to encourage more of these personal conversations, we also needed to spur larger conversations—in the media. To that end, we implemented a PR plan, centered around a carefully crafted and targeted media outreach, as well as social media, to help get the word out.


With the Mattel Thank You Heroes action figures, time was of the essence—Mattel wanted to raise funds quickly for first responders, so the team designed them using existing form factors and digital imagery to dramatically shorten the production process.

Result? Just five weeks from inception to pre-order. Overall, Mattel was able to compress the development process from the typical 18 months to less than eight.

And because the toys needed to be relatable to all children, diversity was of the utmost importance in the design of the line. Thus, the figures were carefully crafted to represent a range of genders and skin tones across all four of the careers.

The campaign was supported via social media and a PR campaign that quickly gained national (and international) attention. Following an overwhelmingly positive response, we expanded the program to other brands within the Mattel portfolio, to help drive even greater impact.


Collectively, the Mattel Thank You Heroes action figures expanded the traditional definition of “hero”—and served as a critical tool allowing for meaningful conversations between parents, caregivers, and children.

The response surpassed all expectations. The overall program generated widespread media attention and social conversation, with 1,321 news stories nationally and locally—from USA Today and to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah—resulting in more than 1 billion earned media impressions. The program was also one of Mattel’s top conversation drivers on social this year.

(Sales figures listed below in Confidential Section)

Following the successful U.S. launch, Mattel offices in South Africa and Italy launched their own efforts to thank frontline workers as well.

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