The AMC hit Breaking Bad, is anything but ‘so last year” as the release of their new toy line makes news. In an effort to keep the brand relevant, a collection of Breaking Bad action figures were released last week at Toys R Us.
The Walter “Heisenberg” White action figure is carrying a fake bag of cash and crystal meth and Jesse Pinkman’s figure comes with a gas mask to protect against fumes while meth cooking.
Following the toy launch, Florida mother, Susan Schrijver, filed a petition on Change.org demanding that Toys R Us remove the Breaking Bad toys from their shelves. According to her petition, Schrijver said the adult, dark themes of the show, along with the perceived drug paraphernalia that comes with the toys, is inappropriate for a children’s toy store.
“While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters,” she wrote.
In a matter of days, Schrijver’s petition went viral and attracted national attention. She appeared on the ‘Today’ show and said, “I just think [Toys R Us should} look at their vision and values, as they call them.”
Toys R Us’s initial response was to defend the company’s brand and let the public know Toys R Us isn’t just a kids toy store. The toy conglomerate released a statement that said the packaging “clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up” and are sold “in the adult action figure area of our stores.”
Unfortunately for Toys R Us, the company has branded themselves as a kids store so the public didn’t buy their statement. Twitter users of all ages had plenty to say about the controversy surrounding the action figures.
The conversation didn’t stop on Twitter. By Tuesday Oct 22, Schrijver’s petition had been live for 10 days and signed by more than 8,000 people. The amount of signatures and continued coverage of the controversy resulted in Toys R Us taking the Breaking Bad action figures off the shelves and online stores.
“Let’s just say, the action figures have taken an ‘indefinite sabbatical,'” Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh cleverly told NBC News, referencing a classic line from the acclaimed AMC drama.
Within one week, the company had to change their stance. If you were on the PR team for Toys R Us, do you think you could have seen this coming? Would you have handled it any differently?
Once this received national coverage, if I were on their PR team, I would have figured out that we’re going to have to take action. Although Toys R Us sells toys for all ages, the public was taking issue with the design of the toy and didn’t agree with their decision to sell it. The Toys R Us brand is very kid-friendly, with a large chunk of advertising focused on family audiences. I agree that they made the right choice to recall the items and let this issue end before it affected the company’s image.