There are so many lessons in this story that you might rightly think of it as a parable.
It draws a direct connection between a multinational corporation, cupcakes, circus performers and pirates.
Play-Doh was not supposed to be a toy. A man named Noah McVicker came up with the putty as a wallpaper cleaner.
Children got a hold of it. Which is fine; it’s nontoxic, and this was during the Great Depression, so toys were at a premium. The children made things, as children tend to do. The marketing teams soon entered the picture, as marketing teams tend to do. Colors were added. A television campaign was devised. Time passed, corporations were bought out and Play-Doh came to dominate the planet. More than 2 billion cans have been sold.
There is no such thing as enough.
Hasbro, the toy company that now owns Play-Doh, took in more than $4 billion in revenues last year. It declared a while back that Sept. 16 would forever be known as National Play-Doh Day.
The Firm, a local public relations company, got involved and, last year, held a contest. Whoever created the coolest Play-Doh sculpture and sent in a picture would win $1,000. They got 50 entries.
The agency repeated the contest this year. Only instead of the winner getting the cash, it would go to one of a few charities. There were a dozen entries.
Enter Karin Tomcik, 41, a western Pennsylvania native who now works at the Cirque du Soleil show “Mystere.” She does some administrative work at the show, but she also is the person show employees can come to if they have a question. She likened it to being the resident adviser in a dorm.
In any event, Tomcik said she’s not very artistic, but she saw her friends making plates of food out of Play-Doh and said to herself, “I can do that.”
So she did that. She made cupcakes and a doughnut with pink icing and a cute little Twinkie and pretended it was a tea party with pretend food.
She did not win.
Then this year’s contest rolled around. She read the rules, and she found a loophole: There was no prohibition against entering last year’s picture. So what if the sculpture itself, which, remember, was made of Play-Doh, had long ago crumbled into a million pieces.
So she sent in her picture.
And on Monday, on her way to work, she stopped at Target to buy little jars of Play-Doh for her co-workers to celebrate National Play-Doh Day. Then she got the phone call.
She had won the 2013 National Play-Doh Day contest. She chose the local public radio station, KNPR, as the charity that will receive the $1,000.
“Every time I listen to ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ I feel a little bit guilty,” she said.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.