THE GENDER AGENDA
Tackling the issue of gender stereotyping in toys
Exclusive features Big Interviews Study of the retail landscape The latest market analysis
... Bandai Namco, BBC Studios, Let Toys Be Toys and more
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No. 210 | October 2019
The power of going neutral
Editor Robert Hutchins email@example.com
Sales Manager Sarah Norwood Sarah.Norwood@biz-media.co.uk
Designer Nikki Hargreaves firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us @toynews online
t took for Mattel to hit the headlines with its ďŹ rst gender inclusive doll line in Creatable World - a range of fashion dolls that don't conform to those old-fashioned gender stereotypes - to make the world's media sit up and listen to the very real conversation going on in toys right now: the days of 'boys' and 'girls' toys are over. At least, they should be. In truth, it's still very much the case that the marketing materials of even some of the biggest names - the kind that really ought to know better and be better aligned with modern day sensibilities - are still conforming to some very outdated tropes and misconceptions around gender. It was on a trip to London's Natural History Museum recently (a rare respite from the otherwise rock n' roll lifestyle I lead - ahem) that I spotted the heartwarming sight of the Stargazer Lottie Doll - an item from Lottie's STEM-focused collection - sat on a shelf surrounded by wide-jawed, saliferous T-Rex's, and scientiďŹ c discovery digging kits. Picturing the moment a child would look up at that doll, and its surroundings, and feel nothing but excitement for the world of discovery to which it would lead felt like a major win for toys. Surely this is the message of gender inclusivity; not to pigeon-hole according to gender, but to allow for inclusion in all manner of play. Besides, ditch the boys' and girls' labels and you're doubling your market in an instant. Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@biz-media.co.uk
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Contents October 2019 Features
A WIN FOR THE TORI
Opinion 06 Robert Hutchins 07 Rebecca Deeming 08 Greg Childs
We talk to Bandai Namco about the launch of Tori, the product that's bridging physical and digital play
WORD ON THE STREET IS... ToyNews gets the latest intel from the High Street retailer
THE GENDER AGENDA Following Mattel's Creatable World launch, we tackle the topic of gender represntation in the toy industry
A COLOUR OF MAGIC We catch up with BBC Studios about the power of its IP portfolio for this year and beyond.
Market Data 30 Kids Insights 32 Campaign of the month 33 Generation Media Sector Guides 37 Licensed toys 45 Christmas marketing 51 Robotics Back pages 56 Industry Moves 58 Final Word
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The resurrection: Toys R Us’ online comeback isn’t just baffling, it’s offensive By Robert Hutchins
My first reaction to the news that Toys R Us had formed an alliance with the US retail giant, Target, to resurrect its online platform wasn’t one initially of total bafflement, but more of a nod of recognition that the brand had finally grasped a semblance of understanding IP equity. It may have arrived ten years too late, but at least the one time toy retail giant had finally woken up to the leverage of a domain name today. Had it had the foresight to implement a decade ago what it is now - with its online hub of toy community under the ToysRUs. com banner, I believe it could have been a one-time realistic contender for online toy sales today. Would that alone have rescued it from the obscurity it now faces, however? Well, perhaps. We'll just never know. Over the question of the concept itself - Toys R Us’ online platform now offers an interactive experience to anyone who remembers to Google the name, featuring toy reviews and hot product picks, while redirecting any and all sales through Target itself - I will admit, at first thought it does all appear very baffling.
But let us not forget that 2017 well and truly saw to the collapse of Toys R Us as a retailer, and by all but name alone, Toys R Us was dead. (Yes, yes - it had and still has a booming Canadian and Asian enterprise, but for UK and US shoppers, it had simply ceased to be). Yet, as a brand it still packs a heritage of some 30 years in the consumer’s mind, and that kind of history doesn’t get washed away in one year. Of course, neither does it emerge stain free. Remembering that when those UK and US operations were shuttered two years ago, not only were some 30,000 jobs lost, but a shockwave was sent out across the industry that has changed the course of events - in some cases irreparably - I’ve realised that reaction to ToysRUs.com’s reappearance can’t really be one of bafflement; we can't be perplexed as to why it’s doing it, we’re offended that it is doing it at all. I can't help but feel that Toys R Us’ desire to jump on the power of a name is at best little more than a PR stunt in the run-up to Christmas, and at worst, an arrogant disregard of the challenges this brand has caused the many left picking up the mess it left behind. Key to successfully building a brand is consumer trust. And I’m seriously unsure if there’s enough left to be invested in Toys R Us' attempted comeback today.
"A brand today needs trust. I don't think Toys R Us has ours" Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and Licensing.biz and a keen observer of the latest toy and children's market developments. You can follow him online on Twitter via @RobHutchins3
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BTHA Briefing: Brexit, plastics and tackling toy safety By Rebecca Deeming
Since the end of July through to the end of September the BTHA has met with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), Amazon, Ebay, Aliexpress and primary authority to discuss the toy safety findings report. Our White Paper, ‘Don’t toy with children’s safety’, launched in June this year as the BTHA commits to stamp out the sale of unsafe toys on online platforms. As the Brexit deadline approaches the BTHA is recommending all businesses access the UK Government’s ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign. It has information on how to prepare for Brexit, including a survey of what you need to do in the run up to it. BTHA members can contact Vulcan Consulting for queries regarding the setting up of an EU based Authorised Representative office in the run up. The BTHA will pay for Vulcan's time on limited queries to help you make a choice in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The BTHA Training Hub hosted a webinar with associate members, Comply Direct’s, in-house policy and plastics specialist, Martin Hyde, covering updates on policy and consultations on plastics in packaging and toys. Last month, news from Tesco warned that size and sustainability of packaging will be assessed as part of deciding whether to stock certain products and
they might stop stocking products where packaging is deemed ‘hard-to-recycle’. The webinar focused on reducing plastic use in packaging and sourcing potential alternative materials, bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics, while complying with the Toy Safety Directive. With the start of Autumn comes the build-up to Toy Fair 2020, and we’ve more than 250 exhibiting companies and thousands of products lined up already. Visitor registration for the show is now live, so register for your free visitor’s badge. Toy Fair will run from January 21 to 23 2020. Press Day will take place on Tuesday, 21. Next month the BTHA is hosting its annual Parliamentary Reception, in the House of Commons, Terrace Pavilion. The exclusive event is sponsored by the BTHA’s local MP Neil Coyle and will gives us an opportunity to promote the toy industry and the issues most concerning reputable toy businesses with our network of parliamentary advocates. The focus will be on toy safety as we raise the industry’s concerns. Finally, the Toy Trust has secured a number of fundraising places for the Vitality Big Half taking place in March next year. We’re looking for runners to sign up and secure a place in a great half marathon, whilst raising money for the industry’s charity, the Toy Trust.
"Members can contact Vulcan Consulting for Brexit advice." Rebecca Deeming is the public relations and events manager at the BTHA. Get in contact with her for information regarding Toy Fair PR, BTHA training hub seminars and events. She can be contacted on Rebecca@btha.co.uk
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BREXIT AND THE CHILDREN’S MEDIA SPACE: “IT’LL BE TOUGH BUT SURVIVABLE” When, and indeed if, the UK leaves the European Union, at some point this year the UK’s children’s media and animation scene may well be in for a turbulent, but not altogether unsurvivable ride. Greg Childs, editorial director of The Children’s Media Conference details the work going on to smooth out the sailing for the kids' media space post Brexit.
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ith Brexit just around the corner (or not) and with Mipcom and MipJnr done and dusted, it’s a good time to give the UK kids' and youth media market a quick health check. The Children’s Media Conference is a friendly NHS GP to the kids' media industry; we serve up bitter pills when times are hard, and soothing medicine to alleviate the strain. But we also like to deliver good news when the industry tells us prospects are promising, and I’d say we are in one of those periods now. And this is all despite the uncertainties that are reflected in the events we have planned over the next few weeks. Next for us is a salve to ease the pain of Brexit. On October 24 we’re staging Be Ready for Brexit in collaboration with Animation UK, to make sense of the impacts of leaving the EU. Despite political confusion, our range of experts from inside and outside government will be administering some doses of clarity on the key issues, such as access to the Creative Europe Media Fund, or domestic alternatives if continued access becomes impossible; how co-production will work in future if the UK is no longer in Europe; and what transitional and long term immigration arrangements will mean for skills shortages – particularly in the animation sector. Brexit uncertainty is weighing heavily on every industry, and kids’ media is no exception. But we know that the UK kids’ sector is still a hive of great talent, skills and expertise, backed by a range of organisations lobbying and campaigning for them. It’ll be tough but it will be survivable. One result of that campaigning is the Young Audiences Content Fund. Spending £57m of public money on boosting production of kids’ and youth content for CITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5’s Milkshake!, it’s a real shot in the arm for struggling content makers. Offering development funding and up to 50 per cent of production budgets for the right sort of projects, the Fund isn’t a replacement for Creative Europe’s Media support – because it’s not aimed particularly at international content. But as a contribution to the health of the industry it’s of unprecedented value. The next big
"Brexit is weighing heavy. But we know that the UK kids' sector is still a hive of great talent and skills." issue to tackle head on? How to keep it alive after it’s three-year pilot. After Be Ready for Brexit, our clinic tuns up on November 11 in MediaCityUK Salford (home to BBC Children’s) for the eighth of our annual Manimation events. Manimation will take a forensic look at what’s keeping the animation sector alive. Diversification has always been a healthy option – maintaining service work at the same time as developing IP for example, though it’s a difficult juggling act for smaller companies. But now there are new ways to keep the balls in the air – as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Apple TV and others pour money into content. We’ll be taking the temperature of the SVoD’s and assessing their appetite for animation.
Despite the uncertainties of Brexit and a tough broadcaster market, the customerbase for animation is expanding. There are opportunities for IP to find finance and new ways of looking at partnerships - not least in territories like China which CMC is helping to open up doors within for the UK animation sector. Manimation will also explore new training initiatives being rolled out to alleviate the skills shortages animation faces in the UK, and address the question of how under-represented social and ethnic groups can be encouraged into the industry. Diversification again. It’s good for business. If you’re in licensing it’s a good time to join this healthy band. At Manimation we offer a day of curated speed-meetings. It’s a great way to meet animation companies in the early stages of IP development. Or, you could take the prescription of a three-day dose of CMC in Sheffield in July, where cross-media, cross platform encounters are part of the cure. Our advice? Keep active and in touch because things are moving fast and getting faster. Meet new people, explore new partnerships, stay fleet of foot, encourage innovation, seek out the original and be persistent. Take the occasional pain killer because it isn’t easy – and you’ll be fine. October 2019 | toy news | 9
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VALUE OF A TORI PARTY
Bandai Namco is bridging the physical and digital divide with a new innovation in the toy space and its launch of Tori, a whole new ecosystem that uses Mirror Play to enable kids to get creative on- and oďŹ€-screen. ToyNews sits with Bandai Namco SVP of marketing and digital, HervĂŠ Hoerdt to learn a whole lot more 10 | toy news | October 2019
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t was at the height of May that Bandai Namco, the Japanese video games giant, detailed its intention to redefine the ‘toys-to-life’ sector with the announcement of Tori, a new platform that would combine physical toys with mobile app game play. While the UK was preoccupied with the spectacle of its long-standing parliamentary institution turned animal’s playground, Bandai was busy strengthening ties with Europe through a partnership with the French technology firm ISKN, that would go on to prove that there really is still value in a Tori party. By October 2, the pair had delivered on its mission to launch to market the latest iteration of toy to bridge the physical and digital divide, with the introduction of a new “creative and imaginative ecosystem” that uses technology called ‘Mirror Play’ to enable children to use physical toys to control and interact with digital apps. Launched with three physical items that can interact with the software, the Tori Explorer Pack arrived with a Wand, a Catapult, and a Spacecraft, as well as five apps to download and interact with. It was heralded by many as the dawn of a new era for ‘toys-to-life’, a sector that has historically hit rather more stumbling blocks than high notes over its potted history, and marked just the start for an ecosystem that Bandai previously stated will be “enriched with new apps and toys over time,” in a form of gameplay that balances on and off-screen play. “But this is not toys-to-life,” Hervé Hoerdt, senior vice president of marketing and digital content, Bandai Namco, explains in a statement to clear up any confusion on the subject. “In toys-to-life, you just put your figurine on a deck and nothing happens. You don’t play with the figurine, whereas here, you have what we call Mirror Play technology. It’s one to one meaning that everything you do with the toy, happens on screen.” Bandai’s determination to distance itself from the toys-to-life label is understandable. It’s been a sector somewhat plagued by bad luck in the past, with few, if any, survivors still going today. But this isn’t a toys-to-life product, and thus its destiny is not to follow the path of those before it, but a different journey.
"Tori is not toys-to-life. In toys-to-life you put a figure on a deck and nothing happens. This requires interaction in both the physical and digital. It's more powerful than toys-tolife ever has been." Hervé Hoerdt, Bandai Namco
“Tori comes with three accessories from the start,” continues Hoerdt. “We have a wand, a catapult and we have a spaceship, but as you can imagine, there are endless possibilities - you can have almost every kind of accessory. “It works with an energy bar which is a magnet, and in fact, you can even do DIY; you can do something on your own… manipulate the energy bar and it would come to life on screen. “Tori is more powerful [than toys-tolife] and it’s all about fun and creativity, there’s no limit. Whereas again, toys-to-life,
you have this figure but once it appears on screen, you play digitally. And we really want to balance like 50/50 on-screen and off-screen activities.” It was inevitable of course that in this sense parallels would be drawn with Nintendo’s Labo, a craft kit-meets-digitalvideo game system. Labo challenges users to construct various items or complete various craft projects that can be used interactively with the Nintendo Switch. In fact, the parallels are rather strong. But put that to Bandai, and you'll discover that this is a company that insists it is playing firmly by its own rules. “We don’t answer anyone. We go our own way,” continues Hoerdt. “The roots of this project is similar to the five pillar strategy we detailed last year. We want to achieve ten per cent of our revenue outside of video games, and actually we want to accelerate a bit more on this one. So we’re contemplating many projects like music concerts, escape games, and our innovation lab where we develop drones and edutainment. “And we had this start-up near the Lyon area, in Grenoble, coming from the Commission for Atomic Energy. These guys came with the technology that's patented, October 2019 | toy news | 11
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"We're going for the kids' six to 12 year old market, but there's opportunity in the silver economy here, too. Tori could even imporve Alzheimers in users." Hervé Hoerdt, Bandai Namco
which was really exciting to us. So we worked together for three years on this three years of hard work, and the outcome has been this new entertainment platform.” Tori comes with a smart board, the accessories, and then the interactive apps. The idea is to develop an edutainment platform for children and families. It’s why Bandai Namco has been working closely with experts and doctors in psychology, motricity and ‘everything in between’, to
launch a fully-fledged product that will help with the development of a child. “So it really isn’t an answer to anyone,” says Hoerdt. “It’s just something that we started three years ago. The truth is that the reception from the press was like ‘Oh, there’s some similarities.’ And there are some similarities, in that we want to address the six to 12 year old market segments, we want to develop children’s skills, we want to enter edutainment.”
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large, franchise building companies among them involved in those as they continue to take place. “Until then, we have a full map of content, that we can sustain on our own and the strategy would be like having these guys on board and to have a whole ecosystem and many, many applications.” For all that it boasts and the potential that Tori holds, its price of £150 in the UK is not wholly unreasonable, but certainly puts it in a market of platforms that parents
"We've had discussions with big IP studios, so we could well be bringing in some big third-party IPs for the platforms any time soon. Until then, we have a map of content planned for Tori." Hervé Hoerdt, Bandai Namco
Actually, Hoerdt doesn’t stop short at declaring the firm’s intentions to target the children’s edutainment market. This is a firm with a keen eye on the opposite end of the scale, too; tapping into the so-called Silver Economy. “We could use Tori to detect and improve Alzheimers,” he says. “But there are many other projects we have. This is part of a global strategy and has nothing to do with Nintendo, with full respect of
what they are doing; I feel like we have something much stronger. The vision is that we have our own ecosystem and we’ll open it. We’ll open it with things like cable, we’ll open it to any publisher that wants to do something, and we’ve also had advanced discussions with many big, big IP companies, so we could even be bringing in third party IPs for the platform soon.” Those discussions are currently under wraps, but suffice to say there are some
need to buy into in order to invest in. And considering the average price of the larger items within this year's Christmas hot picks, it's not an outlandish ask. “There’s a lot of technology - I mean, the board is one kilo,” says Hoerdt. “And there’s a lot of research. Obviously as with all new tech products, we can envision that this is going to be a starting price. And then obviously, at some point, we’ll have maybe a naked board with a lower entry price and we would have more applications. But we tested the price based on 5,000 people in the US, UK, and France and we feel like this is a sweet spot.” As for expectations for the product, Bandai Namco is predicting a large portion of its sales of Tori to come out of the US, “probably 50 per cent of the business.” “As we see reaction to the product, we’ll be able to duplicate the production in Mexico and feed the US where we'd be able to expand,” says Hoerdt. “At the moment, it’s a soft launch. It’s not the approach of let’s put one million through the pipe and see what happens. We're a Japanese company, so we'll go step by step. The peak will be back to school holidays 2020.” October 2019 | toy news | 13
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Passionate about Play
WORD ON THE HIGH STREET It was another blow for the high street when the BRC revealed its latest findings that footfall had fallen ten per cent over the past seven years, while shops, restaurants and pubs are lying empty at the fastest rate in a decade. But despite it all, indie toy retail retains its stoic optimism. Robert Hutchins finds out what the word on the street is.
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n Folkestone’s Creative Quarter sits Moo Like A Monkey, a children’s market specialist that sells products made by the area’s population of authors, artists, makers and other small independent businesses. At only 18 months old, Moo Like A Monkey has become the focal point for a local community of families, shoppers, creatives, mothers, artists, fathers, and everyone in between that surrounds it. In just one and a half years, Moo Like A Monkey has found itself a beacon of the High Street; a product of the hard work and diversification that retail demands today. It’s true that the High Street doesn’t look like it once did. According to a report
"The mainstream children's market has always made me feel uncomfortable; from the sheer volume of plastic toys on the market, to the uneccessary gender stereotypes in toys and books today." Charlotte Khan, Moo Like A Monkey
released last month, the number of shops, pubs, and restaurants lying empty is on the rise at the fastest pace in nearly a decade. More recently, research has uncovered that the number of shoppers taking to the UK High Streets, retail parks and shopping centres has fallen by ten per cent in the last seven years. That’s an average of 1.4 per cent every year since 2012; a statistic that paints a pretty bleak picture of what the life of a brick and mortar looks like amid the era of online shopping. Fingers have been pointed at the usual suspects: Brexit worries keeping consumers from buying anything but the essentials has been cited as a contributing factor, all the
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while the rising costs of running physical stores, including rent, wages and business rates has kept the pressure on for the High Street retailers. But even amid NPD reports that toy sales are down, among the wider news that retail is down across the board, the independent retail scene maintains an air of optimism about it. Neither Moo Like A Monkey or Oliver’s Brighton - both finalists in this year’s Independent Retail Best Small Shop in the UK awards - bemoan Brexit woes, or blame strife on business rates. Yes, each will tell you that retail is tough today, but insist that success can be found soon enough “if you just think outside of the box for a moment.”
The out of the toy box thinker For Charlotte Khan, the owner of Moo Like A Monkey, that takes the form of the close-knit bond she has managed to form with her local community, while bringing something new and diverse to it. “I like to think that Moo Like A Monkey is offering an alternative to the mainstream children’s retail space,” she tells ToyNews. “The mainstream children’s market has always made me feel slightly uncomfortable; from the sheer volume of plastic toys being produced to the unnecessary gender stereotypes in clothes, books, and toys. “After researching into the effects these stereotypes can have on children, I was inspired to try to create an inclusive, diverse space for all children.” The messaging that Khan is bringing to the community has been championed and supported by those within it. It would appear that she has managed to strike up a very real relationship with the collective around her, be they artists or creatives; her involvement in the artisan community is
just part of her secret for success. “There is a pride and identity associated in the area you live,” Khan explains. “Nobody wants to live near streets of run down or empty shops. Communities want high streets that represent who they are and what they want as a community. “UK high street businesses are more than shops and services; they provide people with a sense of place, a sense of identity. We take the challenge of being a valued business on a UK high street very seriously because we want to be a part of the community and add genuine value to the area.” Part of this is Khan’s regular meet-ups she runs for new mothers looking for a network of support and friendship. She will select the most relevant events that people are running and host them, including the likes of post-natal art therapy, social events, comedy and music gigs for people to go to with their kids and babies, and more still. “If we are to succeed on the high street, we need to be more than just a shop. There October 2019 | toy news | 17
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are different ways of supporting people and businesses in the local community.” The licensing linker Of course, an inventory of product for shoppers to engage with and purchase is just as an important piece of the retail puzzle as a retailer’s positioning within the community. And it’s true that the independent retailer is best positioned to adapt to customer likes, tailor to the local demand and turnover the popular product quicker and more efficiently than the nearest Sainsbury’s or Tesco. But how do you go about getting that product right? If you’re Julian Shelford, owner of Plymouth’s Final Frontier, you’ll be of the doctrine that the independent retailer needs only to offer a depth of product that can’t be matched by the majors in order to thrive today. It is after all, the indie’s role to procure the obscure and the unique to bring back to its local shopper base. More often than not, and particularly within the growing geek culture market, key to getting this right, is in bringing in
"Licenses are a part of our business. The IP is everything in plush. We sell zero non-licensed plush, which won't change." Duncan Conner, Bus Stop Toy Shop the right licensed product. And that means, knowing the right license to back. “We have three main areas where we sell licensed toys,” Duncan Conner, owner of the Bus Stop Toy Shop, tells ToyNews. “Firstly plush, where Pokémon leads the way by a distance; although that’s largely off the back of the amount of Pokémon Trading Cards we sell. “MCU, Dragonball and Nintendo all do well, too. Then there’s the myriad plush from smaller anime titles that fit with our
customer base - the evergreen Death Note and One Piece, plus new contender, One Punch Man, have all sold well this year. “The license is everything in plush. We sell absolutely zero non-licensed plush, and I don’t see that changing.” On top of this, Conner credits the work of Funko and its ability to turn around a vast number of licenses, fuelling the geek pop culture market with a constant fresh run of product, and in turn, fuelling a large part of the Bus Stop Toy Shop business itself while it's at it. “Stranger Things has been the stand out here this year, with MCU and Game of Thrones both deserving a mention,” he explains. “Thirdly, in board gaming. While licenses undoubtedly play a part here, serious gamers will quickly overlook even their favourite licenses if the game in the box isn’t up to scratch. The likes of Fluxx and Munchkin always do well with their licensed spin-offs, but the last stand-alone licensed board game to do really well for us was Firefly, and that’s got to be a good few years ago now.
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“An honourable mention has to go to Marbel for finally bringing the Pokémon and One Piece licensed Nanoblocks to the UK. They have been ticking away for us since they arrived.” The high street purveyor It’s not too often today that you get wind of a new toy shop opening - outside of the ever expanding armardar that operates under the The Entertainer banner, of course. So when you do, it’s good conduct to jump on the moment to talk to one. In this instance, ToysARoo has been trading for the best part of a decade as an online outlet for recycled and pre-loved toys on eBay and at baby sale events within its local area of Rochdale. Having taken the opportunity for expansion, ToysARoo is at the time of printing, preparing to open its first brick and mortar toy shop. “We decided that we would specialise in wooden and plush toys, as this was our interest, believing them to be better made and more durable than many of the toys you see on the market today,” Taff Ahmed,
co-founder of ToysARoo tells ToyNews. “We wouldn’t be able to compete with the bigger retailers otherwise, and we want to offer something different. That’s why we are kicking off our new business venture with eco-friendly, sustainable toys.” Ahmed and his business partner and wife, Karen Ahmed have found themselves quite the local niche. Opening up a brick and mortar shop in Rochdale, the pair is launching into an area currently without a toy shop, and one that hasn’t had a toy shop within it for “the last ten to 15 years.” “ToysARoo will hopefully give people another place where they can purchase toys that’s not online, but is a family-run, local independent retailer. We’re hoping there’ll be a will to help the local economy by shopping with us.” Its specialism in wooden toys and plush, the more traditional areas of the toy market, in this case, could well be ToyARoos biggest strength. Ahmed’s hope is that by offering something different and “being local, will help with the success of the business”
“How we will champion the high street is to offer a place where consumers can come and physically see the products before they buy,” he explains. ‘We will also offer areas in the shop where children can actually play with some of the products as well. We’ll also be offering in-shop incentives on a regular basis to attract customers into the shop and also onto the High Street.” It’s all very much in-line with what Khan, owner of Moo Like A Monkey believes will make for the greatest chance at success upon the UK’s High Streets today. “High street businesses need to adapt,” she states. “Small shops can be more agile than the large established players. "Online retailers can offer convenience and value, so the High Street needs to find something more experiential to offer consumers, whether that's a social experience, a luxury, informative or fun experience. As shops we need to be innovative, listen closely to what customers need and keep evolving in order to survive,” she concludes. October 2019 | toy news | 19
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Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash
PUTTING NEUTRAL INTO GEAR The conversation surrounding gender is climbing up the agenda, following news that Mattel has launched its first gender inclusive fashion doll line, Creatable World. Robert Hutchins explores where that conversation is headed 20 | toy news | October 2019
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The launch was met with high praise from across the toy industry, not least from the UK organisation Let Toys Be Who, a group who has been campaigning for better gender representation, and an end to gender stereotyping, in the marketing and retailing of toys to children and families.
"When boys and girls are directed to a subset of toys based on gender stereotypes, this limits the children's opportunities to develop their own interests, as well as the chance to learn different skills. It can be harmful to them as they grow into these roles." Tessa Trabue, Let Toys Be Toys
fter some 60 years of dominating the fashion doll market with its Barbie brand - not without its fair share of controversies just as much as its successes - Mattel finally drew a firm line in the sand on the topic of gendered play last month, when it launched Creatable World. A new customisable doll line that encourages kids to create their own characters from a wardrobe of accessories and wigs, the toy line aims to rid itself of gender stereotypes, instead asking children to style and play with their dolls however which way they like. When the line was revealed earlier this year, Mattel hit the headlines of some of the biggest media outlets in the entertainment space for a move that has since been
heralded as a game changer amid the conversations surrounding gender, play, children and toys. At the time of the reveal, Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said of the Creatable World toy line: “toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels.” The Mattel boss went onto to describe how research conducted by the toymaker uncovered that kids "don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms,” championing the Creatable World toy line for ‘allowing all kids to express themselves freely.’ “We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think broadly about how kids can benefit from doll play.”
“It’s fantastic to see a product that has been designed and marketed to appeal to boys and girls alike, and allows children to use their imaginations and design the doll they would like to play with,” Tessa Trabue, campaigner at Let Toys Be Toys tells ToyNews. “The product does very well against our #Just4Asks criteria for manufacturers, including having inclusive packaging that is not aimed at just boys or just girls, and ditching the pink/blue divide, instead using colours like mint green and bright yellow for a refreshing and welcome change.” Since its foundation in 2013, Let Toys Be Toys has been at the forefront of bringing the conversation into the toy space. Once just a small voice amid the cacophony of accepted marketing norms, the organisation’s message has gradually increased in volume as the gender topic has been brought better to society’s attention. “Over our many years of campaigning we know that parents don’t want to see their children’s interests limited by gender stereotypes,” continues Trabue. “Mattel has responded to this and created an inclusive product with inclusive packaging, demonstrating to other toy manufacturers October 2019 | toy news | 21
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Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash
that this is not only possible, but perfectly achievable to them. “The fact that such a major player in the toy industry has taken the lead on launching such an inclusive doll cannot be underestimated - we expect other toy makers will need to start responding similarly, or risk appearing very old fashioned and out of step with the times.” But as much as Mattel’s newest launch has done for the gender movement, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Let Toys Be Toys recognises that acting on it now, while the topic is so prevalent among society, is the best way it can hope to finally stamp out gender stereotyping in the toy industry. On a daily basis, the group is fuelling the conversation, highlighting moments of ‘bad practice’ and calling out ‘lazy stereotypes’ as part of a company's marketing efforts. While the work certaily has Trabue and the team busy day by day now, it was only
some five or ten years ago that changing the mindset and practices of the modern
"Ditching the overt signposting of toys in shops was a major step forward by retailers, resulting in real positive, measurable change on the high street. It was great." Tessa Trabue, Let Toys Be Toys marketer was a nothing short of a mountain of a task set before them. “Ditching the overt signposting of toys in shops was a major step forward by retailers, resulting in real positive,
measurable change on the high street, and it was great that the toy retailers were so responsive in taking the gendered signs down,” continues Trabue. “However, other areas in the toy industry have been extremely slow to change. For example, toy catalogues remain quite gender stereotyped on the whole, using pink and blue signposting, a majority of all girls or all boy spreads, and almost no children playing against stereotype, such as boys playing with dolls. “We wonder if this could be down to different departments not linking up on their messaging - for instance, hiring in external agencies to do marketing campaigns or photo shoots for catalogues - but whatever the reason, we hope to see retailers work harder to ditch these outdated, and actually quite harmful images and develop more positive and ultimately more creative ones.”
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Mattel’s launch of Creatable World at the end of September sparked, however, a level of international conversation that in the days following, quickly saw toy makers in France draw up a charter to rid toys and games of the gender stereotypes that have been blamed for keeping girls from pursuing careers in maths, science and other STEM focused subjects. The charter for a balanced representation of gender in toys was signed by the French government, the French Federation of Toys and Childcare Industries, as well as the association of toy manufacturers. It was drawn up to counter what the junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher, described as the 'projection of insidious messaging from many toys that discouraged girls from subjects such as engineering and computer coding.' It’s not only anecdotal evidence, either, that builds the case for
destroying the stereotypes. In fact, Trabue points us towards government research
"Children don't actually use their genitals to play with toys, so I find it very strange to try and market or design a toy to be played with by a specific gender." Charlotte Khan, Moo Like A Monkey that has showed that only 14 per cent of professionals in STEM roles today are women, and that the gender pay gap is still proving hard to close, with women earning on average 18 per cent less than men.
“When boys and girls are directed to a subset of toys based on gender stereotypes, this limits the children’s opportunities to develop their own interests, as well as their chance to learn different skills,” continues Trabue. “If we want this to change, it is important that children are not put off exploring different roles and learning different skills by being limited in the toys they are able to play with, or by being bombarded with gender stereotypes in the way these are marketed to them. This includes signs in shops, adverts in print or TV, and product packaging.” The conversation continues to be heard across Europe. It was within the same afternoon in early October that no sooner had France announced its plans, that the Dutch education minister, Ingrid van Engelshoven, called on toymakers to ‘examine carefully what they create, in an attempt to end gender-stereotyping in the October 2019 | toy news | 23
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toy industry. It was backed by France’s Pannier-Runacher who suggested that implementing a training initiative for toyshop workers was the way forward. “If you go into a shop to buy a toy for your young niece or nephew, the first question is: ‘is it for a girl or a boy?’ and not ‘do they like to play outside? Do they like construction games? Do they like taking care of a baby?’” she said. Back in the UK, and Folkestone’s Moo Like A Monkey is already somewhat ahead of the game, in this respect. Charlotte Khan, owner of the independent children’s shop has made it her mission to bring this very conversation to the locals, setting out to curate a shop that is not representative of gender or outdated stereotypes, but simply representative of children.
"Shop for a toy and the first thing you're asked is 'is it for a girl or a boy?' not, 'what do they like?'" Agnes Pannier-Runacher, Junior Economy Minister, France “Every child is an individual, no child should feel limited or excluded for any reason,” Khan tells ToyNews. “There are no harmful stereotypes anywhere in our shop. We believe all children should feel represented in toys and books. We
have a book that retells the traditional princess stories with the princesses as the heroines who are brave, intelligent and not dependent on anyone else, books that teach children about other cultures and that difference is not something to be afraid of. “The dolls we stock feature a range of ethnicities and genders. All the toys are gender neutral. Children don’t actually use their genitals to play with their toys, so I find it very strange to try and market or design a toy to be played with by a specific gender in this way. “There is no separate girls or boy sections for the clothes, we sell bright quirky comfortable clothes for all children. There is so much talent in the independent childrenswear market and we are proud to showcase these small brands.
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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
“When I buy for the shop, I avoid brands and product that I feel use the marketing or styling to feed into any harmful stereotypes. There is so much unconscious stereotyping that still goes on, it’s more dangerous than we really think.” The results of a nationwide survey conducted by Let Toys Be Toys in 2012 found that ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signs were displayed in over 50 per cent of toy shops across the UK. Four years later, and that same survey returned a changing mindset, discovering no gendered sings in the shops surveyed and a 70 per cent reduction in gendered navigation in online toy retailers. So, the message is getting through. “However, toys are still marketed to children in a very gendered way,” continues Let Toys Be Toys’ Trabue. “After the signs
came down, in some major toy stores we found that, despite the toys being displayed by type, there remained a stark pink and blue divide due to product packaging, while our TV toy ad research showed a deep division in the types of toys that were marketed separately to girls and to boys. “We now have a new set of asks for the toy industry, aimed separately at retailers, toy manufacturers, and advertisers. Our #Just4Asks are requests to: use inclusive language, avoid signposting to boys or girls in product names, descriptions and adverts; move away from the pink/blue divide and use a wider variety of colours; show more examples of children playing across stereotype; and move away from all girl or all boy depictions and instead use more inclusive images showing both boys and
girls in adverts,” she explains, readying the team for a new mission to oversee. While the climb to the top of this mountain maybe long and arduous, recent efforts from the likes of giants in the toy space have helped bring the summit into view. For people like Trabue or Khan, the endeavour will continue; but what a pay-off when they’ve reached the top. “It is great that major players in the toy industry are responding favourably to our asks to ditch the gender stereotypes,” says Trabue. “We are looking forward to continued conversations with retailers, advertisers and toy manufacturers about this and can offer training to their staff to improve their marketing and avoid some of the major pitfalls we’ve seen in the past,” she concludes. October 2019 | toy news | 25
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AND A COLOUR OF MAGIC After a Brand Licensing Europe hiatus in 2018, BBC Studios has returned with a bang, bringing with it some big plans for the pre-school space via Bluey and Hey Duggee and some magical conjurings courtesy of authors Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman. Robert Hutchins sits with BBC Studiosâ€™ licensing director, Rikesh Desai to learn more.
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of the licensing potential for its new IP, The Watch, a fantasy series inspired by Pratchett’s fictional universe, and the book of the same name, that I only wish I hadn’t been so late to the party. With filming currently taking place in South Africa, The Watch, Desai explains, is best described as Blade Runner meets Monty Python, meets Lord of the Rings. It’s an amalgamation of two books from the Discworld series targeted at not only the hardcore Pratchett fanbase that spans the globe, but, with “simplified storyarchs from the Discworld universe,” has been made just as accessible to the mainstream audience, too.
"The toy and licensing landscape is changing at a phenomenal rate. But what's not changing is that audience's and fans want to be engaged. That's what we are doing with our shows, pushing out strength of content that really resonates with consumers today." Rikesh Desai, BBC Studios
t’s with a great sense of betrayal to my own ambitions of a writing career that, sat opposite Rikesh Desai, BBC Studios’ licensing director, I am forced to admit to having read only one book by Terry Pratchett in my lifetime. Of the ‘at least 32 titles’ that the treasured author has been credited with writing, it wasn’t even one of his particularly most celebrated ‘must reads’ that found its way from a charity book giveaway table just a few months into my 32nd year, and onto my heaving bookshelf. My only redemption is that the copy of ‘Going Postal’ that now sits there, does so having been thoroughly read and thoroughly enjoyed, and guilty of enticing me willingly into Pratchett’s Discworld universe. So, it’s when BBC’s Desai begins to tell me
As a self-aware bibliophile, it’s likely a topic I’ll linger on a little too long in any scenario. Admittedly, The Watch won’t necessarily be setting the toy world alight any time soon; BBC Studios is confident it has that market covered in the continued success of Bluey and Hey Duggee, but the vision as to where the property can sit amid the ever-growing geek market - is crystal clear. The same could just as easily be said of His Dark Materials, the upcoming co-production between BBC Studios and HBO, based on the wildly successful book trilogy from Philip Pullman. “This is hopefully going to fill that slot left by the Game of Thrones series,’ says Desai. “That’s how HBO is looking at it, and it’s great to have them on board with us for this adaptation. From the trailers and rush-
es that we have seen, it looks fantastic. It’s got an art deco feel to it, alongside these fantastical gadgets. It’s got the perfect balance and we think it’s going to do big things for us in the coming months and years.” Arriving some 20 years after the publication of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy - comprising Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, the serialised television adaptation, starring James McCavoy and Ruth Wilson, will look to tap into a new generation of fans as much as those of two decades ago. What both His Dark Materials and The Watch bring to the BBC Studios portfolio for this year and next, however, is a real chance for the outfit to stamp itself firmly on that geek-fantasy-science-fiction market that is trending with such strength at the moment. It’s certainly a robust and healthy market that continues to pick up great mainstream awareness, while presenting a fine opportunity for a company well-versed, thanks to the success of Doctor Who, in telling stories to enthrall the ever-growing audience for fantasy. But this is only part of the BBC Studios story, not forgetting, of course, that the BBC is a powerhouse in children’s entertainment, and by extension, a trusted name and compatriot of the toy industry. With a history of developing rich content for the children’s market, and vast success in growing IP into the consumer space, it’s little wonder that BBC Studios has already seen such early success for even its newest brands. Brands such as Bluey. “We have high expectations of Bluey,” says Desai. “The toys launched in Australia earlier this year, and already, the team at Target have told us that it’s among their fastest-selling pre-school items. It’s had a tremendous early reception; it feels like it’s an evergreen property, but it has only been around for a year.” Recently, BBC Studios secured a deal with Disney to broadcast Bluey to global audiences, following its Australian debut earlier this year. The series launched on Disney US in September this year and will continue its roll-out across Europe throughout October. “Our plans are to take the toys and all of our consumer products to the US market from next summer, and in the UK from Autumn 2020, all things going well,” Desai October 2019 | toy news | 27
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tells ToyNews during our catch up at this year's Brand Licensing Europe show. “Bluey is already commanding a success in a very competitive space; pre-school. It’s got this humour that both kids and parents can enjoy and appreciate, so it starts off with this generational appeal and real, genuine laugh out loud moments for families, and that is really important in establishing trust with parents.” There’s no question as to just how popular the Hey Duggee brand is among children and families today. For proof, you only need to look towards London’s Design Museum, who has just signed up for a Designing Hey Duggee exhibition to run this October school half-term, in which kids and families can get up close with the design of this popular pre-school series, to learn how
"We have high expectations of Bluey. Target has already told us that it's among their fastest selling preschool items." Rikesh Desai, BBC Studios Hey Duggee was created and what inspired its creator in developing this warmly-loved pre-school character. “It’s because Hey Duggee has such a striking design that it is getting recognised for this appeal,” says Desai. “We have been on a long journey with Hey Duggee and we are now in year three of our licensing
programme with it, and still, it is the design that is translating so well into toys and our softlines. In fact, our softlines business has gone phenomenally well.” It’s the pre-school specialists, Golden Bear that are master toy for plush and plastics. Safe hands for a brand that couldn’t have found a better partner to nurture an IP with such a pre-school appeal. “Plush is the top performing product, but it is starting to expand out now into these new plastics - very nice looking, top quality plastics from Golden Bear. Add to that, the new wooden toy line from 8th Wonder and what we have got is a really striking line up of well designed, quality toys that will stand the test of time.” Hey Duggee is also currently the focal point of conversations around expanding
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its live entertainment offering. It’s becoming part and parcel of the children’s space, today, and BBC Studios is keen to see just how the pre-school IP can grow within it. “We already have Hey Duggee live shows at CBeebies Land in Alton Towers Resort, but there’s a wider conversation that is ongoing as to how we expand on that for the brand and give Duggee a larger footprint in that space.” For Desai and the licensing team around him at BBC Studios, it’s all about developing the most immersive brand experiences possible, in order to maintain fan and audience engagement with its slate of - and he emphasises this one emphatically - Great British content. It so happens that this is the BBC’s answer to the shifting licensing and retail landscapes.
"The design of Hey Duggee is something that translates very well into the toy market, and our plush range from Golden Bear is performing phenomenally well, in a very tough sector, too." Rikesh Desai, BBC Studios “There have been a lot of changes in licensing,” he says. “The market is down, and toys are down. There’s a whole change in retail confidence and the retail landscape, on top of which consumer behaviour is changing. “But the one constant is that fans want to be engaged. What we are doing is ensuring we push out strength of content. We have shows that have the chance to
really resonate with fans, and build on all of those emotional connections. We are all about the evergreen, and we are in with every brand that we have to our name, for the long haul.” It seems then, that much like myself and the newly formed appreciation of the works of Terry Pratchett, BBC Studios will be in this for the journey. October 2019 | toy news |29
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Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash
In-experience purchasing: Are you responding to the demand? Having recently issued its latest Reach Meter focusing on childrenâ€™s use of technology and devices - a survey of 5,000 kids between April 1st and June 30th - Kids Insights offers up its own take on the growing market of in experience purchasing. 30 | toy news | October 2019
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he latest research shows that children are entering the digital world from a younger and younger age. Kids today have almost limitless digital entertainment options, across TV, film, gaming, social media and YouTube, which over a third of four to nine year olds watch multiple times per day. The number of children who get a mobile phone earlier than average (i.e age four to nine), has increased by 35 per cent over the last 21 months, marking for a significant shift. Remarkably, one of the highest expenditures for kids each year is on new technology. Over the course of a year, children are spending £1.9bn on new technology. This includes consoles, smartphones, gadgets, and drones, among other technologies. We can also see that different device owners consume different content. We see how those children who own iPads are more likely to use them for watching clips and episodes, whereas Samsung tablet owners over-index for using the device to chat with their peers. Kids whose tablets are Amazon branded are 77.5 per cent more likely than the average to play games on their tablets. So you have to ask, how does this digitalisation impact their purchasing behaviour? Digital entertainment Our data shows that during the last six
months, children aged three to 12 spend 63.9 hours per year on digital entertainment - on the internet, social media and playing video games and apps. As a result, an increasing amount of time spent on digital devices demands an increasing number of platforms, channels and content. We can see how the kids' app market continues to grow at a significant rate. In fact, UK children are spending more than half a billion pounds on apps and in-app purchases (INXP) per year. So the opportunities and challenges are really powerful.. What we mean by INXP is IN EXperience Purchasing, where children actively purchase while either playing or interacting with an app or platform. Over the last 21 months, the number of kids who pay for apps (or make in-app purchases) has increased from 52 per cent to 60 per cent, which represents growth of over 15 per cent in a consistent trend over time. Over the same period, the number of kids spending at least £1 per month has increased by 71 per cent. Adopting the model We have seen how gaming apps have successfully adopted this microtransaction model. Many popular apps and games operate on a ‘freemium’ model, where players are encouraged to purchase additional in-game content and perks. Three to 12-year olds typically spend £3.68, whereas teens spend £3.99 per month.
KIDS INSIGHTS Kids Insights specialises in research and insights on kids and their ecosystems. We now survey more than 2,000 children every week, across three continents and seven countries, or more than 105,000 children a year. Our real-time portal is continually updated to allow our clients to spot the latest trends before their competitors. Our insight-led reports are produced by some of the top kids’ researchers and have seen us short-listed for several startup and innovation awards. To download a complimentary Kids Insights report please visit www. kidsinsights.com/toynews
Apps ownership choices also says a lot about a child, more than you could imagine. For example, kids age six to 12 who spend more than £5 on apps a month, are more than twice as likely to post selfies on social media than the average. They also over-index for reporting PopJam as their favourite social network, and Telegram as their favourite chat platform. It is not just numbers; it is a significant transformation of content and marketing approach that gives businesses the next wave of opportunities in the kids’ market. We’re offering brands an immersive planning meeting to illustrate how data and insights can help your business planning for 2020.
Graph. 1 Spend on Apps (3-12s, P2 2018 vs P2 2019 UK)
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Campaign of the month
A LOAD OF KER-FLUFF-AL Vivid’s newest arrival has landed, with reports of hearts melting around the UK for Nestlings - a special new item from the toymaker that promises share the love this Christmas and beyond. ToyNews learns more...
estlings are cute fluffy creatures who need love, care and attention to help deliver their adorable surprise babies. The product was in ‘gestation’ (research and development) for 18 months as the brief was challenging: how do you allow children to engage with a product, experience the delivery of two baby Nestlings, and then allow them to repeat the play process over and over again? The end result has been well received and consumer research with girls and mums suggests Vivid has one sure hit on its hands for this Christmas. The fluff balls hit shelves in September and to celebrate the launch, Vivid held an exclusive VIP influencer event at a key Smyths store location. The event, based at the Staples Corner branch of the retailer, saw a mix of kidfluencers, parent bloggers and consumers come together to celebrate the launch with special guests, hit YouTubers Ruby Rube and her younger sister, Bonnie. Guests were treated to glitter hair and face paints ahead of meeting Ruby and Bonnie to experience Nestlings up close for the first time. Following the event, coverage immediately began to appear on social media with guests sharing pictures of their Nestlings experiences with full write ups and reviews being posted across social media the following week. “The VIP event was a fantastic way to kick off our Nestlings campaign,”
commented Tom Bennie, marketing manager at Vivid Toy Group. “Everyone who came along had a great time meeting Ruby and Bonnie and learning more about Nestlings. The coverage we’ve seen so far has been fantastic and we’re looking forward to seeing more in the coming weeks as we get closer to Christmas.” Following on from the Influencer launch event, the Nestlings marketing campaign began at the end of September, which runs until December. Vivid has partnered with Pop TV to launch a burst of TV teaser ads announcing the Nestlings and their babies. This will be followed by a full TV campaign
along with YouTube and digital advertising leading into the all-important Christmas period with video content from Ruby and Bonnie and additional kidfluencers supporting the overarching campaign.
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RISING CRAMP: IS IT TIME FOR NETFLIX TO BE AFRAID? Lauren Coombs As BBC iPlayer plans to overhaul its platform to compete with other major streaming services, Generation Media’s Lauren Coombs asks - should Netﬂix worry about the growing competition? Source BARB May 2018
t the time of writing this article BBC iPlayer had just announced that it was undergoing a dramatic overhaul to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon streaming services. No doubt also in response to discussions surrounding the likes of Disney+ and Apple TV+, the BBC happened to mention that quality content and curation will be at the 'heart of its plans to provide a new look across its on-demand platform, boxsets, as well as its live TV channels.' It's quite the message for the broadcaster to be sending out. While the BBC admits that it cannot hope to compete financially with Netflix and Amazon, what it can do is promote ‘individual talent and curate the platform with a human touch’. But will it be enough to pull viewers from their favourite Netflix and Amazon series? Will this put the frighteners on them? Or is the dominance of Netflix now set to slow down? With the financial stock market quoting Netflix as up two per cent this year, making it the worst performer among the FAANG stocks (including Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet), there is fading optimism among analysts about its potential global growth. Meanwhile, Disney and its frequent news reports on Disney+ streaming service has seen the company provide stock-price gains of a nearly 19 per cent rise year to date.
Is this why Netflix is still holding tight on sharing its audience information? Well, perhaps not. In a recent keynote speech at the Royal Television Society conference, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings suggested he would be happy for Netflix to be measured by BARB. Is this indicative of a sudden change of heart of the firm notoriously clandestine? It would be most interesting for the UK TV market if Netflix did use BARBs measurement service as this would set them in direct competition with the likes of C4, ITV and Sky for advertisers’ TV marketing budgets. Alternatively, it could adopt the tact that inventory is bought and sold based on impressions vs TVRs, and move towards more of a digital online offering. But what effect would this have on the children’s ad market? It’s unlikely that it will compete with Sky Media’s dominance over commercial impacts, but looking at the latest share of commercial impacts for Disney and Turner they could certainly be vulnerable. The future is unwritten, but we don’t think Disney+ will mean the de-railing of Netflix, just yet, more like a complimentary service. This is a whole new payment method for Disney to conquer, all while the debate rages: just how will families afford the growing slate of subscription services on top of their monthly outgoings? With so many now to pick and choose from, someone will need to lose out along the way.
ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 | www.generationmedia.co.uk
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MAGIC INTO BRIGHTON Oliverâ€™s Brighton is an award winning shop dedicated to selling officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise. ToyNews catches up with owner, Oliver Dall to discover the secrets of success on the high street today
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lucked straight from the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley and landed halfway up Brighton’s Trafalga St., one of the city’s many centralised shopping destinations, resides Oliver’s Brighton, an olde world trinket store, dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter franchise. Your guide among its shelves upon shelves of officially licensed Harry Potter products, the independently run Oliver’s Brighton is owned by Oliver Dall, a selfconfessed superfan of the multi-billion dollar franchise and the self-appointed compere to Brighton’s population of Potterheads. Allow him to facilitate your journey into the magical world, and you’ll soon be uncovering a trove of goods imaginable only to the most devout fan. Oliver’s Brighton is only new to scene, having opened in November 2017, but has already got a string of awards to its name. In 2018 it was handed Brighton and Hove Business Awards Start Up of the Year, and earlier this year named One to Watch in the Best Independent Retailer category and Highly Commended in the Best Customer Service award. The shop is now currently in the running for Independent Retail’s Best Small Shop in the UK. That’s all before Oliver Dall even makes mention of the more than 2000 Five-Star reviews and recommendations his shop has received within just two years. With such a wealth of recognition behind it, there’s no doubt that Oliver’s Brighton is leaving its mark on the locals and tourists from near and far, alike. But just how did it all begin for Dall, and what is it that Oliver’s Brighton is getting so right? “I love anything to do with the geeky genre - from Lord of the Rings to Adventure Time, but Harry Potter was something I grew up with as a kid," recalls Dall. “The biggest moment of fascination came from when I read the book, The Philosopher’s Stone, and that summer went to see the film. After seeing the film, we went to the Co Op and saw they were selling these Chocolate Frogs, and it was at that moment that it all came together. “Suddenly, I had something tangible in my hands from that world. That subsequently became my focus to collect all of the chocolate frogs, and spend all my pocket money on this new found passion.”
Photo by drew-gilliam on Unsplash
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It was some years, and a few career moves later, including a stint running a photobooth business and a spell at Fuji Film, that Dall struck upon the idea of recouping the money spent on Harry Potter by his younger self, and set up shop as Brighton’s premiere inspired retailer. “I needed to make sure I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes at Warner Bros, so I contacted them and they came back to me saying that as long as I don’t pretend to be official, and as long as I only sell officially approved product, and don't make it into an immersive experience, then I won’t be upsetting them. That was enough for me to get going with the plan.” By November 11 2017, Dall’s vision of an authentic looking magical shop was realised and open to the public. “It’s been amazing, the response I have had,” he continues. “During the opening, it was social media that captured people’s
“For me, it's all about customer service. If you can deliver the best flipping customer service possible, that's your shoppers' experience made.” attention. They were saying ‘Oh my God, there’s a wizarding shop coming to Brighton,’ then the newspapers heard about it and started running stories, and before I knew it, it was opening day. “There was a four and a half hour queue that snaked all the way down the street, zigzagged through the alleys. It was absolutely crazy.” The excitement around Oliver’s Brighton, while not at the fever pitch it was two years ago, remains very strong today, Dall explains. It’s a concept that has certainly captured the consumers’ attention. So much so, in fact, that Dall recalls being approached on more than one occasion to franchise outwards and build up a portfolio of stores. “Without sounding too big-headed, the shop is what it is because of me and my staff,” says Dall. “The moment I get greedy
is the moment I fail, because how do I make sure the calibre is the same across the two? “I want to stick with Brighton because the shop is never finished. We are always perfecting it. The way I look at the business - even though it’s coming up to two years and is doing well - is that there is never nothing to do.” The key to his success these past two years, Dall divulges, is down to his own immersion in the local community. It’s on the strength of the community, after all, that Dall believes local prosperity is built. “I am so involved in the community shopping at independents, helping out the local neighbours, whether that's the hand I played in sorting out the sewage problem the area had, or helping the neighbours clear up the graffiti,” Dall explains. “If you get on with your neighbours, it will work in your favour. If you ignore them, you’re not going to be strong and you can’t survive in isolation.” But just because it’s been a successful first two years for Dall - a Slytherine with a rabbit Petronus (he’s done all the research) - it hasn’t come without the same struggles as the UK’s population of indie retailers. “It’s hard. Very, very hard in this climate,” says Dall. “Everyone I have spoken to who has been in retail for ten or 20 years have all said this is the hardest time there's ever been. Whether there’s a specific reason for that, it almost doesn’t matter because you still have to think outside of the box.” Success, according to Dall, is the derivative of delivering consistently good customer service. “If you can do the best flipping customer service you possibly can, and I don’t just mean that Americanised version, but genuine, sincere customer service,” he explains. “An example is that we get many customers - adults or children - with autism, who prefer a quieter environment and one on one service. “I do my best to make them feel comfortable and at ease. I don’t make a big show of anything, just turn the music down and let them know I'm around if they need anything. We get a five star reviews from that, and the parents tell us it's the best shopping experience their child has ever had. It meant a lot to me. “That’s how the independents will win,"says Dall. "Because we mean it.” October 2019 | toy news | 35
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BRAND CENTRAL It’s post Brand Licensing Europe and while the numbers don’t lie and sales of licensed toys have been down, it’s with a sense of rejuvenation that many look towards the coming year and the wealth of IP it’s bringing the toy space. ToyNews rounds up the latest
Spin Master 01628 535 000 It’s been a busy year as ever for Spin Master, who kicked off 2019 with the launch of How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World toys at Toy Fair London. Since then, the range has been flying, and Spin Master is now ready for the launch of its hero item for Fall 2019, Hatching Dragon, inviting fans to hatch and train their own Baby Toothless. Taking advantage of Spin Master’s vastly successful Hatchimals technology, coupled with one of the biggest toy license successes of the year, Dragons - the toy company believes - is set for a fantastic Christmas. Hatching Dragon is set for a fun media and influencer launch in London’s West End this very month. Elsewhere, following an exciting last quarter, PAW Patrol bounds onto the scene to celebrate not only the launch of the PAW Patrol Mighty Pups Super PAWs Mighty Jet Command Centre - this year’s big Christmas play-set – but also the second PAW Patrol Little Heroes Awards. Spin Master launched The Awards early in the year and has seen entries in their hundreds from some the UK’s most deserving youngsters. Taking place this month, the awards will celebrate the eight winners at a fantastic event supported by Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and Hamleys. Both partners have pledged to help ensure the winners and their families have a joy-filled and unforgettable weekend which will also be supported by celebrities, media and influencers to help celebrate their stories and share in the fun of meeting everyone's favourite Pup heroes. Meanwhile, Hatchimals continues to build its nest as an evergreen property with further launches including a second wave of Pixies and Photo by drew-gilliam on Unsplash
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CollEGGtibles Seasons 6 and 6.5 The Royal Hatch and The Royal Snowball. On top of this, there are additional Hatchimal surprises still to come so that retailers can promise Hatchimals fans a full stocking of fun this Christmas. Then there’s Pusheen, another character that continues to drive success for retailers. Pusheen’s story is the daily life of a tabby cat who loves to snack, dress up and does it all with a little bop. She began in 2010 as part of another web comic series and spun off in early 2011. She has become popular ever since among fans, including plenty of famous faces. You will find a host of Pusheen’s family and friends portrayed through this delightful range of super-soft, fun plush toys including feature plush and Blind Box series surprises and attachments. Spin Master will also be getting ready for the early Spring Launch of its new DC figures. Promising innovation and disruption in true Spin Master style, not only through product development, but also through the exciting plans supporting the release. October 2019 | toy news | 37
Mattel 01628 500 111 This year, Mattel launched the Disney Pixar Toy Story 4 range to its licensing portfolio, bringing to life the characters from the film with a range including the Ultimate Walking Buzz Lightyear and seven-inch figures. Role play products also feature, with the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Armour with Jet Pack, Buzz Lightyear Rapid Disc Blaster and Buzz Lightyear Wrist Communicator to allow children to recreate their favourite adventures from the hit film franchise. For the younger audience, the Fisher-Price Imaginext range features the Buzz Lightyear Robot and Basic and Feature Figure Assortments, starring legacy characters including Imaginext Toy Story Buzz Lightyear & Pizza Planet Truck and the Imaginext Disney Toy Story Woody & R/C. From the DC universe, the Shazam! toy range includes the six-inch Action Figure Assortment and 12-inch Action Figure Assortment, with key characters from the movie. The DC Batman Missions world expands as new characters are introduced to the six-inch and 12-inch Action Figures Assortment, while in the Imaginext DC Super Friends range, key lines include the Transforming Batmobile R/C, Joker Laff Factory and Figure Assortment. The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom toy range continues to expand with the articulated,
chomping Destroy and Devour Indominus Rex, Jurassic World Primal Pal Blue and the Jurassic World Snap Squad Assortment. The Fisher-Price Imaginext Jurassic World range debuts the Mega Mouth Tyrannosaurus Rex with chomping action, while new figures are introduced in the Basic and Feature Assortments. WWE fans can bring WWE Superstars to life with the striking WWE Wrekkinâ€™ Figure Assortment. The WWE Wrekkinâ€™ Performance Centre is a new playset featuring a backstage gym area and collapsible scaffolding and ring. From Fisher-Price character brands, the Sunny Day toy range launches, inspired by the Nickelodeon TV series to encourage children to express their style. The product line includes sixinch Dolls and 11-inch Brush and Bracelet Dolls, innovative Little Wonderbun Assortment with surprise reveals, and Sunny's Hair Dryer Kit for extended role play. This Autumn, Mattel introduces BTS Core Fashion Dolls Assortment, inspired by the group BTS - whose latest album hit number one on iTunes in over 73 countries, with over 14 million followers across social media, the BTS dolls will include fashions that are inspired by every day, street-wear looks that also make the boys feel authentic yet accessible to fans. Finally, Harry Potter fans can travel back to Hogwarts with the Yule Ball doll Assortment, each doll boasts authentic, true-to movie looks and 11 points of articulation, characters include, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermoine and Cho Chang.
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Playmobil 01268 548 111 It’s all about the Playmobil Movie for the international toymaker and entertainment brand, this season, as Playmobil celebrates the recent release of its first feature film this past summer. Playmobil has detailed its Playmobil: The Movie inspired product launches, nine new play-sets that marks the toy firm’s cinematic debut. Through the line, Playmobil aims to take its rich and long-standing heritage into the next generation, building on a reputation that has been in place since the brand’s launch in 1974. The movie-inspired line includes the 70070 Rex Dasher with Parachute, the 70071 Robotitron with Drone, the 70072 Maria with Horse, the 70073 Charlie with Prison Wagon, and the 70074 Maria and Del with Flying Horses. These are joined by the also new 70075 Del’s Food Truck, the 70076 Emperor Maximus in the Colosseum, the 70077 Maria in the Fairytale Castle, and the 70078 Rex Dasher’s Porsche Mission E. Alongside these playsets, Playmobil is launching two series of Playmobil: The Movie Figures, with the first collection of characters launching in July and the second in December. Playmobil: The Movie follows the story of Marla and her brother Charlie who find themselves in the Playmobil universe, travelling through different worlds. Playsets come with numerous accessories.
Photo by drew-gilliam on Unsplash
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Casdon 01253 608248 Casdon has a host of licensed toys to make role play feel like the real thing, from Henry & Hetty and Dyson cleaning toys to Morphy Richards kitchen appliances and afternoon tea from Mr Kipling. Casdon has a collection of Henry and Hetty toys, and the Henry/Hetty Vacuum Cleaner is a favourite among boys and girls. Each Vacuum Cleaner comes with full branding along with working suction and a removable debris drawer. The Casdon Dyson Cord-free is a direct replica of the life size Dyson and has been specifically designed to be true to life, right down to the last detail. The model features working suction, spinning beads, realistic sounds and twist and turn action just like the real thing so children can feel like they are helping around the house. The Casdon Morphy Richards and DeLonghi ranges are the perfect partners to any pretend play kitchen. The Microwave, Kettle and Toaster Set comprises of a microwave with a realistic looking touchpad and lights, plus a kettle and pop-up toaster.
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Zee Productions www.zeeproductions.co.uk A licensed puzzles specialist with a mission to ‘shake up the puzzles market’ with alternative artwork, Zee Productions has two product lines currently. Plan 9 is the company’s dedicated classic Sci Fi, Horror and Anime unit. The firm is planning an extensive range for 2020, including mining the amazing 2000AD art bank using the Judge Dredd, ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog and Slaine characters, as well as a licensing deal with Werewolf Press that will give the unit access to the Realm Of The Damned graphic novel with stunning art from Simon Pye Parr. This will be topped with a new collaboration with Reemsborko to bring the Cannon Busters property into the toy space in time for key periods next year. Meanwhile, Zee’s main activity is its “Rock Saws” imprint, an arm of the business that specialises in bringing classic album art to the Jigsaw Puzzle medium. Only new to the scene, Zee now works with all main licensing houses, Global, Bravado, MerchTraffic, and Epic Rights. The company’s catalogue features some of the biggest names in music, from The Doors, Rush, Iron Maiden, Queen, Sex Pistols, Judas Priest, and Motorhead to Alice Cooper, Status Quo, The Scorpions, Ramones, and Slayer. Rock Saws promises that there will also be plenty more to come in 2020. Zee Productions’ puzzle distribution is via Plastic Head. The company also deals directly with multiples.
Tonies firstname.lastname@example.org Since launching in 2016, Tonies and its range of licensed Tonies and colourful Tonieboxes have replaced CDs and cassettes in children's bedrooms across Europe – in fact over one million Tonieboxes have been sold to date. The Toniebox is an innovative audio player that’s proving an increasingly popular alternative to screens, smartphones and complicated controls. The first digital audio player suitable for children, it's a robust and soft-padded cube lined with durable, sustainable fabric, and plenty of features. Playing their favourite songs and stories could not be made simpler for little ones: a Tonie audio character is placed onto the Toniebox, attaching via a magnet, and the corresponding content will start playing. Take the Tonie off, and the audio pauses. Parents and children can even record their own stories or songs on a Creative-Tonie via their smartphone using the Tonie-App. Thanks to an NFC chip in each Tonie, the Toniebox always knows what content to play when paired with each figure. The collection is growing and the number of Tonies available in the UK is set to hit 50 by the end of 2019. Current licensed characters in the Tonie-Family include a number of well-known faces, including The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Peter Pan and The Snowman. Tonies announced a new partnership with Disney which saw The Lion King, The Jungle Book Tonies, The Little Mermaid and Cars join the line-up.
October 2019 | toy news| 41
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Jumbo Games 01707-289289
Having launched the ﬁrst of three puzzles in the range this year, Jumbo's Moon and Me range is proving a popular choice among children and parents. The Moon and Me puzzle range includes a 4in1 Shaped Puzzle box set that consists of four shaped jigsaw puzzles that increase in piece count to help kids develop their problem solving and ﬁne motor skills. Children start on an eight piece puzzle and make their way up to a 10, 12 and 14 piece, building their favourite characters. The 4in1 Puzzle Pack includes a 12, 20, 30 and 36 piece puzzle that feature scenes that have been taken from the Cbeebies show itself and there is also a large Shaped Floor Puzzle that consists of 20 pieces and, like the 4in1 shaped Puzzle, has been specially cut to give the puzzle a more entertaining ﬁnish that is popular with children.
All Jumbo’s Moon and Me puzzles are suitable for children aged three and upwards and are produced on thick, 100 per cent recycled cardboard, to ensure that children can play with them time and time again, with each jigsaw piece maintaining its original shape. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the sequel to Disney’s box oﬃce phenomenon when Frozen II hits cinema screens, Jumbo has launched a new range of puzzles and a co-operative game, so that children can enjoy the magic at home. Five new puzzles aimed at children aged three and upwards across varying piece counts, include a 4in1 Puzzle Pack, Puzzle & Colour, Four Shaped Puzzles, Movie Collection Poster and a 4in1 Round Puzzle. Jumbo has also developed a new game, titled ‘True Friendship Board Game’ that is a cooperative game for two to four players and ages four and upwards. Players must work together as Anna, Olaf, Kristoﬀ and Sven, to reach Elsa before the mystical Water Nokk does. Players will face various obstacles and challenges.
42 | toy news | October 2019
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Wow! Stuff www.wowstuﬀ.com Wow! Stuﬀ is ﬂying into the Christmas season with an award-winning portfolio of products developed under that magical IP, Harry Potter, including the Mystery Golden Snitch and the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak. In partnership with Warner Bros Consumer Products, Wow! Stuﬀ has pushed the boundaries of innovation in the toy space with a little help from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, to deliver an awardwinning product line-up this season. Fresh from its showcase among the Made for Mums Toy Awards 2019 line up this year, where it took home the Editor’s Choice award, the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak blends AR technology with good old role-play sensibilities. Using green screen technology as see in the ﬁlm series, the Invisibility Cloak and its companion app and make any wearer appear to disappear. Simply capture the image of the cloaks wearer on your smart device screen, and AR technology will do the rest for you, making them disappear before your eyes. The Invisibility Cloak features exact detailing as the in-ﬁlm prop.
Zuru https://zuru.com Zuru’s partnership with the global entertainment brand, Pinkfong sees a collection of Baby Shark licensed bath toys introduced to the UK market. The new Baby Shark range sits within Zuru’s already popular Robo Alive Junior Range and includes Baby, Mummy, and Daddy Shark bath toys which all sing the viral sensation ‘Baby Shark’ song once placed in water. Using water activation technology, the toys swim and sing and come with a four-minute sleep/powersaver mode. Baby Shark has been an unprecedented phenomenon across the globe. The viral tune has taken the world by storm amassing 2.6 Billion YouTube views, charting at number six on the UK Oﬃcial Singles Chart and Top 50 on Billboard’s Hot100 for 16 weeks. It also has the power to stay stuck within your head for an entire day. Based on real-life creatures, Zuru’s Robo Alive Junior line is a range of bath-time toys for pre-school aged children. Using water activated carbon sensors, each of the ﬁsh, crocodile, duck and Baby Shark designs provide interactive fun both in and out of the water and are positioned as aﬀordable options within the interactive and tech toys market. It's just part of the expansive portfolio that Zuru is bringing to the UK toy space this year and next. Watch this space for more details on what's still to come from the international toymaker.
October 2019 | toy news| 43
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Innovation First 01925 454 093 Following the success of Squishmallows this year, Innovation First will introduce a third phase of the licensed plush collectable in early 2020. Squishmallows are plush toys that combine the cuteness and appeal of the Japanese ‘Kawaii’ look with a squishy softness. The Squishmallows “squad” became a collectable hit in the US and beyond in 2018, with more than 45 million units now sold since launch. This success has been replicated across the UK with sales hitting up to 10,000 units per week. With two phases of 13 characters launched in 2019 followed by seasonal Halloween and Christmas Squishmallow characters, the range has become a must have collectible. The new collection will include another 12 cute 7.5” characters including Lexie the Cheetah and Avery the Mallard. The product has also captured the imagination thanks to the unique personalities given to each. Children can also extend the play possibilities of Squishmallows thanks to a dedicated UK website which enables them to play games, print off adoption certificates and delve into the world and story behind each Squishmallow. With extensive licensing plans to expand into different sectors later in 2020, the popularity of Squishmallows looks set to rise even further with the plush range pivotal to the brands awareness amongst fans in the coming years.
Flair 0208 643 0320 The PJ Masks continue to be a hit among pre-schoolers, and fans of this pyjama clad trio of Cat Boy, Owlette and Gekko will not fail to notice that the PJ Masks have embarked on a new quest, at the forefront of which is the PJ Seeker. The PJ Seeker is a play-set and transporter all in one that can fit up to four vehicles inside the carrier and up to three 7.5cm (approx.) articulated PJ Masks figures inside the detachable cabin. Features include a light-up searchlight, disc launcher and a detachable cage. New for autumn is the Transforming Playsets which change PJ Masks figures from their daytime persona to night time heroes, landing alongside the new Turbo Movers Vehicles with fun features to outsmart those dastardly baddies. What’s more, in addition to the TV programming, Flair’s own extensive TV advertising, preroll and continual rounds of influencer activity will ensure a heroic amount of awareness throughout the season and beyond. In addition to new episodes towards the end of the year, Christmas Spirit will be abundant with Just Play’s Spirit Riding Free master toy range. Central to the campaign will be the exciting new play-set, Spirit & Lucky Grooming Paddock and the impressive Deluxe Spirit Walking Horse that truly comes to life with realistic sounds and movement. There's all this and more from Flair for 2019, 2020 and beyond.
44 | toy news | October 2019
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YULE BE WATCHING As we head into the business end of the year, it’s time for toy firms and retailers to be thinking about their pre-Christmas TV marketing efforts. Robert Hutchins rounds up the latest for this season
Mattel 01268 500 111 Mattel continues to heavily support key items for the festive period with extensive TV campaigns this season. This autumn/winter, Barbie introduces exciting new play-sets for kids to create fun new travelling adventures including the new Barbie Dreamplane and Dreamcamper. TV will also support the supersize Dreamhouse and career themed play-sets with the Care Clinic Playset and Barbie Bakery Chef Doll and Playset. Adding Magic to TV is the new Barbie Dreamtopia Princess Doll and Touch Unicorn and Barbie Dreamtopia Sparkle Lights Mermaid. Meanwhile, Hot Wheels creates thrilling vehicle experiences for fans with the impressive Hot Wheels Colossal Crash. TV will also be supporting Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage and Hot Wheels Builder Race Crate. Fisher-Price introduces the new Linkimals range with extensive TV support. Along with the Bounce and Spin Puppy & Unicorn, Servin Up Fun Food Truck and the Fisher-Price Little
People Frozen Elsa’s Ice Planet will also be supported on TV. Thomas & Friends introduces the new TrackMaster Cave Collapse play-set, which is based on the Digs & Discoveries specials and the TrackMaster Glow in the Dark range. After a successful launch Mattel’s Disney Pixar Toy Story 4 will continue to drive awareness through TV, with the Ultimate Walking Buzz Lightyear, the Buzz Lightyear Space Range Armor with jet Pack and FisherPrice Imaginext Buzzbot. Key licensors will be supported including Jurassic World Destroy and Devour Indominus Rex, WWE with Wrekkin’ Performance Centre and Figure Assortment and Batman Missions 12” Figures also receive TV support. TV will also be supporting Mattel’s much loved icon Polly Pocket, with the new Pollyville Mega Mall. As well as the animal bestie-themed Enchantimals Junglewood Cafe Playset. Offerings from Imaginext include the DC Super Friends range is the Transforming Batmobile RC. Fisher-Price’s character brands see TV support for the Shimmer and Shine Genie and Zahracorn Assortment. October 2019 | toy news | 45
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Ravensburger email@example.com Major marketing campaigns will keep Ravensburger top of mind in Q4. Supporting the launch of kNOW! the company will roll out a 360 degree marketing programme, placing the game at the heart of family and friends this Christmas. The ﬁrst board game to be powered by the Google Assistant, kNOW! is an evolving and always up-to-date quiz game. New content will be added regularly. The ﬁrst TV campaign for BRIO puts the brand’s BRIO World system in the spotlight. The creative showcases the BRIO World Railway Starter Set, BRIO World Smart Tech Engine with Action Tunnels and BRIO World Smart Tech Action Tunnels with Track. A series of partnerships with print and online parenting outlets showcase the best of the brand, while events will get families handson throughout the ﬁnal quarter. GraviTrax beneﬁts from heavyweight TV, showcasing the breadth of the range, supplemented with experiential activations across the UK. Ravensburger's 3D puzzle collection is spotlighted with a marketing campaign across TV, digital, PR and print partnerships. The company will support its popular games and puzzles, like Monster Splat, with impactful TV campaigns.
Flair 0208 643 0320 Flair/Just Play is kicking off its preChristmas marketing activity with TV and pre-roll advertising across its portfolio. Central to the Spirit Riding Free campaign will be the new play-set Spirit & Lucky Grooming Paddock and the impressive Deluxe Spirit Walking Horse. A high number of TVRs and preroll advertising will feature Lucky and Spirit, introducing the play experience to fans. Inﬂuencer activity together with a late autumn event is also part of the marketing mix. The next chapter for Hairdorables includes Series 3 Dolls with accessories to crimp, colour or curl their hair, Series 2 Pets, and the introduction of little sisters, the Shortcuts, as well as the HairDUDEables. The World of Hairdorables will launch across multiple platforms. TV and Preroll advertising is to be supported with a digital platform campaign. Added to this will be kids press, and Popjam with the brand now having over 60,000 followers. The PJ Masks have embarked on a new quest and a heavyweight TV campaign will be key to the success of the new PJ Seeker; a play-set and transport all in one that can ﬁt up to four vehicles inside. Part of the drive will be the refreshed Transformation Playsets which changes PJ Masks ﬁgures from their day time persona to night time heroes, and the new deluxe scale Turbo Mover Vehicles with fun features to outsmart baddies.
46 | toy news | October 2019
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Bandai UK firstname.lastname@example.org Bandai UK has announced its preChristmas advertising campaigns for the 2019 Q3/Q4 period. A mix of traditional, digital, and social campaigns commenced from the summer holiday period with additional bursts planned for hero brands from October through to December. Ranges including Bananas, Foodie Surprise, Robozuna, Smooshy Mushy, Pomsies, and Squishimals will be supported with a collection of 10” and 20” spots aired across terrestrial and satellite channels plus pre-roll YouTube ads. Foodie Surprise – a new collectibles craft range - and the award-winning collectibles, Bananas, top the majority of placements to reflect the company’s commitment to both brands with 360-degree marketing plans. A comprehensive TV advertising plan will be implemented for the new Froggy Party game and new plush brand, Rainbow Dreams. Integrating traditional with digital and social channels, Rainbow Dreams and Sea Monkeys will receive backing to showcase both lines, while Froggy Party and brand-new pre-school range Timber Tots will receive support from Facebook targeting during Q4. A robust pre-Christmas TV advertising schedule is supported by cinema kids club advertising for Robozuna, Bananas, Foodie Surprise, and Froggy Party. Each of the ranges will also benefit from social, experiential, and influencer activations until the end of the year.
Schleich UK 01279 870000 Schleich is preparing for a pre-Christmas drive of TV advertising for Horse Club and marketing across the board to ensure brand awareness is at its height for the peak season this year. A major focus for the autumn is the Horse Club TV coverage which continues to air across the UK & Ireland. The channel list includes CITV, Disney Channel, Milkshake, Nick, Pop and Cartoon Network, with the key target audience being girls five to 12. The stars of the campaign are the four Horse Club riders and their horses, in an equine world that centres on the bestselling Large House & Stable and the brand new award-winning Rider Café, plus other key play-sets such as the Mobile Vet van and Pick Up with Horse Box. The significant investment in TV and digital is just part of a multi-media strategy that includes the microsite horseclub.com and the recent launch of the new Horse Club app. This with other landmark occasions and events for the brand makes it a very exciting time to be part of the Horse Club. Adding to the awareness drive for the entire Schleich portfolio will be print advertising and promotions across all brands, while the important parent decisions will be influenced with continuous social media and blogging campaigns.
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Playmobil 01268 548111 The beloved toymaker and entertainment brand, Playmobil, will make its mark on the small screen this festive season with its 2019 pre-Christmas TV advertising. From September to December, Playmobil’s strategic campaign is set to deliver 7,950 TVRs, building continued momentum to attract and inspire family members looking for that all-important Christmas present. The extensive campaign will focus on 16 Playmobil themes, including the new range of Playmobil: The Movie play-sets, based on the brand’s ﬁrst ever feature length ﬁlm following its release in UK cinemas August 9th 2019. Pre-Christmas TV advertising will showcase popular sets such as the 9461 City Action Fire Station, 9487 Mission to Mars Space Station, 9275 City Life Tiny Paws Pet Hotel, 9420 Family Fun Summer Villa and 9469 Magic Crystal Palace throughout the ﬁnal quarter of the year. New play-sets within the company’s licensed portfolio, including Ghostbusters, DreamWorks Dragons and DreamWorks Sprit: Riding Free will also receive strong support this season. The creative TVCs will feature across much-loved children’s channels such as Tiny Pop, Pop Max, Milkshake, Nick Jr, ITVB, Cartoonito, Pop, Nick Jr 2, Disney Jr, and Boomerang, making for quite the festive slice this year.
Jumbo Games 01707-289289 Jumbo’s Moon and Me puzzle range having launched just this year - is already proving popular with parents and children. It features a 4in1 Shaped Puzzle box set that consists of four shaped jigsaw puzzles that increase in piece count. Children start on an eight piece puzzle and make their way up to a 10, 12 and 14 piece one, building their favourite characters. All Jumbo’s Moon and Me puzzles are suitable for children aged three and upwards and are produced on thick, 100 per cent recycled cardboard, to ensure that children can play with them time and time again, with each jigsaw piece maintaining its original shape. There's only a month to go until the highly anticipated sequel to Disney’s box oﬃce phenomenon, Frozen II hits cinema screens, and Jumbo has launched a new range of puzzles and a co-operative game, so that children can enjoy a piece of the magic in their homes. Jumbo has launched ﬁve brand new puzzles aimed at children aged three and up and across varying piece counts, including a 4in1 Puzzle Pack, Puzzle & Colour, 4 Shaped Puzzles, Movie Collection Poster and 4in1 Round Puzzles. To bring children and families together to experience the magic of Frozen II, Jumbo has developed a brand new game, titled ‘True Friendship Board Game’ that is a cooperative game for 2-4 players and ages four plus.
October 2019 | toy news | 49
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Secure your place in the January Toy Fair edition of ToyNews today. With just over a month to go before work begins on the bumper January issue of ToyNews, there’s no better time to secure your coverage in our comprehensive Toy Fair special edition. Landing on your desks, through your doors and on your laptops well ahead of London Toy Fair next year, the January ToyNews is the must read companion to Toy Fair season. Advertisers in this special edition of ToyNews will receive crucial Toy Fair coverage within our extensive Toy Fair preview and exclusive coverage from ToyNews’ expert team of industry journalists in the run up to, and during the show itself. ToyNews will also be running previews for the Nuremberg Toy Fair, Spring Fair, and New York, alongside its always bold and exclusive opinion pieces, big interviews, and important, industry leading features. Secure your place today and be a part of the industry’s essential Toy Fair season read.
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GO, ROBOT There's some interesting innovation creeping out of the robotics sector this year, setting us on a futuristic journey into a brave new world of sci-fi. ToyNews dips in to get just a flavour of the future.
Innovation First (0)1925 453144 Innovation First has been a major name on the robotics scene for a number of years now, thanks to the enduring success of its HEXBUG brand. This season will be no different as it introduces the brand new HEXBUG Box Sumo collection, combining the unique miniature robotics synonymous with HEXBUG with a cool line of collectables. HEXBUG Box Sumo harnesses the awesome robotic vibration tech of the iconic HEXBUG nano with unique play elements and with the added engagement of its own dedicated YouTube show which can be viewed via the official HEXBUG YouTube channel. Each episode in the series features epic fights between different characters as well as pre-match interviews with the wildest contenders in Box Sumo land. There are a staggering 60 different HEXBUG Box Sumo character skins to collect – each cartoon style skin is folded and placed over your vibrating HEXBUG nano and placed into the base transforming them into a hilarious boxing character. Simply choose who to pit against each Photo by drew-gilliam on Unsplash
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other and see if you can push your opponent out of the Box Sumo Battle Ring to claim victory. There are six themes available including Pets, Family, Fantasy, Wild Card, Combat and Festive. The HEXBUG Box Sumo Battle Ring, comes complete with a handy sized sumo ring that folds up and snaps together for battles on the go. Each set also includes two HEXBUG nanos, detachable bases, and two character skins. The HEXBUG Box Sumo singles packs feature three character skins which include two mystery skins as well as two robotic HEXBUG nanos and two handy detachable bases. HEXBUG also has two new additions to its ever-expanding mechanical collection including HEXBUG Scorpion which scurries just like the real thing. With its bouncing tail and free-swinging front claws, the HEXBUG Scorpion rebounds off walls and darts across the floor at high-speed. Available in five bright colours, the autonomous design will provide endless fun for children aged eight and upwards. The brand new HEXBUG Micro Ant is the fastest thing on two whegs….that’s wheel legs. This erratic bug is super-fast and an ideal gift for kids who want to start their very own HEXBUG collection. Suitable for ages eight and upwards. October 2019 | toy news | 51
Spin Master 01628 535000 A name now synonymous with cool robotics and must-have toys, Spin Master’s latest interactive line-up won’t disappoint. From a funfilled animated elephant to motorised building kits, there’s certainly something for everyone. Train, love and play with your very own Juno My Baby Elephant. With an animated trunk, floppy moving ears, expressive eyes, a wagging tail, plus interactive accessories, Juno comes alive from the moment you switch it on. This baby elephant has over 100 lifelike movements and sounds. As you interact and play with Juno, her personality unfolds, while using her peanut and mouse accessories, you can teach her tricks and games. The more you play with Juno, the more tricks and games she’ll reveal. With your help, Juno will learn how to eat peanuts, bow, play music with her trunk, play peek-a-boo, dance and more. Next, fall in love with Luvabella Newborn, the sweetest interactive new-born baby doll. With realistic expressions, a dynamic moving mouth and sweet newborn sounds, Luvabella Newborn is truly lifelike. She can express if she’s hungry, fussy or happy, just like a real baby. Care for Luvabella Newborn with her interactive accessories, a bottle and soother. She’ll suckle on them like a real baby, responding with adorable sounds. It’s a real newborn experience as you love, feed, burp and play with your very own Luvabella. Rock Luvabella Newborn to sleep in your arms, and she’ll doze off. When she’s sleeping, her tummy rises and falls – gently place your hands on her tummy to feel her breathing and listen for her heartbeat. Spin Master uses its expertise in Robotics to treat fans of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Available at retail now, Hatching Dragon harnesses the success of Hatchimals and combines this with the popular DreamWorks Animation feature film. The Hatching Toothless Interactive Baby Dragon lets kids aged eight plus hatch and train their own baby dragon. Toothless comes to life with light-up eyes, movements and interactive sounds. To encourage baby Toothless to hatch, rock his egg back and forth to hear him growl; tap to hear him tap back; and shake and tilt the egg to get him aggravated – once he’s agitated enough, he’ll be ready to hatch. Outside of his egg, teach him how to fly and plasma blast. As you guide Toothless through the sky, his ear and wings will begin to move as he lets out dragon roars. Feed him his fish snack, ask him questions to get a response, and watch him come
to life with even more lights and sounds. Place your Toothless back into the egg for a nap. Bring out the fierce side of Toothless with the Squeeze & Growl Toothless plush, available now. Made of super soft materials, this 11-inch plush transforms from happy to fierce as you squeeze. When you let go of his belly, Squeeze & Roar Toothless returns to your happy dragon buddy. Spin Master is not forgetting its Hatchimal Fans. It would not be Christmas without some further magic from this family of friends from Hatchtopia. Look out for more information from this month. When it comes to interactive educational toys, Spin Master’s new Meccano Inventor sets give thinking and enquiring kids the tools to build their future. For those with a thirst for invention, Spin Master introduces Meccano’s most inventive building kit yet: Set five - Motorized Movers. With this S.T.E.A.M. creation system, the building possibilities are endless. Also including the Maker Tool, the most versatile device a young inventor can have, young engineers can tap into their imaginations to make their creations, then use the working motor to bring them to life. As they learn animation basics, builders will see how concepts from science, technology, engineering, arts and math are practically applied – in the most awesome way. With a further hero inventor Set Seven – Advanced Machines, launching imminently, there’s never been a more inspirational and challenging range to thrill would-be inventors, young and old.
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Flair 0208 643 0320 In the ever growing world of robotic pets, comes GP Flair’s line of Emotion Pets; a fun collection of interactive plush friends that kids, and parents, are bound to fall in love with. Classic, cuddly and a previous Dream Toy winner is Toffee the Pony; a super soft and unique plush pony who is packed full of interactive technology. When Toffee wakes, he is eager for a cuddle and will blink and call for you. Tickle, cuddle and brush him to make him happy and feed him with his carrot and he will let you know when he is full by moving his eyes and ears. But do remember, he is a sensitive little soul and will get scared when he hears loud noises. To ensure the play pattern is never the same Toffee’s features activate randomly, meaning you will have to work out what mood he’s in every time he wakes up. And when he’s had enough excitement, he’s sure to let you know as his eyes will close and he’ll gentry drift to a peaceful sleep. Toffee the Pony will be supported with TV advertising plus other marketing activity in the run up to Christmas.
Photo by drew-gilliam on Unsplash
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Brainstorm www.brainstormltd.co.uk Now admittedly, this isn’t a real robot, but when else would we get a chance to wax lyrical about Brainstorm’s StikBot, would it not be for this sector guide. StikBot continues to capture the imagination with sales remaining strong in 2019. September campaigns focus upon StikBot Monsters and Zanimation Studio with our brand-new advert. November and December will see StikBot sponsoring breakfast weekday mornings on CITV featuring StikBot Original figures, Dinos and of course Monsters. StikBot has become the star of a series of DIY stop animation clips. Simply pose your StikBot into any number of stances, and animate your character while capturing its every motion on film. StikBot is an innovative product that will push the boundaries of creativity for kids this season. Meanwhile, Brainstorm has announced its TV advertising schedule for the fourth quarter focusing on key distribution lines and products under the Brainstorm Toys brand. The Brainstorm Toys brand has become synonymous with high-quality educational toys and 2019’s TV ads will feature some of the range’s most popular lines: T-Rex Projector & Room Guard and My Very Own Solar System. The My Very Own Solar System ad also includes a call-out for My Very Own Moon that has enjoyed phenomenal success during the Moon Landing Anniversary year. Debra Tiffany, marketing manager at Brainstorm, said: “As well as continued marketing support throughout the year, Q4 is of course a crucial time for us. We'll invest in our Brainstorm Toys portfolio as well as our distribution lines. Aqua Dragons and Addict-aBall are brilliant Christmas lines.
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CROWDFUNDING CORNER The crowdfunding scene remains a hot bed of creativity for the toy and games space. Here, ToyNews rounds up the latest titles to hit the Kickstarter platform
Tangiplay Created by: Tangiplay.com Status: Nearly funded Created by three Oregon fathers sharing one collective dream, Tangiplay is a tangible coding learning toy aimed at kids aged four and upwards. The next iteration of coding toys for pre-schoolers, Tangiplay was born out of the mission to ‘help children develop their logic of programming in a joyful and simple way.’ Through Tangiplay, it is hoped that children aged four and upwards can learn the basic logic and concepts of programming by using the tangible robot toys to solve puzzles in the corresponding app. Tangiplay includes 12 robot toys and a free-to-download app. Each of the 12 robots is fully customisable, allowing kids to develop their own expressive creations.
Each robot can be used in conjunction with the corresponding app as they control the outcome of each app game by manipulating the physical robot on the digital screen. The main objective within the Tangiplay puzzles is to get a train from point A to point B by building railways and overcoming different obstacles. Kids
will be tasked to implement coding logic to overcome obstacles, ie, by melting ice with fire, moving barriers, icing the water, charging the robot and more. Tangiplay currently offers more than 120 puzzles with different themes and backgrounds with the promise that more are currently in development.
Created by Everybody House Games, a family that has making games for a number of decades, Hey Robot challenges players to get their smart speaker to say a specific
word on a card, by asking one and only one question. Teams alternate trying to capture a word by asking The Robot a question that will get them to say that word. For example, Team One might be trying to get Alexa to say the word 'vampire' and ask ‘What is the creature scared of sunlight?’ Instead of saying ‘vampire’, Alexa may reel off a Wikipedia page on heliophobia. Team Two may then ask, ‘Alexa, who was Dracula?’ thus securing the point when Alexa responds. Nearing its Kickstarter goal, Hey Robot comes complete with 400 word cards, 25 bonus point tokens, a scoring track, two gam pawns, an hourglass timer and a rule booklet. It does not include an Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
Hey Robot Created by: Everybody House Games Status: Nearly funded Tapping into the smart speaker-gaming trend, Hey Robot is a party game in which teams compete against each other to get their smart speaker to say a specific word. It describes itself as ‘a bit like Codenames or Taboo, if the friend you were playing with had an encyclopaedia in front of them, but was also very, very drunk.’ This funny, smart, and strategic game is for people who own a Google Home or Amazon Alexa, yet as the firm state, ‘have no idea what to do with it.’ It's the latest in large portfolio of titles from the outfit.
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Industry moves This month, Hasbro bolsters its consumer products and sales and marketing teams, Bandai UK welcomes two new brand managers to the team, Funrise UK taps a former LEGO man, and IMC Toys prepares for UK growth with an industry veteran BANDAI UK
The UK arm has bolstered its team with the appointment of two new brand managers, welcoming MAGALI CLOUZET (pictured right) and PRIYA JADEJA (left) to the team to develop and drive brand strategies across all of its brands. The pair’s remit will span Bandai's hit brands, including the likes of Bananas, Dragon Ball, Thunderbirds Are Go, National Geographic and Foodie Surprise. Jadeja joins the team from Newell Brands where she headed up campaigns for leading stationery and crafting brands, including Sharpies and Elmers. Meanwhile, Clouzet joins as senior brand manager and comes equipped with ﬁve years’ experience in the toy industry. She recently held a brand management role with Flair, working on major brands such as Shopkins and Pikmi Pops.
HASBRO The global toymaker has tapped the licensing executive MARIANNE JAMES as its new vice president, EMEA consumer products, taking up the position from November 11th this year. James joins the company from Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products, where she served as vice president, licensing commercial products and experiences for Europe. “I am thrilled to welcome Marianne to the Hasbro Consumer Products team,” said Casey Collins, senior vice president and general manager, global consumer products. “Marianne will join our team of passionate industry leaders to drive our franchise brands and expand into new categories, channels and markets.” In a double appointment for the toy ﬁrm, Hasbro has
appointed a new president and general manager for its European sales and marketing team in the form of MATTHEW AUSTIN. He will be leading the company’s SA’s services and distribution network across Europe.Austin joins from Lindt & Srungli where he was CEO for the UK and Ireland. Prior to this, he worked for Mars as general manager for European confections and GM for Mars Food in Germany.
The toy industry veteran CRAIG MAIR has joined the Funrise UK team to take up the role of national account manager for the UK and Ireland. Mair will use his 20 years’ experience to fulﬁl the role, having gained a wealth of industry connections through his 17 year stint at LEGO where he was national account director. He joins the growing UK team in its new oﬃces in Milton Keynes. “We are delighted to welcome Craig to the Funrise team, his wealth of experience is just what the company needs to develop the UK side of the business and will be the next step in taking both our licensed and internally developed brands to the next level in the retail space,” said James Dixon, UK commercial director. Mair added: “I am excited to be part of a team that is on the forefront of growth in this market and look forward to elevating its strong portfolio of brands across even more areas of disribution.”
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MARVIN’S MAGIC The magic specialist has named TOM HUDSON its new managing director. Hudson will be responsible for the next phase of the company’s commercial expansion of its award-winning magic and entertainment ranges. He takes on the role after years of experience, having previously come up through the ranks as the demonstration manager and subsequently commercial director with the ﬁrm. Marvin Berglas, the creator and CEO of Marvin’s Magic, said: “We are delighted to appoint Tom as MD of Marvin’s Magic. We have great faith in his ability to lead due to his already impressive accomplishments within the business. “His entertainment and commercial background are ideally suited to help steer us to our exciting new phase of expansion.” Hudson added: “Over the past 30 years, Marvin has created an iconic global brand recognised for quality and innovation and I am incredibly excited to lead the business into its next phase of growth.”
manager for the UK market, bringing with her over 30 years’ of experience to the role. With the appointment, IMC Toys is continuing to strengthen its UK team to gear up for multiple product launches in the coming months. Barrat has held previous roles with major toy companies such as LEGO and Tyco Toys. She was instrumental in the success of Mega Brands in the UK in her ten years as general manager. Following this she spent several years as country manager for Meccano Toys, and was most recently at Melissa & Doug, developing its UK business. BBC STUDIOS
STEPHEN DAVIES has been appointed managing director of BBC Studios Consumer Products and Licensing, in a move which brings together all of the BBC commercial subsidiary’s UK publishing and licensing businesses for the ﬁrst time. Davies is currently the director for live entertainment, music and motion gallery at BBC Studios, but will take on the new role from Monday, November 4. The reorganisation follows the IMC TOYS announced departure of ANDREW MOULTRIE currently director of consumer The toy industry products and publishing, who is leaving BBC expert SUE BARRATT Studios to take up a new role as CEO of has joined IMC Toys BBC Studioworks, the commercial live and as its new country TN-SEP19-AARDVARK STRIP.qxp_Layout 1 27/08/2019 10:21 Page 1
post production business owned by the BBC organisation. Davies has held a number of roles at BBC Studios, and previously BBC Worldwide, across publishing, consumer products and business development. Prior to joining the BBC, Davies was head of supply chain strategy at Sainsbury’s. UNIVERSAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT Warner Bros Consumer Products’ former VP of licensing and business development EMEA, PAUL BUFTON has joined the Universal Brand Development unit, in the role of VP of consumer products for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Bufton joined Universal this past month and now reports directly to Vince Klaseus, president of UBD. Bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience, Bufton will oversee the licensing strategy and retail marketing across EMEA - including the country directors and agents - as well as being supported by the regional category management and franchise teams. Prior to joining Warner Bros, Bufton held positions of VP of consumer products EMEA for Rovio Entertainment, general manager of Warner Bros Consumer Products UK, director of consumer products EMEA for Fisher-Price, and franchise director for the LEGO Company’s Bionicle brand.
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Escape artiste Locked in a room with no windows, phone, and crucially no WiFi, editor Robert Hutchins must escape the vault within an hour, if only to shatter his nerves once again, playing Ideal Games’ newest launch, Bank Attack
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‘So tense was I that by its climax, my legs almost gave way’ are the words I used to summarise my experience of Ideal Games’ Bank Attack at the game’s UK launch party in London last month. Set to the suitably conceived backdrop of Escape Entertainment London’s crown jewel bank-heist escape room, John Adams and the monthly board gaming event, Board Game Club played host to the industry’s stickiest fingers, as teams of retailers, board gamers, and members of the media got hands on with the new launch. The game is Bank Attack. The mission: to adopt the role of a member of a crew attempting to storm the bank and retrieve the gold bullion locked inside by listening to the game’s commands and completing its tasks. Mess up the commands and you’ll set off the alarm. Adhere to them correctly and you’ll be swimming in gold. Whichever path you choose, you’ll be a nervous wreck by the end of it. Now I know what you’re thinking: Hold on, where’s our regular dose of Bossing It? Isn’t this back page usually reserved for some toy industry
alumni recounting their finest career moments? Indeed. You are correct - but such an experience was both this product and launch event, that record of it simply had to be committed to print. There’s certainly something to be said of the PR agency that would willingly lock you in a windowless room with no access to a phone or - God forbid, WiFi - for the best part of an hour, and I’d dare say that at some point or another, it’s been the fantasy of many of them. Yet, it’s exactly the position guests found themselves in as they were tasked to locate and pilfer the crown jewels and escape the vault using nothing but guilde and grey matter. You certainly learn a lot about yourself when you’re landed in such a scenario. I, for instance, can tell you quite confidently that even a simple puzzle stikes me like a Byzantine mosaic when the pressure is on, and when it comes to flicking a light switch up or down - you can forget it. Interestingly, Ideal Games’ Bank Attack can pile on the pressure just as intensely. Next time I play, and there will be a next time, I’ll make sure I am sitting down first.
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