Top 5 Marketing Takeaways From the World’s Largest Toy Fair

By February 19, 2019 No Comments
Ryan Lexer, Head of Sales, KIDOZ


Wanting to learn as much as possible about the current state of advertising to kids in Europe, I boarded a plane for Nuremberg, Germany to participate in the Spielwarenmesse, the world’s largest toy fair, hoping I would find some answers.

Twenty plus meetings with top level marketers at some of the leading toy brands, and 10’s of thousands of steps later, here are my top 5 takeaways.


1. Retail Clients Are Top of the Food Chain

Retail has always been the top of the food chain. In the battle for extremely limited shelf space and visible mindshare in the store, toy, game and book manufacturers face immense pressure and competition to please the retailer enough to get their products on shelves. One of the most surefire ways to ensure this is by putting the marketing budget behind the products that retailers will display on the manufacturer’s behalf. Like all toy fairs, it was not uncommon to walk the show floor at Spielwarenmesse and see product after product with a full media package describing which marketing channels would be used to promote the product IF the retailer will order the product for their stores.


2. Retailers Cling to TV Even Though Results Fail

Since TV’s debut, there has not been a more powerful channel for reaching an entire family at the same time to increase brand awareness and lift weekly sales spikes at the retailers’ point of sale. Most retailers will say that this still exists today. However, speaking with marketing executives from leading toy companies, the message that I heard most often was that kids were watching less tv, making linear television more expensive and returning less result per investment. Data seems to back this up as well in the other markets.

This was confirmed to me by many marketers to be a major frustration: Retailers pressuring marketers to spend budgets on expensive TVCs to an audience they still believe is watching. However, most kids actually spend the majority of their online time on mobile devices. Clever marketers see TV as the centerpiece of their marketing mix (especially with Advanced TV on the horizon) but also understand the value in reaching kids at multiple touch points that they currently do not extend to.


3. Retailers Are Not Impressed with Results from Mobile Because They Don’t Understand It

I learned that when marketers try to impress European retailers with promotion of their products on digital or mobile channels, their interest is mild. This is due to lack of visibility. They claimed that reaching kids on mobile devices is difficult due to the fragmentation of kids who are frequenting thousands of apps, some that do not offer advertising. What really needs to happen here is to educate marketers and retailers on the benefits of reaching kids where they are spending their online time.  Show them when and where kids are being engaged with branded messages and how kids are engaging with these promotions over time. The sales lift should be gradual and will likely take place over a longer period of extended exposure. The following week sales spike from linear TVCs are declining YOY. Marketers and retailers must learn how to adjust to these changes in the market.


4. Retailers and Marketers Like the Promise of Social Media Influencers
(If they could just find the magic formula)

Marketers seemed to be optimistic about the ability for Social Media influencers to excite and influence kids enough to get mom and dad to the store to buy. However, getting it right systematically to scale seems to be the real challenge here. Influencers can be expensive, difficult to deal with or it’s hard to ensure the messaging the marketer is looking for. Also, with the movement of cheaper micro influencers, campaigns can be less costly but are more demanding in terms of logistics. The platforms that social media videos live on can also be a challenge. Even though the metrics and tracking are better than linear, since social media platforms are designed for kids 13 and older, the videos may not be appropriate, they may have the clutter and distraction that comes with sharing a family member’s account and of course they are in effect harder to track than kids above 13 – so it’s a guess to know what target audience you are aiming for.


5. There is An Overwhelming Lack of Mobile Expertise in the Field

Almost all marketers I spoke with told me they feel that when it comes to mobile in the kids space, they don’t particularly know who to turn to for expertise. How kids use devices – what they do when they’re on there; where they go; why they do the things they do; what kind of message will engage them? These are the main questions that preoccupy marketers and content creators.  

Additionally, there seems to be a general feeling of a lack of real knowledge and understanding regarding COPPA, GDPR and other regulations, and marketers are in constant fear of accidentally triggering a violation. Privo, which advises advertisers regarding children’s online privacy, hosted a webinar last week that helps to clarify these issues, and it is available on demand here.


Private bottom line:

As much as they were thrilled to hear about the Kidoz Network and our ability to boost their mobile presence, I understood that we need to share the insights and knowledge we gained working with brands that have clearly learned how to spend wisely, improve results and increase their business by promoting to kids on mobile.
We will share more insights in 2019 and I invite each one of you to contact me directly (at with any requests for information that can help you engage more effectively in a changing world.