by Holly Rosen Fink, Ruckus Media Staff Marketing Consultant
Last week I spent a day at Toy Fair 2011, checking out the industry’s newest creations and hottest products. It’s a four-day event, filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of toy manufacturers and vendors from around the world. It’s such a big show that it’s hard to digest. One day is not quite enough to see it all. Designated as a blogger with a press pass, I was able to have private viewings of some of the toy lines (like Zhu Zhu Pets, Lego and Mega Brands) and I also met dozens of marketers. There was so much to look at, so many new toys to try and oggle at. It was impossible to cover the 345,000 square feet I needed to cover in one day.
As soon as I walked into the Javits Center last Tuesday and saw a life-sized Lightening McQueen car built out of 325,000 Lego pieces, I knew it was good thing I was on my own. There is no way kids should be ever allowed to enter Toy Fair, or certainly not my own kids. My son actually had a melt-down before school as I was leaving for Toy Fair.. He was convinced that I was going to see toys he had only dreamed about. He was right. I saw everything. But since I work for Ruckus, I was paying careful attention to everything digital.
As far as toys go in the digital space, there was evidence that more physical games are inching closer and closer to the world of smart phone and tablet apps. Angry Birds had an impressive presence, showing off its new merchandise to accompany its app’s increasing fame, as well as a new app, Angry Birds: Knock on Wood. More and more companies are launching iPads for kids, like Fisher Price, VTech and LeapFrog. Fisher Price's iPad stood out, mainly because it’s meant for children 6-months and up. It goes to show you how parents are giving into their children’s growing demands for gadgets, particularly the iPad.
Since Ruckus is so story-orientated, I also paid special attention to the publishing side of the show. As has been the norm over the past several years, children's books were prominent at Toy Fair in the form of licensed products. Board game marketers in particular gave literary properties lots of space and signage this year. There were games tied to Scholastic's WordGirl, and Clifford and Diary of a Wimpy Kid were well represented.
And as far as digital goes, the fair included a technology expo called Engage! I was surprised to see that, despite the conference that accompanied the expo with the same name, with a wonderful line-up of sessions and accomplished speakers from all over the industry, there were only about 20 booths to represent the growing digital presence. While the show did feature innovative products and technologies, very few companies were represented, including our competitors. I hope that the expo expands next year to better exemplify the world of apps for children.